Inspiring stories, life experiences and poems of people always gives a ray of hope in all humans. For example when one reads" Lead Kindly Light" of Tagore surely there is something inside our minds which gets a ray of hope. Similar is the case with the perseverance of people who not only survived but also took it as a responsibility to motivate others survive in the concentration camps in World War II. Hope is clearly a remedy for pessimism which is probably a natural defensive action mind resorts to during adversities. Being defensive is not a bad behavior but once it becomes a habit it starts to suck away the real reasons of failures. On the other end of spectrum being over confident has a similar effect when it becomes a habit. When defensiveness becomes a habit we fight for status quo or start to be perceived as a bottle neck in a change situation. Leaders of change may start to avoid getting opinions from the person with such behaviors though there can be some fence sitters motivating to continue to dare. Such people end up in being forced to look for new jobs and they probably never recognize that the reason for their malady is within them.
Over confidence that there can be nothing which can go wrong has other effects. Such people are cultivated by Leaders to be a catalyst of change in some situations only to realize that after sometime their effectiveness wanes. The reason is people around who look for logical reasons of why this will succeed find that it is more words and feelings than logic that drives the individual. As a corollary there can also be an instant belief in an hope giving enthusiastic leader if the earlier leader was a pessimistic, image drainer for a group/country. Classic example is Obama. As it can be seen very soon the belief drains when people start to realize that life is more than just giving hope and speaking the right vocabulary.
There are some general rules to test if we have the sickness of defensiveness:
1) If we shoot down new ideas even without taking it for discussions
2) If we are trying to project all the showcase items (good news) and cover up dissent
3) If we are wanting to manage/alter the KPI's for short term reasons of bonus or justifying headcounts etc
4) If we generally exhibit all the passive aggression characteristics
5) If our humor is hurting a change manager who is sincerely trying to make a change
6) If our informal communication is exactly opposite of formal communication
7) If we explain the problem is not here but elsewhere and we can't do much
8) If we say dotted line reporting can achieve only so much
9) If we say we have tried it earlier and it will fail as we are not ready
10)If we smile when something which we say will fail actually failed.
The list can be longer but when defensiveness dares there cannot be much progress is a fact individuals and organizations should recognize. The more healthy a person is (both physical and emotional) the less insecure he/she is. The less insecure a person is the less defensive he/she is. For example last year I tried to introduce diversity in an alumni e-group which was a male only. Most of them were uncomfortable but some were so defensive that they felt that even if a women is classmate she should not be added for it takes away the joy of men talk/humor.
There were some who said by virtue of being a classmate they have a right but were pushed through with humor and peer pressure. I had the responsibility to go back and inform the bad news but I chose a new way. I asked the most resistant person to draft a nice communication which can be shared. After one week I got a reply that he did not find a good reason and realized that maybe we should make it an inclusive group. I appreciated him for the introspection made the defensiveness vanish. We went ahead but I informed the concerns some had to the women. To our surprise she said" Nothing new" and went on to add energy to our group. The group is more active than ever. In a recent communication I got a person saying that adding her was one of the best decisions made. Progress is made only when we get our masks and start accepting realities. We cannot live in our silos and believe that if we get out we step on fire. Dare to recognize this and be a leader...
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