Mobilising People

The book, The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman & Kaley Warner Klemp, a model is presented that assists leaders working with themselves and others to move from reacting to circumstances to taking responsibility for bringing our best selves forward despite the circumstances. The model, known as Above and Below the line, provides a way to be generative and powerful in the face of circumstances.

This model sets out two ways we relate to circumstances: we react to them, which we call being Below the Line or we generate our responses despite the circumstances, which we call being Above the Line.

Below the Line

From Below the Line, we experience life as if it is happening To Me. Something happens, we are triggered and we react. Our reactions are automatic and often full of emotion. Below the Line, we feel fear, anger, depression, frustration, overwhelm, resignation, and cynicism. Sometimes we may feel positive emotions such as happiness but, like our negative feelings, our positive ones are triggered reactions to circumstances.

There is nothing wrong with being Below the Line. Most of us live from there quite often. The trouble is that when we are Below the Line we have given up our power, our ability to make choices and to influence the results - to the circumstances.

Below the Line responses are triggered by emotions, thoughts and behaviours, we generally don’t see any other choices and we feel victims of our circumstances.

Above the Line

Above the Line, we experience life as: I make life happen. We refer to this as By Me.

Above the Line is where we go when we generate what we are committed to no matter what the circumstances are. When we are Above the Line we feel our resolve, we connect to our compassion, we practice generous listening, kindness, empathy, power, care, we are relaxed, self-expressed, we feel joy etc.

The gateway for moving from Below the Line (To Me) to Above the Line (By Me) is responsibility – choosing to take responsibility for what is occurring, letting go blame and opening through curiosity to learn what life has to teach us.

Shifting from Below to Above the Line

There are three basic steps

  1. Become aware of where you are right now – Below or Above the Line?
  2. Ask yourself: Am I willing to shift?
  3. Shift.

There may be times when nothing much is at stake and you are perfectly fine staying in reaction or Below the Line. There may be other times when you know you will be more effective and more likely to create the outcome you want if you shift. One of the biggest challenges to being willing to shift is deciding what is more important to you: being right or getting your outcome. If you decide to shift there are five common ways of moving Above the Line.

  1. Go back to what you are committed to
    1. Remind yourself what you are committed to the kind of person you want to be and the outcomes you want to accomplish.
    2. Ask yourself whether staying Below the Line will serve this purpose?
    3. Remind yourself that you have options and ask: what choices do I want to make?
  2. Change your perspective
    1. If what is happening is not personal then what do you see?
    2. If there is nothing wrong with you, them or the situation what do you see in this?
    3. What else is here?
    4. Take a few moments to look at the situation from 3 perspectives: what is your position, what is their position and what is the position from the balcony seat?
    5. Ask yourself: what do I have to have faith in myself, others and the situation?
    6. Notice the future scenarios you are imagining and remind yourself that you have handled this kind of thing before and can handle whatever comes up.
  1. Get physical
    1. Remind yourself there is no urgency here. You can take your time to decide what you choose to do?
    2. Notice you are Below the Line and take 3 deep breaths. Allow your breathing to drop down. Feel the calm that is waiting for you.
    3. Go for a walk and create a bit of distance and space.
  1. Get curious
    1. Ask open questions of the other person. This buys you some time to unhook from your reaction and helps you understand and reconnect with the other person.
    2. Listen at a deeper level: listen for their concerns: are they worried about looking good, being liked, being right/wrong, whether you agree/disagree.

Checklist of Below the Line Behaviours

That’s me Check
That’s me Check
That’s me Check
Blaming Being sarcastic Making assumptions
Withdrawing Getting confused Feeling misnderstood
Worrying Getting overwhelmed Complaining
Gossiping Getting righteous Getting tired
Anticipating Waiting Correcting
Spacing out Ignoring Watching too much TV
Over explaining Withholding Interrupting
Intellectualizing Dismissing Over eating
Rushing/impatient Procrastinating Seeking approval
Trying too hard Shopping Treating interpretations as if they are facts
Whining Obsessive organizing Checking my phone
Facebooking (or other social media) Cleaning Looking “interested”
The book, Influencers by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson et al, suggests that leaders need to make use of six different sources of influence that shape human behaviour.
Sources of Influence
Leader’s questions to explore this source of influence
Personal Motivation Do the staff enjoy the task, work that I want to motivate them to do? How can I tap into this?
Personal Ability Can they do it? If they take this on can I assist them in experiencing some success from the beginning?
Social Motivation Do others in the workplace encourage them to enact the wrong behaviour? Or, do others encourage the behaviours I want to motivate?
Social Ability Do others enable the behaviours I am looking for?
Structural Motivation Do rewards and sanctions encourage staff in the direction I am trying to motivate them?
Structural Ability Does our workplace environment enable staff to move in the direction I am trying to motivate them?
To encourage leaders to build their own optimism the following practice is suggested to be done at the end of each day. Leaders are asked to take time as they leave for the day to answer the questions below:

  1. Record 3 good things that happened over the day.
  2. Why did each good thing happen?
  3. What does each mean to you?
  4. What can you do tomorrow to enable more of this?
  5. What ways did you and others contribute to this good thing?
In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink outlines a profound shift in how we motivate others from an emphasis on external to internal motivation. This shift calls for a change in focus and strategies for leaders when working with people.

