Do You Live Above The Line?

April 30, 2008 by Bill Bradley


Title: The Oz Principle (book)

Competencies: self-development, problem-solving

Who benefits: all of us

Consultant Usage: almost any trainer, consultant or coach

What’s it about? I was inspired to read this updated version of a favorite book of mine by my 10-year old granddaughter.  I was helping her study for her 4th grade Spanish test.  She was struggling some and acting out, so I said to her “Well, who is responsible for the grade you are going to get on the test?”  She looked at me with that blank look that is developed by pre-teens and teens when they really want to get to you!  “I don’t know”, she said.

Don’t get me wrong.  My granddaughter is a very smart young woman.  But her denial of responsibility at that moment gave me pause for thought and a link to this week’s entry.  Dear reader, how is your sense of responsibility and accountability doing these days?  How about your organization’s?

I am also moving.  You know that involves a lot of telephone and some face-to-face contacts.  I have categorized my contacts into two groups: (1) “Hi, how may I help you?” and (2) “Sorry, but we can’t do that.”   I am doing repeat business with a moving company based upon a previous good experience.  Believe it or not, my best phone experience was with the cable company – fantastic active listening skills, empathy and a clear explanation of services.  A storage company lost my business because the customer service representative could not explain the billing procedure in a way that I could understand.  Read below to find out where these people and their organizations live in terms of this excellent book.

Which brings me to The Oz Principle, which I highly recommend to any and all of you.  Disclaimer, I have no connection to the authors or their company but someone from their company gave me the updated book after finding out I had read the earlier version.  This new version is even better.

The book is all about honesty in the areas of responsibility and accountability.  The principles apply to individuals and organization.  Behavior is seen as Above The Line – steps to accountability: See a problem, own it, solve it and do it; and Below The Line, The Blame Game: Finger Pointing, CYA, Ignore/deny, Not My Job, Oh Poor Me, or just plain Wait & See.

People operating above the line focus on, and get, results.  Those operating below the line live in a “victim cycle” with no end in sight.

The authors use the story of The Wizard of Oz as a metaphor to explain how it all works.  I especially love the chapters in Part 2 – The Power of Individual Accountability: Moving Yourself Above The Line.  Here are the chapter titles 🙂
        Chapter 4: The Lion: Mustering the Courage to See It
        Chapter 5: The Tin Woodsman: Finding the Heart to Own It
        Chapter 6: The Scarecrow: Obtaining the Wisdom to Solve It
        Chapter 7: Dorothy: Exercising the Means to Do It                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ah, if only the world worked that way.

Now there is one Below The Line issue I want to address before ending this entry.  Please don’t sit there and tell yourself, me, or anyone, that you live above the line but your organization doesn’t — Hello Enron!!!

If you can see that your organization is living below the line, have the courage to acknowledge it and the heart to get on with owning it.  The saddest part of the stories of Enron and their ilk is that so many people inside the organization know that life is being lived below the line. 

This much I know for sure, if there are problems in your organization and you aren’t trying to solve them – well eventually the Wicked Witch of West will get you…and them! 

If you have read this far, get the book and read it.  It will be your reward!  Then pass it on to the other person — you know who I mean, the one who really needs it!

[tags]the wizard of oz, the oz principle, Dorothy, the lion, the tin man, the tin woodsman, the scarecrow, emerald city, good witch glinda, wicked witch of the west, responsibility, taking responsibility, taking ownership, problem-solving, victim, victim cycle, developing responsibility, bill bradley, william bradley,  bradley[/tags]

Bill Bradley (mostly) retired after 35 years in organizational consulting, training and management development. During those years he worked internally with seven organizations and trained and consulted externally with more than 90 large and small businesses, government agencies, hospitals and schools.

Posted in Leadership Development

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