7 Tips for Defending Your Teammate

Leaders eventually find themselves in the position where they must defend someone on their team. Stepping up to bat for our teammates is an expectation of the position. Even when the teammate is at fault, we do not throw them under the bus.

Yet, sometimes we become so close with our teammates that we are overly protective of them, unaware of a blind spot we have as we instinctively and immediately jump to their defense. Here are some tips to consider as you balance leading and, when necessary, defending the people on your team.

1. Listen

Before you go on the defense, listen to the person bringing up the issue. What is the problem? What is their motive? It is about the person, or their production? Listen with an open mind.

2. Assume Innocence

Do not jump to conclusions on motives until you have listened to and spoken with all parties involved.

3. Be Aware of Potential Blind Spots

Typically, the closer our relationship with a teammate, the more likely we are to develop blind spots. We want to protect the people we care about. If you have a close relationship with a teammate, be aware that you might be more likely to ignore or deny their weaknesses or mistakes, especially when someone else brings them up.

4. Ditch the Drama

Defending a teammate doesn’t have to be a soap opera. Remove the emotions. Focus on production, talents, strengths, and your confidence in their abilities.

5. Be Objective

Remember, we must first do what’s best for the organization, then what’s best for the team. That order doesn’t change based on who’s involved.

6. Don’t Coddle or Cover Up

Own up to legitimate problems. Discuss a plan to coach and guide to improvements. Coddling results in missed learning opportunities.

7. Transition from Protecting to Coaching

If you need to protect your teammate, you also need to coach them because you can’t protect them every time. They need to be able to work through issues on their own. Coach them on how to handle future situations.

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