The Danger of Defensiveness


I see it all the time: defensive, insecure leaders. Don't get me wrong, These leaders have a deep desire to grow and get better, but for some reason, they have a hard time listening to the feedback, critiques, and heartfelt honesty offered from their own team. I’m sad to say I run across my share of insecure leaders. When we are insecure in our own skin, we will have a hard time accepting feedback from others. However, truly listening to to those closest to us gives us our best opportunity for growth!  If you shut down honest feedback by being defensive, you are shutting down your best opportunity to get better! So...don’t be so defensive! Here are:

Six Ways To Avoid Defensiveness

Be quick to listen and slow to speak.

When someone offers advice, or any type of honest feedback for us, our temptation the entire time they are speaking is how to explain ourselves or defend our behavior.  Don’t give in to that temptation! Listen carefully. Process what they are saying. Be teachable. Be coachable. Model teachability for your team. If you are teachable, they will be more teachable… so don’t be so defensive!

Don’t argue intent.

I had a marriage counselor tell me this a long time ago. It doesn’t matter what I meant. It matters what was recieved. Don’t try to explain what you meant or what your intention was. Just apologize for any wrong signals you might have sent. Don’t argue or defend your intentions. Don’t be so defensive!

Take responsibility.

It really doesn’t really matter if you’ve been at fault or not. Consider this: If we are only 5% responsible for a conflict, we are 100% responsible for our 5%! Just say “I’m sorry.” Take responsibility. Don’t be so defensive!

Distinguish between a critique and a criticism.

Criticism comes from the critics and naysayers. A critique however, comes from someone who loves us and just wants to help us improve and improve the quality of our relationships?  Why would you not listen to that person? You don’t have to listen to everyone, but you had better listen to those closest to you. If you don’t it will negatively affect you and your relationships with those closest to don’t be so defensive!

Thank people for their candor.

Just say “thanks for bringing that to my attention. I don’t know my blind spots unless someone helps me see them. This will help me get better.” Say something like: “I really appreciate you sharing this with me. As a matter of fact, if you ever have something come up like this again, don’t be afraid to come and talk to me about it. I appreciate it more than you know!” Don’t be so defensive!

Mine for total honesty.

On every team I have evere led, we have sought to maintain the “The Last Ten Percent Rule.” The Last Ten Percent Rule states that most people say ninety percent of what they are thinking, but they hold back that last ten percent out of fear of rocking the boat, causing conflict, getting fired, or whatever. As a leader we should always push our team for that last ten percent. That’s where the gold is!  That last ten percent gets us into what people are really thinking and how they really feel, and gives us our best opportunity to gain rapport with those closest to us. So don’t be so defensive!