Boundary challenges … when to say yes and how to say no
Do you struggle with setting boundaries? Are you so eager to stay in everybody’s good graces that you are complying to every demand, even though it is draining you and your team? I have seen good leaders burn out because they lack discernment when it comes to setting boundaries in the workplace. And once this happens … it is hard to fix!
What do I mean by boundaries?
- Boundaries are those personal property lines that define who we are and who we are not … what we stand for and what we don’t … what we will put up with and what we won’t … what we will do and what we won’t.
- We use boundaries to influence all areas of our life … physical … mental and … emotional. (You might be saying by now this is all fluff and what does this have to do with the workplace. Please indulge me a little longer).
In the physical world, boundaries are easy to see … gates, walls, fences, security signs, etc. (although we sometimes ignore them). In the work world boundaries represents those invisible property lines aligned with our roles and responsibilities. When leading our team, division, function, region or company, boundaries in the workplace are what helps us determine whose assistance or interference we legitimately accept and under what circumstances. The problem however is that many of us struggle with “when to say yes” and “how to say no.”
Four Leadership Styles and Boundary Challenges … how many of these have you experienced?
- Compliant Leaders … find it challenging to say “no” because often times they tend to feel guilty if they don’t take on more work or believe they risk being viewed as a low performer if they say no to additional work or projects. Bottom-line even when they know their workload has exceeded way beyond the capacity of the team, compliant leaders will still take on more work without addressing competing priorities.
- Controlling Leaders … on the other hand have a difficult time hearing “no” and as a result, their leadership style is generally perceived as being either aggressive or manipulative. The demands and pressure that controlling leaders put on their teams by constantly creating false sense of urgencies on work deliverables often violates proper transition between work projects causing faster burnout in their team.
- Nonresponsive Leaders … lack a sense of urgency and they often struggle with when to say “yes” to great opportunities … sometimes they are perceived as taking a long time to follow up or follow through on initiatives and they are known to frequently miss deadlines. The impact … lots of missed opportunities for their teams to be recommended for and participate in some really cool projects.
- Avoidant Leaders … are perceived to stay under the radar; they don’t challenge the status quo; they withdraw from opportunities to resolve conflicts and disagreements in a constructive manner; and they often don’t ask for help or the support of others leaving their teams to drown in the pressure of the workload.
So, how many did you recognize in your work environment? Which of the above boundary style is the most challenging for you? What advice would you offer to leaders who struggle with any or all of the four boundary challenges?
Confident leaders find the right balance between protecting their personal space and allowing others to infiltrate, manipulate or dominate them or the productivity of their team. Confident leaders know how to say yes to what is productive and no to what is not. Confident leaders also know how to set flexible boundaries so as not to shut people or opportunities out. It is no secret that work environments that lack these traits are not operationally efficient and tend to leak productivity.
How are you defining your leadership boundaries?
To your continued success!