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Champion Leadership Blog

Defense Wins Championships in Sports, But Creates Losers in Small Business

In sports “defense” wins championships.

In the “contact sport” of workplace “feedback” responding in a “defense” manner does not project championship caliber performance.

Yesterday, in a conversation with the CEO of a national organization, well known in its industry, I learned one of her direct reports, a vice-president reacted “defensive” when confronted with “constructive” feedback.

The feedback came from both team members this VP had direct responsibility for, and peers. The constructive feedback from all sources was consistent.

This was a vice-president in the organization.

Someone at that level of an organization has to be a better role model for performance feedback.

It provided me with immediate insights into the type of workplace culture this was.

Why would someone respond to feedback “defensively?”

There are three reasons:

  • They feel threatened from above. The individual feels they can’t “look bad” in front of their boss,
  • They feel threatened from below. The individual believes the people they are leading are retaliating for something, or someone may be trying to make them look bad because they have their eye on this individual’s job; or,
  • Neither of the above situations are valid and the individual just has extremely low self-esteem and their ego can’t take the “attack.”

I’m used to hearing this about mid-level and frontline employees who are “defensive” when provided “constructive feedback.”

It’s rare I hear that senior leaders react this way.

There are two reasons for this phenomenon:

  • They are not exposed to constructive feedback from direct reports and peers in the form of 360 evaluations; or
  • They are comfortable in their position with high self-esteem and respond appropriately when feedback is offered.

My bet is on #1, though.

What do you think?

What is your experience with senior company leaders and company owners soliciting feedback from those they lead?

Leave a comment below and next time I’ll share with you my secret leadership strategy to creating an environment where frontline and mid-level employees are open to the constructive feedback you need to provide to create a workforce that performs like a champion.

’til next time, Communicate with Power,

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