Self Insight: Exploring defensive reactions

Posted June 5, 2017 in Communication, Latest News & Insights, Self-Insight

Recently I put a bold status report on LinkedIn. I was in a bit of a ‘mood’ (for entirely different reasons) so channeled some of my ‘low restraint’ behaviours and wrote a fairly direct comment about my thoughts on executive coaching pricing. What happened next was interesting and made me think about something I learned about defensive reactions that I thought I’d share.

The post I wrote said this:

“This is a public service announcement: if you are over investing your development dollars in one on one executive coaching PLEASE call me and talk to me about how group and team coaching can exponentially expand your ROI. I just spoke to someone who told me that they spend between $20k and $30k PER PERSON on executive coaching. Honestly, that is a giant rip off. You don’t have to work with us. I’d just like you to get better return on that spend.”

So here’s the thing. I genuinely meant this as a PSA. For many organizations, executive coaching has become the ‘go-to’ solution for everything and, I don’t believe it should be. There are lots of times when you would be better off getting people working together than isolating themselves with a coach. But to be clear, I’m not saying ALL executive coaching is a giant rip off it’s absolutely not. But I do think OVER INVESTING in executive coaching is a giant rip off. Just like over investing in anything isn’t good for you – training, e-learning, outsourcing HR…you name it.

Shortly after posting my comment, I got a scathing reply from someone in my network who accused me of being ‘irresponsible’ in saying coaching is a rip off. So of course, I got defensive and defended my position. How dare they accuse me of being irresponsible! I was indignant!

Which then led me to reflect on why I felt defensive. What I know to be true is that when we get defensive it’s usually because there is a certain amount of truth in what’s being said. And that truth goes against a view that we hold for ourselves.

So here’s the truth for me:

Because the poster made a personal attack and called me ‘irresponsible’, it made me defensive. As someone who’s usually the ‘responsible’ person in the room, that pissed me off. But, I also realized that I was being ‘irresponsible’ because the scenario I painted was too high level and could lead to a bunch of misinterpretation. I still stand by what I said, but I shouldn’t have posted it so flippantly. I suppose there are lots of times when spending $20,000 on a coach is a minimal investment (although, even as I write this I do feel like you could double that investment if you coached the entire team not just one leader…but I digress.)

I shared this with a friend who also pointed out that the person who posted was showing their cards in their own defensive reaction. She surmised that if coaches are 100% confident that charging those types of fees isn’t a giant rip off, they wouldn’t care what I said. They would feel good with the fact that they know the value they bring to their clients. Certainly many coaches ‘liked’ my post. They didn’t seem that worried about what I was saying. So maybe there’s some truth in the fact that the person posting was feeling a tad defensive as well.

Anyway, next time you find yourself getting defensive, take a moment to pause to consider what exactly is rubbing you the wrong way about the comment that’s been made. No doubt you’ll find it an instructive exercise and a great way to manage future defensive reactions as they crop up.

Happy leading!

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