Several of you liked the theme about bosses who say one thing and do another. Here’s one of my all-time favorites. (You can imagine this boss as your boss but better, put yourself in the manager’s shoes.)

neg_feedbackThis has happened to you when you said what you thought, right? You end up feeling like a victim after offering invited feedback. The other side of the coin is, have you been the victimizer? Are you guilty of saying one thing but your behavior, language, statements, gestures say the exact opposite?

“The test of a good manager is the ability to give and receive negative feedback.” I can’t find the author of this quote but I love it. When I interview potential new managers, I often use role play to test the feedback ability. I don’t enjoy working with “yes people”—and, while I can’t prove it, I am convinced that they are far less effective.

I’ve spent a professional lifetime trying to figure out why so many of us are afraid of negative feedback and respond with defensiveness. A Yahoo blogger named ERHS-tenorchick said it in the most simple way: “In my experience most people get defensive whenever they feel insecure about something, or they know that they are in the wrong.”

This isn’t rocket science which is why the lack of understanding of it is so baffling. But there’s absurdity here, too. You know. You are in a meeting. Someone gets called on the carpet. Then you have to listen to the accused splay a string of excuses or explodes in righteous indignation—sometimes going on for what feels like hours. What’s so absurd? We all know this person is defensive. He/she knows we know but keeps on defending—and looking increasingly foolish. Or what’s even more interesting is that often the defensive individual looks more insecure and convinces everyone that they know they are in the wrong—the exact opposite of what they wanted!

My blogging buddy added: “Getting defensive is a defense mechanism; it’s a way to protect yourself from a possible attack.” I’m married to a brilliant psychiatrist who couldn’t have said it better—at least not in those few words. Except he would have elaborated on the fact that our defense mechanisms are unconscious. So??? The deal is, if you are going to be a leader, you have to bring some of that paralyzing unconscious stuff out in the daylight and manage it. Therapy? No, but it’s often very helpful somewhere along the way. I’m talking about the self-awareness and insight that comes from self reflection combined with honest feedback from others—preferably anonymous. And, yes it involves Emotional Intelligence or EQ—a skill sadly lacking for many aspiring leaders. Rebuttals welcome!