Above The Line® or Below The Line®

A thin line separates success from failure, the great companies from the ordinary ones. Below The Line lies excuse making, blaming others, confusion, and an attitude of helplessness while Above The Line we find a sense of reality, ownership, commitment, solutions to problems, and determined action. While losers languish Below The Line, preparing stories that explain why past efforts went awry, winners reside Above The Line, empowered by commitment and hard work. The Steps To Accountability Chart helps you visualize the difference between Below The Line victimization and Above The Line accountability.

People and organizations find themselves thinking and behaving Below The Line whenever they consciously or unconsciously avoid accountability for individual or collective results. Stuck in what we call the victim cycle or the blame game, they begin to lose their spirit and resolve until, eventually, they feel completely powerless.


The Price Paid for being Below The Line

When individuals, teams, or entire organizations remain Below The Line, unaware or unconscious of reality, things get worse, not better, without anyone knowing why. Rather than face reality, sufferers of this malady oftentimes begin ignoring or pretending not to know about their accountability, denying their responsibility, blaming others for their predicament, citing confusion as a reason for inaction, asking others to tell them what to do, claiming that they can't do it, or just waiting to see if the situation will miraculously resolve itself. The price that paid is:

  • Poor Results.
  • Failed Initiatives.
  • Missed Targets.
  • Poor Morale.

Only by moving Above The Line and taking the Steps To Accountability to See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It can they become powerful again.

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Steps To Accountability®

(click the top and bottom of the
chart for more information)
When we operate Above the Line, we take accountability to overcome obstacles and ask, "What else can I do to achieve the result?"
It's not wrong to go Below the Line, it's just human nature. However, the price we pay Below the Line is poor execution, poor performance and poor morale.
Click here for larger view

See It

Acknowledging reality and seeing things as they really are allows you to escape the feelings of powerlessness that accompany Below The Line behavior and rise above those circumstances by addressing what you can do to overcome challenges and obstacles. That usually requires getting feedback from others. You can gain great insight from frequent, regular, and ongoing feedback from other people.

Honest input helps create the accurate picture of reality that lays a perfectly accurate description of reality. You must draw from many other people's perceptions to imbue your reality with the deepest possible understanding of its many hues and shades. Accountable people constantly seek feedback from a wide range of associates, whether it be team members, cross-functional partners, or even outside vendors or suppliers. Remember, other people's perceptions of reality, whether you agree with them or not, always add important nuances to your own perception. The more perspectives you obtain, the more easily you can recognize when you're stuck Below The Line, move Above The Line, and then encourage others to do likewise.


Own It

Owning your circumstances depends on seeing where you may be languishing Below The Line. When we Own It, we make the tie between where we are at in terms of results, what we have done, and where we want to be with what we are going to do. It is often said, "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." However, when it comes to owing it, we say, "If you are not part of the problem, then you are not part of the solution." Taking personal accountability for your problems empowers you to take that same level of accountability for solving those problems.

People who own their circumstances never allow the actions of someone or something else to keep them stuck Below The Line. Instead, accountable people accept whatever ways in which their own behavior contributed to the situation and set about overcoming those circumstances, no matter how difficult. The benefits of owning your circumstances more than compensate for the sometimes heart-wrenching effort involved. When you find the heart to own your circumstances, you automatically gain the commitment to overcome and change those circumstances for the better.


Solve It

The third dimension of accountability is the ability to Solve It. Simply acknowledging reality and accepting your role in creating your circumstances will achieve little if you fail to tackle real problems and remove true obstacles on your road to results. To do so, you must exercise wisdom. Getting to the Solve It step quickly can often make all the difference in the world. Solving It can begin even before you fully take the step. The wisdom to Solve It includes anticipating what could occur and preparing for the worst. When it does come, moving quickly to the Solve It step can make a huge difference.

The Solve It attitude and behavior stem from continually asking the question, "What else can I do?" By constantly and rigorously asking this question, you avoid slipping back into the victim cycle whenever certain events occur that would otherwise seem to block the road to results. Since solutions to thorny problems often do not readily reveal themselves, you must diligently search for them, but beware of wasting time Below The Line because that will only dull your senses and discourage your imagination from discovering solutions.


Do It

Ultimately, personal accountability means accepting full responsibility to achieve results and Do It. If you don't Do It, you'll never reap the most valuable benefit of full accountability: overcoming the obstacles and achieving the results you want. Despite the many benefits that accrue from applying the other three steps, results only come when you put all four steps together and passionately, proactively, and persistently Do It!

The Do It step bestows the full power of accountability that will help you get the individual and organizational results you need. This form of accountability comes after you have progressed through all four steps Above The Line. When you Do It, you stay Above The Line and prevent further ineffective sojourns Below The Line. Do It means that you will follow-through with the plan, implement the strategies, and execute the ideas. By stopping at any step short of Do It, you will never fully achieve a permanent position Above The Line. Any effort that falls short of making it happen and getting it done simply indicates a lack of full acceptance of accountability.



  1. Obtaining the perspectives of others.
  2. Being open and candid in my communication.
  3. Asking for and offering feedback.
  4. Hearing the hard things so that I openly see the reality of the situation.
  5. Being personally invested.
  6. Learning from both successes and failures.
  7. Ensuring that my work is aligned with Key Results.
  8. Acting on the feedback that I receive.
  9. Constantly asking, “What else can I do?”
  10. Collaborating across functional boundaries.
  11. Creatively dealing with obstacles.
  12. Taking the necessary risks.
  13. Doing the things I say I’ll do.
  14. Staying Above The Line by not blaming others.
  15. Tracking progress with proactive and transparent reporting.
  16. Building an environment of trust.


