Something myself and my colleagues regularly get asked is, what does Below the Line do? For me, there are two immediate answers to that question. The first answer relates to the actual ‘stuff’ that we do which is running Executive Leadership Retreats for Senior leaders and Business Owners and working with teams in organisations of all sizes building high performance cultures. The second answer relates to what actually takes place when we bring individuals and teams together and a lot of it has to do with challenging people with how vulnerable are they willing to be?
Vulnerability is a word which has a lot of negative meanings as it can refer to a chink in one’s armour, susceptibility to physical or emotional injury, or leaving oneself exposed or open to censure or criticism. Looked at from this angle who would want to be vulnerable and open to pain, being hurt or criticised?
However, looked at from another angle, vulnerability can also be understood as the true source of trouble or distress in a situation or for an individual. At an individual level exposing the true sources of our trouble or distress is not something that we find easy either with ourselves or those close to us. At a further remove, the thought of revealing that trouble or distress with those we don’t know very well or with whom we work is something that most of us would never dream of doing, ever.
And yet when I or my colleagues are talking to anyone about Below the Line the idea of being vulnerable is one that comes up a lot. Because for us, to be vulnerable is to be prepared to look at what are the things we are ready to admit to ourselves and to others? What are we willing to put out there and what are we willing to be challenged on (in a constructive, compassionate and positive way)? The leaders that we have had the privilege to work and spend time with are people who have found huge personal and professional benefits from being able to do things like putting their values front and centre with their colleagues, admitting to their own self-doubt and lack of confidence at times, putting their hand up when they have made a mistake or taking a serious look at their lifestyle and habits and what they might need to change or keep doing in order for them to continue being the successful people that they already are.
These people don’t go about leaving themselves unnecessarily open to attack, criticism or pain of any kind. Rather they use vulnerability to their own advantage by putting their challenges, insecurities or self-doubt out there (and by out there, I mean actually saying some of this stuff, aloud so that they and others can hear it). This allows them to truly be honest with themselves, to interrogate these thoughts and feelings more deeply and for other people to challenge and support them on these things as well. This has in turn enabled them to build upon the success they already enjoy in their personal and professional lives and to improve the performance of their businesses and the people whom they work with it in them.
To be vulnerable is to be human and in the past year the Below the Line Team have had the privilege of seeing vulnerability at work in the most powerful and beautiful ways for people and the clarity and perspective that they have gotten on themselves, their lives and their businesses has been both a humbling and inspiring experience to be a part of.