To be an effective and productive leader, you must know how to establish and maintain boundaries. When you set these boundaries, you set the limits on what is and is not acceptable to you. Without these boundaries, you will always be focused on other people’s priorities, issues and concerns instead of your own.
Some of the most common boundaries in the workplace revolve around time management, working styles, privacy, communication, and behavior. Some leaders might establish firm boundaries on disrespectful behavior, while others may set boundaries on work requests in the evenings or on weekends.
While every leader and situation are different, there are some common steps leaders can take to set boundaries at work.
Clearly define your personal boundaries
Consider your trigger points to help you understand the areas of work you want to protect. What defines your trigger points are those times when someone else’s actions upset you or make you feel uncomfortable. This could be a time when a stakeholder wants to be unnecessarily, over-involved in a project, someone wants to waste your time in a long bout of idle chit-chat, or when another department fails to follow through leaving you under the gun. Consider the areas at work where people regularly take liberties and push your buttons. Give these areas your attention.
Take a stand
You cannot set a boundary if you do not clearly articulate your position. Communicate with your team the problem area and define your boundary on the issue. For example, if a team member regularly puts 4:30 pm meetings on your calendar, but you cannot stay late because of family commitments, take a stand that you will not attend meetings after 4 pm. As a leader, you have a right to work in a way that helps you be most effective.
Automate your boundary
You can send a clear message to your team by utilizing a system or process to reinforce a boundary. This can also help you manage your time, notes Brearley. For example, set your office hours in your work calendar to end at 4:30 pm so your team knows you are unavailable for meetings or other work discussions past that time.
Once you have defined your boundaries, be firm when it comes to sticking to them. If your team members and stakeholders see that you change course frequently, they will not know what you want. This means you are confusing others if you accept some end of day meetings and not others. By staying consistent, you are training the people around you to behave in a certain way. If you let your team members overstep your boundaries on a regular basis, they will not respect your boundaries.
Setting boundaries is vital for leading your team well. You do not need to set boundaries for every aspect of your work, but you should identify what matters most to you. Be clear and intentional about your position. Try to automate your boundaries when possible. This will increase the chances of others quickly learning what you will and will not accept, you should stay consistent. With the right boundaries in place, you will feel calm and capable in your role. And this will help you thrive.