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Are You In Learning Mode Or Defensive Mode?

by Jeff Raker

05.31.2018

Recently while driving a  rental car, at night, in a driving rain, another car flashed his brights once from behind me – far behind, not like he wanted me out of his way. I glanced around and down wondering and soon saw that my lights were not on. This unfamiliar car was not equipped with lights that come on automatically, like the car with which I’m most familiar.

At first, after the flashing lights, I thought: “What’s that about?” a little irritated.

My second thought was, “What might be wrong?” In other words, this could be someone trying to help me.

The third thought was, “What a dummy! Driving around dangerously without my lights on!”

Often we move through the same sequence when receiving feedback. We start at defensive or questioning. We move to accepting and wondering. We often end in, oops, missed that. They were so right!

We can just as easily get stuck at the first or second plateau.

People who want to succeed and grow are people who are accepting of feedback. Leaders are learners. The best leaders will learn from anyone and anything, whether friendly or attacking. When a person wastes time arguing with someone’s feedback or opinion, they are not learning but defending.


Successful leaders ask questions:

“Can you describe what I did or what I do?”

“Where did you last see me do that?”

“How could it be done differently next time?”

If you find yourself getting stuck at the 1st or 2nd level, ask yourself what that’s about? are you in learning mode or defensive mode. If defensive, what are you defending? What caused you to circle the wagons?


It’s hard for us to see when we’re in a rut. Feedback helps us understand, even saving us from living dangerously. I was thankful someone took a moment to try to help.

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Jeff’s passion is to add value to people, primarily by helping them find their purpose. He works as an Executive Leadership Coach with business and a Peak Performance Coach with sports. He is a Pastor and is an International Swimming Official for USA Swimming.

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