Being defensive is hiding or defending a critical fear. Being defensive comes from the interpretation that is placed on a situation. The interpretation is based on a belief and the reaction that occurs is to defend the belief. It is a way of protecting the belief or the interpretation that has been made. You cannot get beyond this defensive behaviour unless you are prepared to acknowledge the fear and address it. Some people are open to doing this and some are not. Either way it is not possible to change a person and their belief. It must come from a desire to do so.
However what do you do when you are managing staff and they are defensive? Firstly recognise quickly that the defensive behaviour is about the other person and so don’t feel inclined to want to prove them wrong. When a person is defensive they are not rationale and so you might ask them to go away and think through things. You also might ask them to physically move from where they are and to go into another room. Physical movement can shift the energy in the body and help a person to not be so defensive.
To move away from being defensive requires a desire to want to do so. It requires being open to being vulnerable and wanting to learn. It requires dropping your defences and opening your mind. It requires being humble and putting away your ego. The result is a more aware, less fearful person. Now that has got to be worth the risk.