The chart below summarizes this evolution in what motivates us.

The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Motivation 1.0 Biological Motivation 2.0 External Motivation 3.0 Intrinsic
Basic Drive To survive, satisfy our basic biological needs To seek rewards and avoid punishment To be autonomous, self-determined& connected To do things that are interesting, challenging, and absorbing
Belief Humans are driven by their basic urges Work is not inherently enjoyable. You have to coax people to do it with external rewards and punishments Work is often creative, interesting and self-directed; People seek engagement & responsibility
Suited to Survival, emergencies Routine & repetitive work. Work that has a single pathway to one conclusion. Short term spike in performance Work that is non-routine & requires invention, creativity & devising new solutions
Limitations Does not support working in complex social systems Undermines intrinsic motivation Rewards tend to narrow our focus & limit creativity Fosters short-term thinking & shortcuts Can be negatively affected by rewards since they undermine our sense of autonomy. May require shifts in management approaches
How leaders can create settings to encourage this Threaten Harass Be unethical, arbitrary, overly controlling Reward behaviour you want/discourage behaviour you don’t want Use rewards rationally, fairly Carefully monitor employees Provide structures, goals, timeframes, measures Focus on meeting 3 needs: Autonomy – the desire to be self-directed. Mastery – to get better at what you do. Purpose – to be part of something larger than yourself.

Six Lessons in How to Cultivate Motivation 3.0

The following six lessons are ways to reinforce a sense of mutuality with your employees, not to control your subordinates but instead to engage, empower and motivate them to contribute their knowledge and experience.

Your interpersonal behaviour is the difference-maker between being great and near-great!

  1. Be modest

    1. When interacting with employees don’t try to prove yourself
    2. Prove to your employees not that you have a record as a problem-solver but that your ideas and advice can help them.
    3. Share both your successes and failures/mistakes
    4. If you really don’t have to add an edit, correction or comment, don’t; ask yourself: does my desire to do this come from my desire to be of value or is it really needed for the quality of the work
  2. Listen seriously and show it
    1. In meetings with employees make notes of their suggestions
    2. Move away from your computer, put blackberry aside when having discussions with employees
  3. Invite disagreement
    1. Tap into their expertise
    2. Solicit their advice
  4. Focus the agenda
    1. Set time limits on discussions
    2. Open meetings up to discussion but structure them
  1. Don’t try to have all the answers
    1. Don’t feel you have to come up with solutions on the spot
    2. See yourself more as a catalyst
  2. Don’t insist that a decision must be made
    1. Don’t jump in to make a decision if it isn’t being made
    2. People may think you have made up your mind in advance
    3. Don’t rush to impose a decision

Source: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

The Four mechanisms for jump-starting 3.0 motivation

  1. Provide decision-making discretion
  2. Share information
  3. Minimize incivility
  4. Offer feedback
What makes one person feel appreciated in the workplace may have little or no effect on someone else. As a result, it is important to understand your own language of appreciation and how to speak the language of others. Everyone’s motivation is maximized when we receive our ideal form of praise, encouragement or reward for our efforts.

Leaders are more effective in providing positive feedback and appreciation when they do so in the language style that means the most to the other person. Below are the Five Languages of Appreciation as described in the book, The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

#1 Words of Affirmation

If this is your language of appreciation, you feel appreciated from:

  • Words of appreciation
  • Words of thanks
  • Compliments
  • Kind words even when someone is expressing a complaint
  • Humble words such as someone making a request versus making a demand
  • Being affirmed by others even when you aren’t there
  • Someone emphasizing what is strong or positive about you
  • Praise
  • Email saying you did a good job
  • Being told your extra effort is acknowledged
  • Being told you are a valuable member of the team
  • Being told your innovative ideas are appreciated

#2 Quality time

If this is your language of appreciation, you feel appreciated from:

  • Undivided attention from others
  • Others doing something with you
  • Quality conversations focused on listening to you and having discussions that show an interest in shared understanding
  • Quality activities experienced together
  • Communicating with you in person versus by email
  • People stopping in to check in with you
  • Having coffee together
  • Having regular meetings
  • Taking you to lunch
  • Being there for meetings with you and not cancelling or missing the meeting
  • Individual time with the boss

#3 Receiving Gifts

If this is your language of appreciation, you feel appreciated from:

  • Receiving gifts that show the other person thought of you
  • Gifts of self – others being there for you, such as attending a presentation you are giving
  • Gifts in the form of information, such as an article on a topic of interest to you or a debrief from a higher level meeting
  • Giving something to you that shows they were thinking of you i.e. bringing your favourite treat to a meeting
  • Being able to attend a training session or conference
  • Being able to make adjustments to your work schedule that you have requested

