How do you determine whether a behavior is productive or unproductive? Do you solely consider outcomes or is there more to it? It can be tricky since everyone can interpret this differently. But I came across one of the best ways to learn to assess our behaviors as being productive or unproductive, one I think could be used by anyone in any situation in work or in life. In the book, The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, authors Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Warner Klemp introduce what they call above-the-line and below-the-line leadership.
When you are open, curious and willing to learn, you create the ability to discuss ideas, brainstorm, consider and expand your opportunities. You increase discussion, dialog and conversation.
- In the workplace, you engage your employees and help them to feel heard, valued and accountable.
- At home (above-the-line parenting), you encourage your kids to self-discover, learn and grow.
You create the space for exploration with the intention of considering or finding the best outcomes. You allow both employees and kids to learn how to navigate, think and invent.
When you are closed, defensive and needing to be right, you shut down conversation, limit ideas and shortchange opportunities. You limit your responses to what you know and make the process of solution to be more about personalities and ego than finding optimal solutions. The need to be right overrides the ability to learn in every situation.
Think of what it feels like to work for a below-the-line manager. What level of engagement, performance and loyalty does this inspire in employees? Remember the adage, “people quit people before they quit companies.” Leaders who are below-the-line often chase talent out of the organization, frequently unintentionally; they are unaware of the time they spend below the line. Who wants to work for someone who is closed, defensive and always needing to be right? Is this you?
Think of what it feels like to live with a below-the-line parent. My way or the highway. Discussions are limited. Opportunities to grow into one’s greatest self are restricted. Kids don’t learn who they are but are instead expected to be who their parents say they are. What kind of relationship can you have with a parent who is closed, defensive and needing to be right instead of open, curious and willing to learn?
Which are you?
What percentage of the time are you above-the-line? Below-the-line? What situations raise you above or take you below?
Now that you know this, how will you focus on being more open, curious and willing to learn instead of being closed, defensive and needing to be right? And, what could your work and life look like when you make the change?
By Jay Forte
Consider reading Be Clear if you Want Employees to Perform
This article originally appeared on the Vistage Entrepreneur and Small Business Network on September 18, 2019: https://my.vistage.com/networks/entrepreneurs_and_small_business/blog/2019/09/18/are-you-above-or-below-the-line.