10 Ways to Defeat the Evil Monster of Defensiveness
Defensive leaders bristle at the hint that they could have done better.
Defensive leaders believe you’re the problem.
Self-protective leaders justify themselves and attack others.
4 reasons leaders justify defensiveness:
Defensiveness finds reasons to throw stones.
- They lack experience. Inexperience is the reason you can ignore people.
- They don’t see the whole picture. They just don’t understand.
- They’re acting selfishly. Anyone who challenges you must be self-serving.
- They always have something negative to say. “Always” is a defensive leaders favorite word.
3 dangers all defensive leaders face:
- Repeating the past when the future needs to change. You can’t dig your heels in and move forward at the same time.
- De-energizing talented teammates who strive for improvement, but feel ignored and rejected.
- Closed minds in turbulent times. Defensiveness doesn’t prepare for the future.
5 ways to defeat defensiveness in yourself:
- Commit to personal growth.
- Stay vulnerable. Vulnerability is fertilizer to growth.
- Don’t explain why you’re right when you receive uncomfortable feedback.
- Explore how to be better when challenged. The drive of success is “better”.
- Find agreement on assumptions. Feedback often addresses surface issues. Go one step below the surface of uncomfortable feedback. Explore options after aligning assumptions.
10 ways to defeat defensiveness in others:
Defensive teammates have already determined that you’re wrong and they’re right.
- Back down when you encounter self-protective responses. Defensiveness is unacknowledged insecurity.
- Avoid telling people what they think.
- Stop making suggestions. Every new suggestion encounters a higher wall.
- Create safe environments. Show respect.
- Focus on issues not personalities.
- Explore assumptions, values, and purpose.
- What’s important to you?
- Why does this matter?
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- Maintain gratitude. A grateful heart stays open. Say, “Thank you.”
- Be honest and open.
- Stay curious.
- Stand for your beliefs with kindness.
What are some dangers of defensiveness?
How might leaders deal with defensiveness?
Leaders need to be prepared for good or bad. Not every situation is written in stone, be fair and flexible. If you made a mistake own it and fix it. If others make a mistake you still have to fix it as a cooperative. Limit exposure of the blame in front of clients, work behind the scenes with the team. Nurturing growth with success for everyone, not just the Leadership. Happy Father’s day too! Cheers
Thanks Tim. It seems like it’s been a while. I’m glad you shared your insights.
Happy Father’s Day to you too!
I’m here everyday, just some days I can’t expound on your quality! Your followers comments have already beaten me to the suggestions. I just absorb what others are saying too!
Defensiveness is honestly one of my biggest struggles. I can get so invested into my ideas and think they’re really the best and nothing can top them that I forget that other people have good ideas, too. In fact, other people typically will have improvements for my idea that I didn’t see, but instead of embracing those improvements, I get defensive and assume that the person hates my idea an thinks I’m an idiot (and of course I know that’s not true).
Leaders might deal with defensiveness by being humble and willing to change and develop. It’s simple enough to say in a single sentence, but it’s a desperately intricate process that requires constant focus by the leader.
Excellent p[ost, Dan — thank you! And, Happy Father’s Day!
Guilty as charged. I did recognize sometime back that I have a defensive habit and I have been working on it. This article is timely because I know have more ideas on how to tackle defensiveness in myself and how to deal with defensive people. Thank you
One of my favorite Ken Blanchard Quotes, “Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions”.
“Stand for your beliefs with kindness.”
Brilliant! Something I think could be done much better in this political climate!
Thanks for crystallizing some concepts that I know exist in me. I sometimes get defensive and dig my heels in and say I’m going to move forward. The best way I combat that (once I’m aware) is to just acknowledge the situation as it is and decide to approach it differently so I can move forward.
The other problem I encounter is that I’m a helper. You’ve got a problem, well I can help! It’s kind of my thing, so I’m always making suggestions. Most of the time, people don’t want to hear that suggestion. So, I think I’m just going to focus on asking the other person questions such as if they would like advice or any other questions to help them explore the problem (if they are open to it).
This is a tough one. I recently read (somewhere!) this quote, which helps me a lot: “When you notice yourself feeling defensive, recognize that one of your illusions is being challenged.”
You are amazing Dan. Thank you so mush.
Great post, thanks. This is the one I find the hardest. “Stop making suggestions. Every new suggestion encounters a higher wall.” Sometimes you’ve just got to listen and create the space for the other person to feel like they’re heard.