Diffusing Defensiveness – Preventing Power Struggles for Oneness!

SERIES: Part Three of a Four-Part Article

It’s all about egos, competitiveness, saving face, and not being seen as the one having to make a concession that leads to a need to win at any cost!

Many times it is this cost of power struggles that, in the final accounting, leads to significant loss of true gains and wins for the greater whole because individuals get caught up in the minutia of petty struggles. And from there, a pattern develops whereby struggles become the norm. Many studies indicate that men experience these struggles due to a need to be above others in a position of power and influence. For women, these struggles are often caused by the need to be the center of influence and acceptance.

Individuals must rise above the need for power struggles and finesse energies and individuals together for a sense of “oneness” that will allow true greatness to be attained and experienced by all!

For leadership success in the home and workplace, here are ten ways to create “oneness” in the face of a “power struggle”:

  1. Enlarge the final solution to incorporate aspects from all players’ desires, versus an either/or option (you versus me’ism).
  2. Invite plurality of suggestions, versus a this-or-that mentality. From these multiple ideas before implementation, one can gain better perspectives and better final resolutions.
  3. Avoid the first person language (I, you, think, but, however) that tends to inflame interactions and induce additional defensive postures among individuals.
  4. Increase the use of inclusion language (we, us, team, feel, other ideas) that brings people together and makes it more difficult for an individual to create a divisive climate.
  5. Share credit and glory liberally. While in the presence of others and success, make sure the credit and rewards are publicly experienced by all appropriate individuals.
  6. Document heavily when you know you are in the presence of those that tend toward power struggles. For example, in the initial stages of a project launch, send an e-mail, letter, voicemail message, etc.) to all participants about the agreed- upon action plan.  Note who specifically owns each piece of that project and send corresponding copies to supervisors and any other influencers that can encourage “oneness” actions.
  7. Disengage and walk away gracefully if you determine your participation, input, or opinion will not have a “significant” influence on the outcome. Many power struggles grow out of individual’s desire for their action plan to be “the” action plan.
  8. Involve a valued and respected elder as the leader of an issue that may lean toward defensive behavior. Let him or her either lead or council you as to exact action plans – and listen!
  9. Break down decision-making responsibility among multiple individuals to avoid any one individual becoming too important or developing an over-inflated view of their net worth to the overall “oneness” of the team.
  10. Limit volatile individuals’ exposure to issues and other individuals that ignite defensive behaviors.

The ability to tactically engage others in the face of impending power implosions and redirect potential negative and destructive energies toward a greater positive outcome is the mark of a true leader in today’s workplace.

These intrusions can create scars that may heal quickly with some individuals, but can also create long festering wounds that reveal themselves in future defensive behavior eruptions. These scars reside in that subconscious brain!

As a leader, you will want to tactically engage – in a non-threatening manner when possible – an individual exhibiting defensive behaviors. Consider:

  1. Start with an empathy action or statement, revealing you acknowledge their position.
  2. Do not take an immediate position of agreement or disagreement with the other person – that is what they will be expecting.
  3. Invite them to share plural solutions to the problem that has brought about their defensiveness. Plurality is a powerful tool, as it allows you to engage all parties in civil dialogue. If you solicit for a singular idea, you may merely elevate the level of challenge, and increased defensiveness may (perhaps on your behalf) as a result.
  4. Establish either privately or jointly a follow-up plan to demonstrate you are committed to resolving what raised the defensive behavior in the first place. Continue to ensure the emotional wound heals and the person in question does not digress or attempt to tie in future unrelated issues to this issue.
  5. Make sure you continually avail yourself to them and keep a conscious ear to what is happening in the workplace. This will ensure others don’t antagonize the wound you are attempting to heal.

Healing emotional wounds and ensuring defensive behaviors do not erode an otherwise effective organization is crucial in today’s fast-paced and highly competitive workplace, where people’s emotions are at wit’s end. Your ability to subtly engage individuals when they are defensive to others, allow them to save face and move onward to greater productivity and profitability outcomes is a trait of tactical leadership.

Dr Jeff Magee
Facebook (Get a FREE copy of my Performance Execution Ebook)

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