What happens when you get challenged? As a leader not everyone will agree with you. How you respond is critical. Do you get defensive? Feel resistance? Push back? Or do you encourage healthy criticism and debate?

Over the years I’ve had some great bosses and some very challenging ones who thought they were right regardless of evidence to the contrary. All of which shaped my leadership style.

My personal belief is I never want to be the smartest person in the room. Encouraging healthy debate is how new ideas surface and innovation happens.

Incidentally, it’s the same in sales situations. Prospects will push back. Disagree with your proposed solutions.

While our natural inclinations might be to push back and get defensive, that’s rarely useful.

I had a situation recently which made me really stop and reflect on my own reaction to criticism. I “felt I was right” and got defensive. It was an emotional reaction and the other party felt “attacked”. Which didn’t lead to a positive outcome for either of us.

While this wasn’t my intention (and the other person agreed) I should have handled it better, more maturely. Which provided a learning experience

As leaders, people watch what we do, not just what we say.

If we’re to get the best from people, we need openness and frank discussions.

However, you need to lead these and ultimately come to conclusions and make decisions. And then stand by them.

So the next time you’re challenged, I suggest you stop and Take a deep breath. Count to 10. Check in with your own feelings. If you’re feeling defensive, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What must they be thinking and feeling to act this way?

Ask open-ended questions to understand their concerns more deeply. And then, work with them to find common ground.

By doing this, you’ll be able to create a more positive experience and build a stronger relationship.

I’d love to hear back from you. How do you handle challenging or confronting situations. Let’s start a conversation.

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