Jane and I had been talking about her leadership. She had been focused on achieving her goal and had done everything she could to reach it. Upon delivering the result she learned that it wasn’t taken into consideration as she had hoped for.
As we explored the situation it became clear, that she had taken up the task with a focus on achieving the result. What she had not considered was the possibility that the decision landscape could shift along the process. Nor that it could impact how her result would be received.
In this process, Jane was seeing herself as the one whose work would contribute to shifting the company’s way of working. Her image of herself was guiding how she was approaching her work and how she addressed relationships within the organization.
As we looked at her project from a different perspective, Jane started to review some of the meetings she had participated in and reinterpreted what she had heard. It shifted her view on how she was being treated and supported.
Until then, she had perceived herself as being treated unfairly. A perception that had triggered her need to protect herself and invited her to step into defensive behavior. Through this behavior, she was seeking to protect her view of herself. It wasn’t intentional. It was instinctive and there to enable herself to feel safe in the way she was applying her leadership. Seeing something else would have asked her to step out of her routine and carried the risk to change her perception of herself.
It’s a risk for almost everyone.
One that leads to defense mechanisms and the desire to protect one’s image of self. The more importance that image has the more difficult it can become to integrate new approaches. Defensive behavior contributes to preventing change and personal growth.