I'm a fully grown, professional man. I've worked hard and thrived in many high-pressure situations; I know my own mind and don't allow myself to get pushed around.
But recently, I am getting pushed around!
I find myself starting most days being assessed and judged by a stern-faced man whose weapons of intimidation are a stopwatch, a clipboard and a really strong personality. He is usually the first person I see when I leave the house in the morning and, more often than not, he's the last person I see before I go home.
I am training for Ironman® – a brutal long-distance triathlon race – and he is my coach.
Before I met this man, the hours between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. were purely hypothetical. I suspected they might exist, but they weren't part of my experience! Now, it still comes as a surprise to find myself in a swimming pool at 6 a.m. and hearing the click! of the stopwatch coinciding with coach's short bark of "Go!" And 50, or 76, or 152 lengths later, I climb out of the water and he's scribbling on his clipboard, reeling off stats about time-splits, advising on technique, and trying to instil in me the same sense of purpose that he possesses in abundance.
At the weekends I might not have to see him until 7.30 a.m., for a bike session or gruelling cross-country run. But most days he's waiting somewhere, determined to drag me out of my comfort zone and push me on to new levels of achievement.
I need his expertise and knowledge to get me to the start line in good enough physical condition to complete a 2.4-mile sea swim, 112-mile cycle, and then a marathon to round off the day. I know the work that needs to be done before such an event is punishing and absolutely necessary, but one of the main reasons my alarm goes off when the first digit is still only a five is my coach's force of will, not mine!
As a friend, he's a nice guy. He'd do anything to help you out. As a coach, he becomes an ultra-persuasive, dominant force of nature. And that's just what I and several other "athletes" – I use the term loosely! – in our amateur triathlon gang need. Given the choice, most of us would stay in bed and think, "I can't be bothered! I'll train after work, a morning off won't kill me." But the truth is, none of us would be too keen to face the coach that evening or the next morning!
He's an example of a dominant personality who channels his energy and enthusiasm in a positive way. On the flip side of the coin, I'm sure we've all come across strong characters who are, to put it kindly, "larger than life," but who are really monumental egotists who can rub you up the wrong way. They are the people who have a massive sense of self-importance, and who believe their opinions and ideas carry more weight and validity than anyone else's.
In a social situation, you can just tune them out, tell them to calm down a bit, or even challenge their actions or comments. The difficulty comes if they are work colleagues or team member. Then you have to deal with them in an entirely different way. And that's where a guide on how to manage dominant people can be really useful. Handled the right way, they're not actually all that bad!
Question: How have you dealt with a dominant or challenging work colleague?