When we are working with organisations to develop a more resilient and mentally tougher culture, one of the important concepts is developing a common language that everyone understands and ultimately buys into. Above the line and below the line thinking is a cornerstone of this leadership approach, as our mental toughness partner Michelle Bakjac explains in this practical and informative post.
Is Your Team “Above The Line”?
One of my favourite concepts for the implementation of a coaching culture in any organisation is to introduce “Above The Line Thinking”, rather than “Below The Line Thinking”.
Basically Above the Line and Below the Line thinking sets the standard for what the team considers is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, language and attitudes in a workplace.
A person or team is “above the line” if they are taking responsibility, being accountable, using positive language, supporting and encouraging each other and looking for solutions. A person or team is “below the line” if they are blaming others, using negative language including sarcasm, focusing on the problem and continuously knocking down others and their ideas, saying “that will never work”, “we’ve already tried that”, “it’s all management’s fault”.
When introduced as part of a coaching culture framework, this tool helps a person and a team to recognise whether they are part of the solution or part of the problem. It also gives a person and the team permission to say to others, “Hey, that’s below the line” and to “reframe” so that the person can get back above the line with respect to their language and their attitude.
This tool can also be used to identify the need for coaching. If someone is continuously dropping below the line into blame or lack of accountability, then you can coach the person to consider how they can take more responsibility for how they think, behave and respond.
From a leadership perspective, all leaders can drop below the line at some point. This is normal. But what matters is not whether a leader drops below the line, but how quickly they get back above it!
Leadership is about taking responsibility, raising the bar and the standards of the team and quickly getting back above the line without having the whole team spiral down with you into negativity. This is why many leaders often benefit from having a coach themselves as a sounding board to allow them to go below the line in a safe environment, vent their problems and then seek solutions to get back “above the line” with their team.
Consider then how you and your team could introduce an “Above The Line” culture into your workplace? Consider the opportunity to build a team’s confidence, and promote a “can do” attitude, a team which works together toward dedicated action and embraces challenges.
Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited mental toughness practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their mental toughness to improve performance, behaviour and wellbeing. You can find her at www.bakjacconsulting.com or firstname.lastname@example.org