Previous post in this series
Is on it ways… soon ;-)
Is on it ways… soon ;-)
It’s got to be like this. And if it’s like this, it obviously cannot be like that. This is the world your ego loves.
We have been exploring the difference between to be above the line and below the line in a number of blogposts now. The concept of ‘this’ not ‘that’ relates back to my original video in this serie about how we get trapped in wanting to be right. When we get trapped in ‘this’ not ‘that’, then we also are trapped in right and wrong and black and white and all the rest of it. And that’s fine. As long as we are operating in a simple world: that car is blue, that horse is moving or appels are fruits.
Video and Soundcloud versions below
But as soon as we start moving out of very simple situations and into something that starts getting more complicated or even more complex, we start getting into trouble.
Just to recapitulate, computers are complicated. They are difficult but once you figure them out then you know how they will respond. A bowl of spaghetti on the other hand is complex. You have no idea how its is ‘configured’. If you pull a strand what happens next? It is unpredictable and the next bowl will behave differently.
That’s the beauty of complexity. Things are so interconnected and there’s so much randomness in the system that we don’t really know how things will evolve, respond or perform. In a complex world ‘this’ not ‘that’ is pretty useless. It doesn’t work.
So why do we get trapped in wanting to be right? Well, you’ll see what happens is that most of us get scared when faced with complexity. We have nothing to hold on to, no rules to live by and our little ego freaks out and looks for something to cling to: And there is it is ‘this’ not ‘that’. The moment it does, it drags us below the line. It’s the end of open mind, we no longer see possibilities, we are not open to perspectives. We are fighting for ego-survival. It’s ‘this’ not ‘that’!
In order to stay above the line, we need get comfortable with complexity and we need to be okay with our ‘not knowing’. Complexity means dealing with the grey tones, resisting the black and white solutions. In complexity, we need more options, because we can’t possibly know beforehand which options will actually work out.
That is the world that we’re operating in.
And in case you were wondering, anything that involves human beings is not only complicated, it is also very complex. That means the big error we keep on making is, we think we can reduce all those questions regarding our teams and people to ‘this’ not ‘that’. If we do ‘this’, they are going to do ‘that’. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. It just depends. “If we give them a bonus, they will do this”. Maybe, some people will, sometimes. Maybe they won’t. To be a great team leader is also to become a master of complexity.
Maybe you have now decided for yourself: ‘I will never, ever again fall into a drama triangle’. I know I’ve tried that approach more than once . Well, I can tell you something. It’s not going to work. It doesn’t work because we drift. In the post I will show you how we need to shift instead
Here is the video version and the sound track version for thos on the go
We start out with some degree of presence. We are totally ‘here now’ And then something happens. Something that causes us to drift out of presence. It could be beep on the cell phone. “Oh, sorry. Just a minute , oh no, not again. Yeah, sorry. Where were we?”
Or we just, can’t stay concentrated. Our mind starts floating: I wonder what’s for lunch? These interruptions and many more we call drift. And when we drift, we easily slip below the line. ( because left to its own devices our Ego loves to run the show) And before we know it we get caught in the drama triangle again.
And so the issue is not to never ever get caught in the drama triangle because you’re not going to solve that. The real challenge is you need to develop the awareness to realise when that is what is happening.
And then you need to develop the skills to shift yourself back out of the drama triangle and up into presence of being fully ‘here now’. A simple first step of shifting is to take a deep breath, and re-center. Then you ask yourself the key question: I wonder how we could fix/solve/develop that. By activating a ‘creating’ question we come back to the present. A question that seeks to create something that would contribute to the current situation. That’s the core skill and that’s what we need to practice.
This concludes my first six-post series on leadership skills, based around this model of above and below the line.
I will continue these VBlogs in the future, and will continue to explore the leadership qualities that we need to develop in order to become great team leaders.
Here are the previous post in this series
For the full version watch the video or listen to the audio as you prefer
In every situation there is a space, and in that space you have a choice. The choice to react or respond.
