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The Acceptable Behavior Line

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the reality that Ignored Behavior is Condoned Behavior. The purpose of that post was to stress the importance of leaders having courageous conversations early with people about unacceptable behaviors instead of ignoring, condoning and tolerating.

The challenge for many people in formal leadership positions is that there are no clearly defined standards. Too often there are simply unwritten ‘rules’ about what is acceptable and what is not. If you do not have clearly defined standards with your group, team, squad or unit then you need to take action to fix that.

One way to do that is to sit down with the group and decided what behaviors are “Above the Line Behaviors” and what behaviors are “Below the Line Behaviors”. Above the Line Behaviors reflect what it means to be a member of this team. These are behaviors that demonstrate the character, professionalism, integrity, values and commitment of the team. These are behaviors that the team agrees to and become the standard that everyone agrees to live up to and to be held accountable to.

Below the Line Behaviors are the behaviors that are unacceptable to the team.

Once these behaviors are identified, written down and agreed to, you now have a language for constructive accountability within the team. Peers can hold each other accountable when one of them drops below the line and the leader has an agreed upon standard by which they can frame their courageous conversations to address Below the Line Behaviors.

You might even choose to identify behaviors that are above and below the line in multiple categories such as members of the team, members of the organization and citizens of the community.

Once you identify and agree to the behaviors that are Above and Below the line the key is to ensure that everyone accepts personal responsibility to adhere to that standard and to hold each other accountable to the standard. Without the culture of responsibility and accountability you have a poster with a line down the middle and some words on it, you do not have a standard.

Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning and enjoy the journey.

Brian Willis

Register yourself, and your team for the Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop to get everyone on the same page regarding leadership and culture. If you are interested in hosting a live Dare to Be Great workshop reach out to me at