Hold Your Ground. Don't Be Defensive
Stephen Miles is the founder and chief executive officer of The Miles Group. Previously, he was a vice chairman at Heidrick & Struggles and ran Leadership Advisory Services. With more than 15 years of experience in assessment, executive coaching, top-level succession planning, organizational effectiveness and strategy consulting, Stephen specializes in CEO succession and has partnered with numerous boards of global Fortune 500 companies to ensure that a successful leadership selection and transition occurs. He has also led many chairman successions and board effectiveness reviews, partnering with boards of directors to help them with their overall effectiveness, committee effectiveness and individual director effectiveness.
Stephen is a recognized expert on the role of the chief operating officer, and has consulted numerous companies on the establishment and the effectiveness of the position and supporting the transition from COO to effective CEO. He is a coach to many CEOs and COOs around the world, and his clients cut across all industry sectors.
Stephen and his CEO advisory services were profiled in the Bloomberg Businessweek article “The Rising Star of CEO Consulting." Prior to The Miles Group and Heidrick & Struggles, Stephen held various positions at Andersen Consulting.
Stephen Miles: Generally coaching, especially executive coaching around just being an effective manager, has application inside and outside the company. If I can deal with conflict. If I can deal with defensiveness. If I can listen for content as opposed to winning the interaction. I promise you that your interaction with your significant other is gonna be a much better interaction than if you didn’t apply those tools. And if you can apply it to your life, I know you can do it at work as well. And when we practice stuff we’re usually better at it. So you have more playground to practice on.
So I think one of the areas where I coach a lot of executives on is really the defensiveness reaction, right. We often personalize our points of view or our ideas and there are people around us that, you know, want to aggressively poke at us. And when they aggressively poke at our ideas, they’re poking at us. And our response to that is usually a visceral response. You feel it up your back and then you have a defensive reaction. And whenever I’m assessing somebody I always poke around them to see if I can elicit a defensive reaction because if I can get you in a defensive place, you’ve actually lost your leadership position, right. I’ve got you defending something so you must have something to defend.
There’s a simple out to this – a really simple tool. So when you feel that visceral reaction and somebody’s provoking you, facilitate them. So, number one, people need affirmation more than anything. Affirm their point of view. That’s an interesting point of view. It’s different than mine, right. You just acknowledge that they exist and you acknowledge that they have a point of view so there’s affirmation in that. So you’ve taken some of the heat out. Now stay on the front foot and start asking questions, right. Socratic leadership is one of the most powerful tools in everybody’s toolbox.
You know, help me understand that. Where’s that coming from? What are the facts and data that back that up? Now you hold your leadership position. You haven’t given anything up to them and you’re really facilitating them to be able to defend their position. And I would bet eight, nine, ten times out of ten they’re gonna get defensive because that’s never happened to them before. Because a lot of people who are aggressive at work around topics actually are very anecdotal. When you ask the second or third question there is no facts or data there, right. They’re just pushing you away. What bullies do in little B form or the big B form is just aggressively try and pursue something with anecdotes.
And if you can hold your ground, not be defensive, facilitate them using affirmation to start and then facilitate them, you’ll end up in the higher place and the higher ground and you can end that conversation any way you want but you haven’t lost your ability to lead that point of view.
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Elizabeth Rodd
We often personalize our points of view or our ideas and there are people around us that want to aggressively poke at us.
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