Victor Frankel wrote:
Above the line and below the line is also the difference between responding (above the line) or reacting, which immediately puts you below the line. When we are hijacked by our emotional system, we automatically fall into the trap of the drama triangle. And we choose a role for ourselves. When we choose a role for ourselves, we at the same time try and push the people around us or the circumstances of whatever into one of the two other roles to get the drama triangle going. And as we mentioned last time, this only serves the purpose of creating a lot of emotional friction, hot air, whatever you like. But it never leads to any constructive solutions. As long as we are caught in the drama triangle, we have no possibility to, create anything meaningful or useful. We just go round and round in circles like cats chasing our own tails.
Try and listen for your own language and notice how your own language will determine whether you are starting a new drama triangle or whether you already are responding and trying to pull the whole conversation into a completely new sphere above the line where we’re outcome focused, constructive and trying to find solutions. And if you can manage that, and if you get good at that, then you’re going to see how people love to work with you.
Previous blog posts in this series on Team Leadership Skills and working above and below the line:
What does a John Le Carré book, the TV series ‘Friends’ and the movie ‘The Lion King’ have in common? What is the common denominator?They’re all created, using a drama triangle. A drama triangle is a key to create a captivating story, a story that stirs people’s emotions and gets you hooked on the plot. Drama triangles are the reason you binge watch Netflix series. Drama triangles, however, never produce any tangible results. That is why when used skilfully and you continue watching the same series season after season. They hook you.
Every time we go ‘below the line’ with our feeling of being right, we also automatically start a drama triangle.
This is the fourth blog post in my series around leadership skills and how we become great team leaders by focusing on followership .
We are using a simple but powerful model that I call above the line and below the line. You may need to go back to this post in the series in order to get the full explanation. Briefly, above the line, we are constructive, we are positive, we are cooperative, we are open to solutions. Below the line we are closed, defensive and not very cooperative.Obviously, below the line we don’t create a lot of followership.
What most of us don’t realise is that we drop below the line and start a drama triangle much more often that we are aware of.
Here is the video version:
And – as a new service to you my reader here is the sound track in case you prefer that version
If you take a course in how to write a screenplay for Hollywood, they will introduce you to the concept of the drama triangle. It is the template that nearly everyone uses in order to create a captivating story. It works like this: In order for us to have a captivating story, we need a victim. Somebody who gets hurt, persecuted cheated, whatever.
And in order to produce a victim, we need a villain. Somebody who does something bad to the victim. And then to save the day, we need a hero who will come to the rescue of our victim.
With these three elements we have the basics of a good story. The series ‘House of Cards’ is a great example. It is easy to identify the three roles of Victim, Villain and Hero. Or is it? Because when the drama triangle is used well, the roles shift. Suddenly the hero is the villain; the victim the hero and then it shifts again, the victim is now the villain etc. It’s very, very powerful. The beauty of the dram triangle is that there is never a solution. It just goes round and round creating endless waves of hot emotions. That is what keeps you glued to the screen episoden after episode, season after season.
When you let your mindset drop below the line, often triggered by your feeling of being right, you automatically start off a drama triangle because you will pick one of the three roles for yourself.
You will choose to see yourself as the victim: Why does nobody understand me? Or you take the villain role: These people are stupid they need to understand that I am right. Or you may choose to be the hero: I am going to save these people from their ignorance. One role is not better that the other they are all toxic in each their way. But that is only part of the story. When you initiate a drama triangle you trigger the people around you to take one of the other roles. It’s a game or a dance if you like and we all know instinctively how to play this game.
And in our blissful state of autopilot switched to ‘survival’ we just click in and take our role whenever someone invites us to have a game of drama triangle.
You come home from work. And yell at the kids for again leaving their bikes in the driveway. You are the villain, they are the victims. Your wife, the hero, jumps in and defends them. Then she switches gear and ask you why you are late again for dinner and gives you an ear full. You favourite daughter throws her armes around you and declares that it is so lovely to have you home… and so it goes round and round. If nobody stops the game it will just continues every evening until the relationship is totally toxic.
Bad team leaders operating below the line also play this game, endlessly. They persecute a team member for doing something wrong (Villain). They complain to the team that ‘upstairs’ has again put pressure on them to get better results or that this week they will be putting in more hours than anyone else (Victim)*, or they take over a task from a team member to do the task themselves (hero) instead of teaching the team members how to do it. And if the team members are not aware of what is going on they just play along – they know how it goes, it’s a well known game and it repeat itself every day. No results. No improved outcomes, lots of frustration and produce no genuine engagement.
