In my last post I discussed how holding each other accountable for behavior enables us to be most productive and healthy as organizations. One important way to remember how to be in this zone is to recognize that we all need to invest in our themes to grow them into strengths, and this includes getting feedback from our colleagues. In other words, that part of the graph that asks us to be “open to feedback/influence” involves listening and suppressing that most natural of reactions, defensiveness. Now, defensiveness is such a pervasive and natural reaction that I am willing to bet that, as you read this sentence, you are saying to yourself, “Defensive? I don’t get defensive.”
One way to grow themes into strengths is what Jim Collison and Maika Leibrandt talk frequently about on the Theme Thursday webcasts–transitioning from a “me focus” to a “we focus” in how our themes get expressed. In other words, if my Communication theme is mostly just meeting my own needs, I will end up talking all the time, expressing all the stuff that I am thinking about and using the world as my sounding board. But if want to of service to a team, I might consider that communication also involves asking powerful questions of those I work with and practice bringing a coaching perspective to my interactions with colleagues, allowing them the time a space to contribute their good thinking to problems we face.
Another strategy might be to “introduce your theme before it introduces you” (another pearl of wisdom from Maika Leibrandt). So in my case, I might share with a co-worker that I tend to think out loud – it’s just how my brain works sometimes. Then I can give them permission to slow me down if I am starting to sound like Sir Talks-a-lot. If they do, I’ll accept their cue, take a break, and share the airtime with others on the team. This way I am opening myself up to influence from peers that might help me refocus my theme on giving voice to a variety of opinions and ideas, many of which are bound to better than, or complementary to, my own.
The StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment can be a powerful tool for us to use in smoothing over the bumpiness that comes from holding each other accountable for behavior that might be holding our team back. If we adopt the attitude that “I need to be the change I want to see in the world” we can approach others with the humility to ask them for feedback about our behavior and seek to understand them and their themes.
What strategy do you use to keep that defensive reaction in check?