Each of our Accountabilities was identified through an extensive non-scientific study of the Partners In Leadership database of organizational and leadership assessments. The database included information that was gathered over a 10-year period of time and included responses from hundreds of people in a wide variety of jobs and industries.

The assessments sampled attitudes, opinions and views of organizational members on the effectiveness of their organizations, leadership teams and leaders. Assessments focused on understanding how people viewed the strengths, weaknesses and current challenges of those organizations, teams and individuals. Various question-types were used in the assessments, including short answer, 1-10 survey and open-ended questions. The majority of responses were open-ended.

The information was collected in two ways: in-person interviews by Partners In Leadership experts and digital collection methods. The in-person data was classified and presented in an anonymous process, while the digital information was anonymous for both collection and presentation.

The Accountabilities emerged from a list of best practices found in people, teams and organizations with high accountability, and were further validated as the weaknesses found in organizations demonstrating low accountability. Clear correlations were found in the research data, validating each trait.

SOSDTM Accountability Tool

When consulting with their clients, Partners In Leadership introduces the powerful SOSD Accountability Tool and demonstrates how it is used to improve team and organizational performance. The tool focuses on how clients can use the Accountability Gap® methodology to identify and close Accountability Gaps in order to achieve their key results.

Accountability, empowerment, and employee engagement result from workers and teams who continually ask the accountability question posed by The Oz Principle: "What else can I do to operate Above The Line and to achieve the desired results?" When people do that, they learn the secret to getting better results, faster and more cost effectively. As the performance and expectation bar continues to rise, so does the effort it takes to clear the bar.


Take the Self TrackTM training team assessment

There are 16 Accountability Best Practices, four for each step to accountability. Take the complimentary anonymous Self Track team assessment, and get the report to find out how your team or organization ranks relative to each of these best practices and to the general business population. Click here to set up your assessment, and experience one of our most popular features on the site.

Video Title (Under 60 secs.)
Training participants comment on the Steps To Accountability.
An attitude of accountability lies at the core of any effort to improve quality, satisfy customers, empower people, build teams, create new products, maximize effectiveness and get results. Whether you confront your own self-diminishing attitudes in your small startup enterprise or in the management ranks of a Fortune 500 firm, you cannot expect to create a better future unless you begin to take the time and find the courage to get Above The Line. With effective Above The Line leadership skills that you learn in the Self Track Training, (The Taking Personal Accountability Track Training), you can begin moving your entire organization to higher levels of accountability.

Ready to transform your culture with Accountability Training? We have experts standing by to answer all your questions!

"After implementing the simple yet profound Steps To Accountability, our associates have transitioned from being victims to being accountable for getting results after a few short months of implementation."
John Gronnel, Regional HR Manager, Office Depot, Business Services Division
"I truly feel that The Oz Principle training that our management team participated in helped us achieve our goals for the year. I have also been pleased to see that our culture is slowly changing for the better. Our employees are using the terminology of "Above The Line" and "Below The Line" when conversing with their colleagues. They are also taking more accountability for their actions and decisions they make."
Jim Simpson, Texas Area Sales Manager, Johnson Controls, Inc.
"I would recommend Partners In Leadership to any organization looking to create more accountable employees, increase alignment between day-to-day operations, and positively impact its bottom line. The See It, Own It, Solve It, Do It model is a very powerful process, improvement tool, and its use throughout the organization has created a vital bridge between operations and strategic objectives when it became apparent to employees that Arapahoe/Douglas Works! I would stick with these principles of accountability and hold everyone accountable at all levels of the organization; our staff began noticing positive results. This has led to more creativity, better communication, and better alignment between all parts of the organization."
Joseph M. Barela, Division Manager, Arapahoe/Douglas Works!
"Before OZ, we were a company adrift. We had no positive culture. Today, we have a culture based on the Steps To Accountability. For example, on the Accountability Plan, my 11 managers call in weekly and make the tie between what they've done this week and its impact on their performance relative to the three results."
April Franklin, Regional Director, Customer Service, Office Depot
"Accountability is the way to address the complexities of today's society. In the same way that acting Above The Line has helped create a Culture of Accountability, managing the Outer Ring and the Inner Ring will provide critical guidance for a successful journey towards accountable behavior."
David M. Donald, Manager of Operations, Baroid Industrial Drilling Products
"With The Oz Principle, we find that even after 6 months or more, employees are still focused on behaviors, Above The Line, and we sense that our culture is indeed changing for the better."
Ronald W. Moreland, Chief Administrative Officer, St. Joseph Heritage Healthcare
"I was so impressed with the training, I had all of the managers and supervisors for the Texas area attend a training session. At this meeting, we set goals to achieve by year-end, and we met our goals. As a result, our area was repeatedly recognized at a Johnson Controls awards banquet because of our accomplishments. I truly feel that the Accountability Training that our management team participated in helped us achieve our goals for the year."
Jim Simpson, Area Sales Manager, Johnson Controls, Inc.
"One of the key benefits of the training has been bringing in The Steps To Accountability model. This model was key to raising awareness about Below The Line behaviors that are destructive to our organizational culture. We now have something to remind us to stay Above The Line and focused on our Key Results."
Susanne Kubofcik, Manager of Learning and Development, ITOCHU International
"It is the content of The Oz Principle that is the most valuable: the connectivity of experiences to beliefs, leading to actions that drive results, as well as the often necessary and straightforward tools that keep organizations moving forward that struck the deepest chord within our leaders. I have no hesitation recommending this program to any organization seeking a fresh, tangible approach that translates into material impact for those entrusted with leading."
Ron Closser, President, Countrywide Insurance Group

Steps to Accountability

Video Title
Roger Connors, Cofounder, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Oz Principle, introduces you to the Steps To Accountability model (view Roger's bio). A clear line separates accountable and non-accountable thinking and acting.