When a team leader operates from the below the line in this way the rest of the team is dragged below the line – and so are the customers they are supposed to service with constructive solutions. The negativity spreads.
(*A favourite victim role with team leaders, is to play ‘look how overworked or busy I am…’. It’s also called ‘poor little me’. It a great game judging by how many people choose to play along.)
There is only one way out of the toxic drama triangle and that is to stop the game. It can be done by asking the magic question from previous blog post.
The last one is my favourite. It is a real drama triangle game spoiler. With that question you reclaim the high ground above the line and you invite others to join you and stop the game playing.
As your task for the week I invite you to notice how many drama triangles you can identify happening around you, in your team, at home or just watching your favourite soap series. Notice also how clients play drama triangles with us as well. They attack us, they play victim, they play heroes, they do the same thing. They try to draw us into a drama. And the only way again is to ask the key questions for us to break out of the drama and decline the invitation to be part of the drama triangle dance or game.
Next week I will go a bit deeper into more variants of the drama triangle roles and how easily we get trapped below the line in the toxic patterns of communication – some of them are quite subtle and tricky to spot.
Have you ever had this feeling of just knowing that you are right?
Well, I have some interesting news for you. It is just that, a feeling. An emotion, in the same category as anger or love and likewise it has no connection to reason.
When you have this feeling about just how right you are – you could just as well be wrong. In a complex world there are not many simple answers.
You may not realise it but this feeling that you are right comes with some serious consequences for your role as a team leader.
Below is the video version and below that the text version – whatever works best for you:
In my previous blog posts, we started to explore this model that we call above and below the line and we looked at the disadvantages of being below the line.
Just to recap: Below the line, we are in a reactive defensive position where it’s more about our own survival, the survival of our ego than anything else. There is no learning and we are closed to new ideas.
It’s not the best place to be, when as team leaders we are trying to create followership or build relationships with other people.
Now, pause and digest this for a moment. When you have this feeling of being right, it is not the result of a careful thought process. It’s just a feeling.
And only when someone challenges your ‘rightness’, will you perform a post feeling rationalisation and come up with arguments that supports your original feeling.
Your sense of being right about something, the sparkling clarity of certainty, is not a thought process, not a reasoning process, but an emotion that has nothing to do with whether you are right or not.Jennifer Garvey Berger
Ah, you will say but when I tell you that 2+2 is 4 then I am right and it’s not a feeling it’s fact! Yep – the problem here is that people will not challenge you on what is to all an accepted fact. They will challenge the complex stuff that you feel so sure about but which is possibly not as simple as you
think feel. I will post some reference at the end where you can read more. It’s fascinating stuff in my view.
The reason this is intersting from a team leader’s perspective is that when we give in to that feeling of being right we also automatically shift down below the line. We desperately want to defend our ‘rightness’ and the more insecure we are in our leadership role the harder we will defend our rightness. As a result we become reactive, defensive and ego driven.
This is what Jennifer Carvey Berger in her wonderful book, “Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps: How to Thrive in Complexity” calls falling into a mindtrap.
Caught in this mind trap we are in a really toxic unconstructiv place and the sooner we get out of it the better.
How do we do that?
The first step is to be aware. You must actually notice that, this is what is happening. As soon as you register yourself moving into this pattern of rightness, then all your alarm bells should go off and you should try and stop the process. The way you do that is by awakening your own curiosity.
The easiest way to do that is to ask yourself a question beginning with :
Jennifer Carvey Berger says, you could ask yourself the key question: ( I wonder) How could I be wrong?
It works like magic.
When you have the courage to question your own knowing you also have the key to shift yourself back up above the line. You awaken your curiosity, you awaken your ability to learn and you start engaging with others without the defensive boundaries you otherwise would have erected.
Chances are you will learn something that would have been completely lost if you’d stayed stuck down below the line.
So I hope this week’s post has inspired you to try and catch yourself feeling right and to experiment with asking yourself, “I wonder… “
Next week I’m going to explore with you what else is going on below the line. Besides just wanting to defend being right there is a whole swamp of toxic emotions that are activated automatically and they are not helpfull at all.
Reading that might inspire you:
Previous blog posts in this series on Team Leadership Skills and working above and below the line: