As a leader of a team, it is essential to understand the underlying behavioural principles that distinguish an average leader from an excellent leader. We can’t expect to lead and inspire others in an engaged and positive way, if we neglect to nurture leading our selves.
I’d like to outline the behavioural concept of Above and Below the Line. I refer to it with my clients often as I think it provides a really simple yet powerful framework to guide leaders, and their team away from negative, unhelpful behaviour (below the line) and towards positive helpful behaviour (above the line). At any point in time we can be seen to be either above the line, or below it. If we are above it, our thoughts and our behavious is open, creative, curious and engaged. If we are below the line we are defensive, negative, closed off, unengaged and committed to being right. Clearly as leaders, the more spent operating from a space above the line, the more we get out of ourselves and the people we work with.
So how do we remain Above the Line
There’s no short cuts. Like all conscious management approaches, it requires mindfulness and acceptance of the fact that we have to constantly ask the question “Where am I right now? Am I above the line, or below the line?”. With practice, you can make this transition in the moment; instantly shifting the your energy to bring yourself back to being in a state above the line.
We are hard wired for our thoughts and behaviour to linger below the line. Our brains will naturally drag us there when there is a perceived threat, so we are in a space of defensiveness, anxiety, blame, and the need to be right. Leaders can’t thrive below the line, so it’s vital to consciously change your thinking, or snap out of it, to come back above the line.
Using the Above the line and Below the line concept as a reference tool is a key first step. Second is appreciating that our natural tendency to move below the line, requires an ongoing effort on your behalf, to come back above the line when you inevitably do drift below it.
As the famous Shakespeare quote goes; “for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. Our perception is our own reality. We create our own stories, and we interpret the world through our own story. An average leader will believe he sees the world as it is. However, an excellent leader knows he sees the world through his story and if he changes his story he can change how he sees the world. It’s this ability to shift from negative closed energy into a state of open engaged energy that is the key to becoming an inspired, insightful leader that gets results.
I often suggest to my clients to prepare for all of their meetings by locating where they are, in this moment, in regards to the line, above or below. Going in to a meeting with a positive state of mind will encourage similar ways of thinking from your team, whereas going in whilst being below the line, will reflect the same unhelpful thoughts and behaviour from your team. If you find yourself drifting below the line during a meeting, you can instantly shift the mood of everyone involved simply by acknowledging this. “All of this is true and unhelpful. I’m wondering what we can do from this point?”. This short circuits the energy and reconnects everyone to a state of thinking above the line, to the bigger picture. It’s a great moment and many times when I have applied this I can feel the exciting shift in energy and the thinking and discussion moves towards being helpful and productive.
Why not give it a shot yourself. Next time you have a meeting with your team, try visualising this concept immediately beforehand and ask yourself if you are below the line or above it. Change your thinking and see the results unfold!
If you’d like to find out how I can coach your leadership team about the power of operating Above the Line, get in touch today!