We all have trigger situations that put us on the defensive, that make us clam up and stop performing at our very best. When you are the manager or team leader, this is the very opposite of how you want your team to feel. So how can we ensure that this defensive reaction doesn’t happen within our team?
The first step is recognising the triggers. There are obvious situations such as emotions running high or confrontation but there can be more subtle signs that someone is going into defensive mode well before things escalate to a shouting match.
Body language can point to someone being on the defensive; they may make themselves smaller and may turn away from you or stop making eye contact. These are outward signals that your team member is starting to shutdown.
Before tackling a difficult topic with someone try and see things from their point of view. Think about how they might perceive what you are about to say. Language is so important and saying “I” a lot may cause someone to go on the defensive, “we” is a much better word.
If you require a resolution, try and bring your team member into the decision process. If the decision is a joint one then they are much more likely to buy into it and therefore not be defensive.