Above or below the line

 Tools to make you THINK differently about your business  

Above below the line4

I think (but you may have a different opinion!) that “above and below” the line is a really cool concept for both managing yourself and managing others.  It was first introduced to me by my business coach, Marco. 

  • If you are operating “above the line” you are taking personal ownership, responsibility and are accountable for your actions.  This is a good place.
  • If you are operating “below the line” you are finding it easier to deny, blame or come up with excuses for the actions you take.  This is a bad place.

When people are operating above the line they have a positive impact on the business; it pushes the business forwards…when people are operating below the line they have a negative impact on the business; it drags the business back.  Essentially, the tool helps leaders help themselves and their staff create the best version of themselves.

So, it’s a concept about the way we “think” and “behave” and can be used by organisations to embed the values they want into the way people work; Marco, uses it with me sometimes when he is helping me to unpack my thinking.

In doing a bit of research for this blog, I came across an excellent You-Tube video made by the Conscious Leadership Group which gives an great overview of the concept – and posed an interesting question.

How are you being with what is going on at work right now? It focuses on your "location" asking where are you right now.  The video can be found below.

As you watch the video, simply start wondering about the behaviours or thinking of other people in your life, at home or at work. Where are they now on things that are important to you or them?

Just being aware of the concept can help you take a step back and then move yourself into a state of curiosity and learning, putting you in a better place in order to take action to solve problems.

How to use

As hinted above, I think there are a couple of very useful ways to use the idea:

  • The first is to use it to reflect on your own behaviours
  • The other is to use it with others to help them reflect on their behaviours

The question to ask is how can the idea make you, or others, more aware of your/their thinking or behaviours?

  • Do you share your observations with them? (Reflecting back what you see?)
  • Or can you use exploratory coaching questions to help them to become aware of their thinking or their actions / behaviours? for example:
    • Can we unpack that a little… What is behind that thinking?
    • On what specifically do you base that view?
    • What other alternative perspectives or interpretations might there be?
    • If we are to find a way forward, what could we do?

You could make your team aware of the concept as part of their individual development or use it at the beginning of team meetings to help set expectations for the behaviours and thinking you want to promote triggering more above the line thinking and helping to drive up team performance.

Related tools

  • The Johari Window

Recommended references

Downloadable resources 

  • None

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