Workplace Training

Is Your Team "Above The Line"?

Is your team “Above The Line”

One of my favourite concepts for the implementation of a coaching culture in any organisation is to introduce “Above The Line Thinking”, rather than “Below The Line Thinking”.

Basically Above the Line and Below the Line thinking sets the standard for what the team considers is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, language and attitudes in a workplace.

A person or team is “above the line” if they are taking responsibility, being accountable, using positive language, supporting and encouraging each other and looking for solutions. A person or team is “below the line” if they are blaming others, using negative language including sarcasm, focusing on the problem and continuously knocking down others and their ideas, saying “that will never work”, “we’ve already tried that”, “it’s all management’s fault”.

When introduced as part of a coaching culture framework, this tool helps a person and a team to recognise whether they are part of the solution or part of the problem. It also gives a person and the team permission to say to others, “Hey, that’s below the line” and to “reframe” so that the person can get back above the line with respect to their language and their attitude.

This tool can also be used to identify the need for coaching. If someone is continuously dropping below the line into blame or lack of accountability, then you can coach the person to consider how they can take more responsibility for how they think, behave and respond.

From a leadership perspective, all leaders can drop below the line at some point. This is normal. But what matters is not whether a leader drops below the line, but how quickly they get back above it!

Leadership is about taking responsibility, raising the bar and the standards of the team and quickly getting back above the line without having the whole team spiral down with you into negativity. This is why many leaders often benefit from having a coach themselves as a sounding board to allow them to go below the line in a safe environment, vent their problems and then seek solutions to get back “above the line” with their team.

Consider then how you and your team could introduce an “Above The Line” culture into your workplace? Consider the opportunity to build a team’s confidence, and promote a “can do” attitude, a team which works together toward dedicated action and embraces challenges.






“Ahhhh so you’re the one with the emotional problems.” This is the statement that someone close to me was greeted with after they were asked to contact their employer’s Case Manager after recently having time off for depression and anxiety.

So how mentally healthy is your workplace? Despite large awareness campaigns, there still appears to be a lack of insight as to how supervisors, managers and staff can support someone returning to work after experiencing anxiety and/or depression.

For many people experiencing anxiety or depression, concerns over colleagues’ reactions or a lack of support can add significantly to existing stress. Being aware of potential barriers and taking steps to reduce these will help both individual employees and the workplace as a whole.

 When you consider that at any given time 1 in 5 employees are likely to be experiencing a mental health condition, this is a statistic that workplaces can no longer simply ignore. Another startling statistic is that untreated depression results in over 6 million working days lost in Australia each year. What could this be costing your organisation?

 The stigma surrounding anxiety and depression is a common barrier to many who need to seek attention or who are struggling to sustain their attendance at work.

 Barriers can include:

·      Fear that colleagues may find out about their diagnosis with possible negative impacts resulting

·      Loss of connection with colleagues

·      Lack of support from employers and managers

·      Uncertainly about the level or type of support available

·      Stigma associated with mental health conditions


There are some practical strategies your organisation can use to address barriers. The support of a manager or supervisor is the most crucial factor for people with a mental health condition remaining at or returning to work.

As a manager or leader you can:

·        provide mental health awareness training

·   speak openly about mental health conditions in the workplace and encourage others to do the same

·        promote a positive working environment by minimising workplace risks to mental health, such as job stress and preventative training such as resilience and stress management.

·        work with the individual about their needs for return to work. Don’t bombard them with questions and paperwork to fill out on their first day back and tell them they are running out of leave. Ask them about how you can support them and consider how you might manage any difficult conversations with empathy and insight.

·        draw on guidance from specialists or the employee's treating health professional (with their permission).


Promoting mental health in the workplace is everyone's responsibility. However small you decide to start, take the first step towards a more mentally healthy workplace today.   

PWC research shows that $2.30 is the average return on investment for every $1 invested in creating a mentally healthy workplace.

What could your organisation be doing to improve the mental health of staff and better assist staff returning to work after periods of time off for depression and anxiety?

For more information, contact Michelle Bakjac at Bakjac Consulting on 0412047590 for assistance with a range of training and consulting services to increase the mental health of your workplace.

Resilience - More than just "Bouncing Back"

Resilience – More than just “Bouncing Back”

When I undertake Resilience Training in Adelaide, I often ask participants what they consider Resilience actually is. There are often many and varied responses depending on individual participants and the culture of the workplace, but the response I hear most often is “it’s the ability to bounce back”. However open discussion and deliberation often leads to the final conclusion that resilience is a significantly more complex concept.

I will often recount one of my childhood experiences of having a favourite toy – a big blow up clown with a heavy base at the bottom –are you old enough to remember these? You would hit the clown and it would slowly go down to the ground and then pop back up in the exact same position. And what was there waiting for him? My fist –ready to knock him down all over again. So it seems Resilience must be more than just “bouncing back”, otherwise we would just continue to get knocked down by our life and work stressors on a continuous basis.


I think one of the key concepts central to resilience is the ability to ADAPT. How do we adapt in the face of adversity, setbacks and significant sources of change and uncertainty.  When we adapt, we embark on personal growth using the adverse experience as a platform for the ability to better manage our next adverse encounter. Interestingly resilience can only be developed when we are actually exposed to setbacks and obstacles and have the ability to work through them.

Resilience is a state every person and team can develop through characteristics such as optimism, flexibility, effective communication, self-confidence and effective problem solving. A strong component of resilience also relates to managing strong emotions (emotional regulation) and understanding what is within our circle of influence.

It is possible to learn to be more resilient, to be more optimistic, to manage emotions, to problem solve and communicate needs more effectively. It just takes a willingness to be open and engage in opportunities.

If you are a leader within an organisation, the goal is to unlock the resilience potential of your staff to build a high performing, agile workforce than can respond to changing demands. It enables organisations to build strength from within.


So how resilient is your team? Are you an organisation in Adelaide who could benefit from Resilience Training. Consider contacting Michelle at Bakjac Consulting to tailor a programme specific to your organisation’s needs.