Putting your foot down comes in several flavors: Boundaries. Rules. Decisions.
We get to choose them.
You may decide to establish a firm boundary.
How are you at setting boundaries in your life?
What would you do if a good friend comes to your house and their children spill food and drinks on your carpet?
What are your options?
- decide to be ok with that- and say kids will be kids
- ask your friend not to allow it
- ask them to clean up after their kids
- tell them not to bring their kids anymore
- decide not to invite them or perhaps even end the friendship
But what if you value the friendship? You can request that the kids go without food or drinks while in your house. Now your friend makes their own choice.
But what if a few times pass successfully – and then the spilled food happens again?
Here’s the important distinction:
We don’t create boundaries to manipulate or control others into doing what we want them to do. We establish boundaries to establish our line.
Instead of attempting to control them or ask them to change something they may not wish to do, this would be an opportunity to establish what our limitations are and what will happen if those lines are crossed.
Boundaries: What Exactly Are They?
A boundary is a clearly marked and delineated fence that is put into place around something with an intent to limit inside access.
It’s not an impenetrable wall – space inside is still accessible and could be available with some effort. Some could choose to jump the fence.
In our example, we can say: “I love you and your kids and the time you spend at my house. To continue in a way that allows our relationship to thrive, when you visit, if there are drinks or food included for the kids outside of the kitchen, I’m going to ask you to leave.”
This isn’t manipulative, and you’re not telling your friend how to raise their kids or how their kids should act. You’re simply setting a boundary with clear consequences if crossed.
3 Important Steps in Boundary Setting:
- Create a very clear boundary, with no ambiguity
- Make it clear what will happen if the border is crossed. There aren’t options or choices – it’s non-negotiable
- Ensure the consequence that is put into place if the boundary is crossed is one that you will live up to
Remember: it isn’t a boundary if it isn’t upheld.
It is merely a threat.
It’s an attempt to control and manipulate that becomes meaningless and results in disempowerment in the moment.
How to Set Professional Boundaries
A client related to me that her supervisor had been making requests for jobs and projects of her staff directly without consulting her.
This was frustrating and challenging, so my client made the request that he directly ask her for anything he needs from her team so she may manage the projects properly.
While her direct supervisor certainly had no obligation to abide by her request, and because he has free will to choose to handle himself in any way he wishes, we really don’t have any way of controlling whether he follows her request or not.
One week later, he did the same thing. Now what?
I advised her that a further discussion with him was necessary to discover his reasonings, and then, based on the conversation, she could choose to decide to create a boundary with her boss.
One can decide – even in a professional setting – to establish and outline boundaries that they deem necessary for themselves. Remember, the intent is not to CHANGE a person, nor teach, manipulate or threaten.
The purpose of the boundary is: to establish your own fence for what you are willing to accept – and what you are not.
Then it is your responsibility to follow through on whatever action you take and be okay with the results.
In the most extreme of scenarios, if this happens again, you will need to seek opportunities elsewhere. That is the ONLY way a boundary actually works.
Set Boundaries for What is Aligned With Your Needs
While in Florida, I joined a gym and quickly began attending spin classes. The new instructor operated much differently than the ones at my previous gym- no better or worse, just different in workout and approach. The workouts were great and intense and I knew this was working for me.
After about 5 classes in the middle of a great workout, the instructor yelled out, “Less talky, more worky!”
A few minutes later, she yelled out again, “Ladies, no more talking!” I realized she was referring to two women in the class. I never heard them so I was unbothered by any of it. The ladies stayed because it’s a great workout and finished it. They could have left, or been offended, but they stayed to finish.
This was not a rule set into place by the instructor. There were no written rules on the wall at the front of the room to let us know. This was just her way of establishing the rules and the tone of her class.
The instructor knows that she provides a great workout – she gets to set the rules and everyone else gets to choose what they want to do about it.
She doesn’t care if you leave, she protects the high quality workout experience for the rest of the class. She set her rules – confidently and without apology.
In business, there are very clear rules and very clear consequences – or at least there should be – in order for everyone to perform and be responsible to what their requirements and expectations are.
Some call it putting our foot down. Or being firm. Or drawing a line in the sand.
Whatever you call it, we set boundaries for what is true and aligned for us. This is not about Right or Wrong or Good or Bad. This is specific to each individual, and these decisions can also be a clear directive toward establishing rules and boundaries and being clear about which is which and when to use each.
As it applies to me and for Strive Leadership, I have to admit, the gym spin class instructor inspired me!
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
Being a part of the Strive Leadership community is a special place and it offers an incredible resource of support, learning, and growing that is unique and appreciated by our Leader members.
In order to maintain the total experience, there needs to be some rules in place. When I see individuals who aren’t participating and engaging in ways that protect and serve the group as a whole, it is my job to address that and ensure that I make decisions to maintain it.
Leading a group of people who are clear on their purpose for being in the community is what allows each of us to live into the integrity and in alignment with what is most important to us.
We can ask of others and have ideas of what we want. Rules can be posted at the front of the room, or not.
In the end, it is up to us establish where our fences will be, what our lines are and communicate them. Then it is up to each of us to live up to our own commitments in these rules.
This is the kind of work we do each and every day at Strive Leadership. We can do this work together with you too.
If this sounds like the place and the community that can help you to create the results you want, come check us out!