The #1 Behavior That's Killing Your Career (And How to Fix It)

Defensiveness.

I speak from personal experience on this topic. How do you keep pushing yourself when you start to experience some constructive feedback? I’m not sure if it’s my generation, the millennials, but we do not always seem to take constructive feedback well.

Our immediate response, often unknowingly, is to justify our behavior or thinking. This is easy to do if some of your past behaviors have led to success – you quickly fall into the trap of thinking that what got you here, will get you there. We become resistant to ideas or comments that seem off base to us, or we think, “That person doesn’t fully understand my role or how I do my job." There is a danger I have seen and experienced with this thinking:

Defensiveness > Entitlement > Irrelevance

If left unbridled, defensiveness can lead to a pervasive sense of entitlement, which if left unchecked, can lead to irrelevance. I don’t think any of us want to be irrelevant in our careers. Thankfully, I’ve had some mentors step in and deliver the truth when needed most. Here are three things to remember when trying to combat defensiveness:

1. Receiving and responding to feedback is an art

If you fundamentally disagree with someone (or don’t realize their feedback is spot on yet), then your natural response will be to get defensive. Depending on your personality, it can elicit a strong, even visceral, internal emotional response. The ability to genuinely say, “I appreciate you investing in me” or “Here’s what I hear you saying, and I think a lot of what you are saying is fair” does not come naturally. However, I do believe it is a muscle that can be developed with intentionality over time.

2. Keep an underdog mindset

Humility is key. Life is not a sprint – it’s not even a marathon. It’s an ULTRA-MARATHON. I loved this piece by Benjamin Hardy where he unpacks some of this thinking. In order to keep this mindset and humble approach, your sense of security must be internal. It can’t come from external forces such as pats on the back or continual praise, recognition or words of affirmation. Maintaining a firm sense of your identity in the midst of pressure or what sometimes feels like an aerial assault of feedback is critically important.

3. Be coachable

One real simple way to do this is to just shut up. Talking or explaining yourself away can show desperation. Less is more. Kill your ego at every point when you start to feel it rise up. Listen and just do the next thing – don’t get hung up or overwhelmed with all the moving pieces or the myriad of inputs from external sources. Always be learning. Some of the people I admire most are those who have achieved significant material success but are always eager to learn and will readily admit if they don’t know much about something.

I’m sure this will be an ongoing challenge and growth process. My advice is to run to feedback – both positive and constructive. This is where growth happens. Feedback is a gift – most are unwilling or too afraid to give it. I’m thankful I’ve had some mentors give it in spades.

I’d love to hear how you respond to constructive feedback in a positive and healthy way. Feel free to leave a comment below or drop a note to dave@edgementoring.org.


 
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Dave Neff

President & CEO | EDGE Mentoring