You can step above the line to more effective behaviour by letting go of past emotional issues.
You can step above the line to more effective behaviour by letting go of past emotional issues. iStock

Don't repeat the same mistakes due to fear of moving on

It is rare for someone to get up in the morning and say "I'm going to be as ineffective as possible today!”.

Usually people get up and go into work and life with the intention of delivering on tasks, goals and roles as well as they can - despite chaos and crises that get in the way.

As we work with individual, team or organisation clients, we discuss the concept of behaviour that assists in being effective and behaviour that makes us or others ineffective.

We use a very simple exercise to do this. We get clients to look at the behaviours of others and how they respond to those behaviours.

We put a line across the middle of a page. Above the line we get them to put behaviours that worked and had them bringing their effort.

Below the line they put behaviours that had them withdraw effort, causing them to actively or passively resist the person displaying the behaviour.

We talk about this as above or below the line behaviour and we then focus on how to stay above the line to become truly effective.

What is always interesting to me is why people go below the line and behave in a way that doesn't work - even when they know it is ineffective.

We've found that below the line behaviour is emotionally based and in many cases is based in a need to feel secure by controlling the event or experience. You could describe it as unresolved emotional issues prompting an unconscious and negative response - driven by a need to feel safe or secure - and therefore based in insecurity.

When people are being ineffective they will often rationalise and justify the behaviour, pointing at another person as the cause.

But the genuine opportunity is to explore within and recognise the triggers that create the response.

It could be that the person lacked something in early life and is now making up for it by ego-driven and pride-based behaviour in the present - promoting themselves over others, telling others how good they are and, as an extreme, wanting to control everything.

Or a person may have been emotionally hurt, damaged or wounded and now acts out of fear to protect themselves in situations that trigger past experiences. This can lead to unconsciously attributing what is being experienced now to what happened back then. This can lead to people trying to minimise the damage by withdrawing, avoiding or hiding from the situation.

The thing is, until and unless a person is prepared to investigate the causes for their behaviour and responses, they are destined to continue that cycle - and that's ineffective.

The only thing any person has control over in this world is themselves - so any change has to come from within.

It's uncomfortable. However, on the edge of that discomfort is where we learn.

Nick Bennett is a facilitator and coach at