Thursday, November 29, 2007

On the Defensive in the Slow Lane.


Progress. It is what we as a society are always working towards, and at times we see great strides, but at others we see administrations or new regimes come in only to leave a bigger mess than they came into.

Whether we want progress at work, in our personal lives, or in larger organizations and our communities, we have to be careful not to shoot ourselves in the foot. We often do this by being 'on the defensive in the slow lane'. That is, we get our backs up against the wall and fight any idea or suggestion that is opposed to our own.

Ever heard of 'group think'? It is the phrase used to describe the relative stagnation often found in committees or unions because there is no agreement. No progress.

Group think happens when we are either a) closed minded and too convinced about the brilliance of our own ideas or b) because we take (or give) any feedback as a personal attack rather than an attempt to help us or move us forward. When we take constructive criticism as a personal attack, we close our mind to the validity of the remarks, and we form negative opinions about those who cared enough and were insightful enough to offer a suggestion.

Whether we are talking about a jury in a trial that drags on, a business board meeting that fails to resolve the key issues in question, or 2 parents arguing about what's best for their kids... it is critical that we a) open our minds to other opinions, b) remove emotion from any feedback we receive and c) remove any personal inferences in giving others feedback on how they can improve their ideas or actions.

Being on the defensive leads to blame, justifications, rationalizations, and basically, nil progress. A very successful business developer in Calgary is fond of saying, "never fall in love with your own ideas". A 450 foot+ skyscraper is just one of the projects he is tackling right now because he can make progress by listening to others and not fighting their suggestions. And you know what? Those suggestions from other people that he could have fought are making him look really good right now!

Want to speed up resolution? Want to move your life further ahead and faster? Want to stop being on the defensive in the slow lane of the rat race?

Stop taking feedback as an attack and start taking it for what it is: information.
Stop loving your own ideas and search for different or better ones from others.
Start setting your own pace by being on the offensive in the fast lane!

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