#4 Acts of Service

If this is your language of appreciation, you feel appreciated from:

  • Others providing help
  • Someone booking a meeting room for you
  • Someone cleaning up a work space for you
  • Someone hand delivering material you need
  • Someone setting up a social event
  • Help when your work load is high

#5 Appropriate Physical Touch

If this is your language of appreciation, you feel appreciated from:

  • A hand shake
  • A pat on the back
  • A high five
  • In special circumstances a hug i.e. at retirement party, announcement of a wedding, or a personal situation where you would like some comfort

To find out your preferred language(s) of appreciation:

  • Observe what you do for others.
  • Observe what you request of others.
  • Listen to your complaints.
  • Ask yourself: what do others do that hurts you the most? The opposite will often be your preferred language of appreciation.
To support leaders in developing their resilience and composure in an environment that may be uncertain and ambiguous a number of activities can be taken on to build stress tolerance. What follows are mini mindfulness practices which can be introduced into the work day.

Relax Through Mindful Breathing

  1. When you notice that you are feeling stressed. Slow things down by taking 3 deep breaths. Try to pay attention only to your breath. Count to 3 as you breathe in and 3 as you exhale.
  2. Each time the phone rings take a breath before answering.
  3. As you sit down at the table for a meeting take a deep breath and connect with yourself in the moment.
  4. When you are stopped at a Red light use that time to connect with your body and deliberately slow down your breathing.
  5. Take a short break every 90 minutes during your day. Build these into your agenda. During the short pauses connect to your body, how you are feeling and bring your attention to your breath.
  6. To become more aware of your pace and its effect try walking at different speeds.

    Notice the speed with which you normally walk during the day. Then vary it. When going to a meeting or visiting a colleague walk at 75%. When going to the rest room slow down to 50%. At all speeds connect to any tension in your body and relax it while attend to your breathing. Try using slower speeds more often during the day particularly when heading to a demanding meeting.

Be in What You are Doing in Each Moment – Fully

  1. When you are planning, plan. When you are in a meeting be in the meeting.When you are in a conversation with someone be in speaking and listening. Whatever you are doing be in each thing in the moment.
  2. No multi-tasking.
  3. When moving from one activity to another, bring your attention to stopping the previous activity, moving toward the next one, and entering fully into the new activity. As a reminder of these steps say: STOP, CHANGE, START as you move through them.
  4. When you are in meetings notice when your attention starts to wander.Bring your attention back to the here and now. You may do this by changing your self talk: ask yourself what else is here that I have not been noticing up to now? Or give yourself permission to listen expecting to be surprised.

Be Positive

  1. Practice a can-do attitude. Each time you encounter a problem assume the solution exists and your task is to discover it.
  2. Bring your attention to the stories you tell yourself about the future i.e. where a project is going or how someone is likely to react to a request you are planning to make. Identify the kind of story you are telling yourself. If your stories tend to be about all the things that could go wrong remind yourself that a positive story is just as possible and tell yourself the positive version of the same scenario.

Intentions and Gratitude

  1. At the beginning of each day set an intention for the day. During the day notice when you have drifted from your intention and remind yourself what the intention was. Observe whether there are patterns in the kinds of people or events that move you closer or farther from your intentions. Keep track of when your intention influenced your day.
  2. At the end of each day identify 3 things you are grateful for from your day.
  3. What is one thing I did well today?
  4. What is one thing I received today?
  5. What is one thing I trusted today?
  6. What did I stay open to today?
  7. What did I say yes to today?

Acceptance and Equanimity

Acceptance doesn’t mean we have to like what we’re dealing with. It means we don’t get stuck in whether we like it or not. We simply work with it. Acceptance means we stop resisting. By accepting we set aside our opinions, agenda, likes and dislikes, and channel our full energy into working with the situation. When we accept, we feel more alive, present, connected and conscious. No longer stuck to one point, we’re free to manoeuvre, create and explore. We flip into being generative, bringing the best we have to offer to the other person or the situation.

Accepting means we have to let go – let go the one who is worried, angry, indignant, or self- berating.

There are three steps to shifting from resisting to accepting and creative engagement.

Relax –The first step is physical. Resisting always is accompanied by a tension in the body. So the first step is to drop that tension by exhaling and dropping down in the body toward your centre or lower abdomen. Breathe deeply. The key to cantering is to get out of your head, and allow tension in the upper body to drop away. The more cantered and relaxed you are, the more completely you can take the next step.

Enter –To enter is to merge with what is going on in a completely relaxed state. It is not a tentative dipping of one’s toe into the water, but instead a complete immersion. Acknowledge any resistance that might come up such as fear, anger, and confusion.

To enter is to become part of the situation. If you imagine the flow state you enter when doing one of your favourite activities, you can get a sense of how total entering lets you disappear into an activity.

Add Value –Having fully entered, take action and add your value to the situation.

Caribbean Leadership Project
Cave Hill School of Business
University of the West Indies
Cave Hill Campus
P.O. Box 64, Bridgetown, BB11000, Barbados
+1 246 417 3152