[This post first appeared on the Covert Leadership blog. It has been slightly edited for BlogHer. Read the original here.]
Covert Answers is a feature where Covert Leadership Agents will answer reader questions and provide advice. Submit your questions here.
One of the people I manage is very defensive and because of this she can’t work well with the rest of the team. What can I do to help her become more of a team player?
Agent N1 says:
To help convert a defensive team member into a productive team player, I would work on two things: 1) building her confidence, and 2) building trust between her and other team members. Specifically, I would provide her with regular and specific positive performance feedback. I would also “be vulnerable” with her (and the rest of the team), requesting assistance, ideas, or feedback on ideas, while encouraging others to the same. These are not instant fixes, but I feel they have solid and lasting effects on reducing defensiveness and fostering teams.
Agent S1 says:
One of the hardest things I’ve found when dealing with defensive people in teams is that when most people are confronted defensively, they react defensively. Which erodes the confidence of the person who was defensive in the first place. It can spiral downward. It may be worthwhile to talk with everyone in the group about this or do some sort of “smiles are contagious” exercise.
Agent C1 says:
People who are defensive (at least usually) have an intention to perform well or want to be recognized with their contribution and talents. They might be afraid that people may think they are not competent, or others won’t see the value of their effort, so they have to defend themselves to protect their status and feelings.
It may be a good idea to give her/him a smaller task which you are sure that she/he won’t fail as a first step. If the task actually contributes to the other team members, it works even better!
As a result, she/he receives appreciation from others while she/he gains more confidence, and is willing to work harder to work as a team.
It is also important for each team member to feel that they “belong” to be a good team player. Setting clear common goals for the team and making sure each member understands and sees the impact of his/her contribution will help the team function better.
Agent M1 says:
This happened to my husband with one of his employees. Part of her defensiveness toward him was due to the fact that he was promoted to become her manager, and she was slightly (if not completely) upset, threatened and a bit competitive.
For her review, this was what I’d suggested to him:
1. Keep it positive. Highlight all of the things that he is really happy about.
2. When there are things that he (as her manager) feels are constructive criticisms to share, ensure they are all based on set milestones and measures. Don’t deviate and give “intuitive” or “friendly” advice.
3. Reiterating what Agent N says – trust is key. In this case it was a manager/employee trust that needed bridging.
In the end, she told him that she thought he was doing a really good job. It was a successful review.
And he tells me that her attitude has totally changed since then!
Some other agents and readers out there may have great suggestion or advice as well…
What would you do if you were MM? — please comment below!
More from living