July 20

Drop Your Guard

InHerding Tigers, I wrote, “Do you feel the need to power up every time someone disagrees with you or offers disconfirming information? These power plays aren’t typically obvious but include subtle hints of your posi- tion or importance within the organization. You might rationalize your actions to others by pointing out that they don’t have the same informa- tion that you do or that you have more experience. You might patronize them and pretend to be listening while sending them subtle signals that you don’t respect their opinion.”

How receptive are you when someone challenges your perspective?

If you lead or work with bright, talented, capable people, you want them to push you and challenge your ideas. In fact, if they’re not doing that, it might speak to a bigger issue of accountability within your organization. (They might not feel it’s expected that they bring their perspective!)

However, when you get defensive when someone (respectfully) chal- lenges your idea, you are communicating to them that you don’t really want to hear their thoughts, and you aren’t willing to rethink your opin- ion. While you might think defending yourself will bolster your stance, it often has the opposite effect.

Is there a situation in which you tend to get defensive? Do you find yourself pushing back against even the remotest criticism of your ideas?

This week, I challenge you to drop your guard. Recognize that you need a marketplace of ideas to succeed as a team, and the fastest way to squelch those ideas is to dig in your heels and defend your own perspec- tive. Your team and your collaborators will stop trying.

Defensiveness closes your mind to growth.


is there a particular area of your life or work where you tend to get overly defensive? How can you drop your guard today?

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