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Abbott Research

Getting Defensive: Something That Doesn’t Work Well With Customers or Ideas

manholding sign card wtih word noIt seems that all of our news is dominated these days by partisan politics and scandal. For all of us students of human behavior, we’re getting a real education!

What I am noticing is – the more pressure these folks are under, the worse their behavior becomes. The inclination is to stonewall, to defend, to deny, to attack the persecutors. The siege mentality starts to cause people to trust a smaller and smaller group of advisors, and to close ranks. Poorly thought out announcements are made. Those that disagree with managers/leaders are dismissed for their honesty and willingness to state truth to power.

The irony is, these behaviors are almost exactly the wrong thing.

When things are not going well, you need to rethink what you are doing, not double-down your efforts.

When things are not going well, that’s a good time to consider fresh, objective advice.

Although it’s hard to get honest feedback, when we do hear something we don’t like, we need to give those opinions a genuine hearing. Just because we disagree.

Easy to say, of course. But we all fall prey to this kind of thinking, because our biological systems take over, and we go into defensive mode.

From a marketing perspective, this is not productive. Even in a crisis, we need clear thinking informed as much as possible by cold hard reality, and then filtered through intuition. It’s a good time to consider alternatives that might initially seem really crazy, rather than just react.

OK, so maybe you are not in crisis. But there are few organizations of any size today that are not experiencing tremendous stress because of rapid change and hyper-competition. None of us can afford to react without thinking.

Hard as it is to avoid a defensive posture in our thinking, we need to try if we are to survive. We need to listen to our customers, even when they are saying things we don’t want to hear.