The last 3 years changed almost everything in most industries. Leaders and staff alike have been trying to ground themselves and stay afloat through the transition. Understanding the role of boundaries and leadership in the workplace – and how positive they can be – is a key to successfully navigating the rapid changes caused by the pandemic in businesses of every size.
Boundaries create essential frameworks for people to understand each other, get along better, learn about themselves and grow! They are incredibly useful limits that define what’s ok and what’s not for each of us. A world without guidelines would be a little like the earth having less gravity to hold us all down! And the workplace is no different.
We come into a company culture and learn the ropes – what’s expected of us ,and the standards by which we are to make decisions and take action. Without those in place, any organization would be chaotic at best, and eventually fail. As a leader, staff will look to you for what and where those boundaries are. So your own clarity around boundaries, your ability to communicate them and help others meet them is a necessary skill bordering on an art!
Boundaries should actually be welcomed by your staff. They do so much better knowing what works and what doesn’t, and how the company – and you – need things to be done.
Realizing this removes a lot of the discomfort that can go with the idea of setting and maintaining boundaries. The art of it comes in how you communicate boundaries with each person and their unique of skills, motivational level and personality. And that means you need to know your people.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR PEOPLE
Boundaries are not one size fits all. It helps to remember that our own internal sense of what feels right to us and what doesn’t isn’t one size fits all. Those are shaped by many sources: our family, the neighborhood, our schools, country and culture. You will have to invest a little time to understand what will motivate your people.
You’ll need to take into account how your people think, and the nature of the business they were attracted to. If they are creative, more flexible parameters and work spaces may make them most productive. Whereas if you have engineers or accountants, more defined frameworks with specific goals and timelines can bring out your team’s best. If you can fashion boundaries around who you have working for you, you’ll be on the path to greater harmony and success.
Dr. Linda Lausell Bryant, who teaches on adaptive leadership at New York University, told the New York Times, “I’m very attuned to the unspoken needs that people play out in the workplace. You can’t change that. You can acknowledge it. You can give it space. In the end, it can’t rule the day, either, because in the workplace there are higher things and rules that are going to guide what we need to do here. It’s helpful to know that, and be aware of it as a boss. It’s even better if employees are aware of it and feel that you’re not trying to change who they are.”
Communication is key – how you convey what is expected, and uphold it, on a case by case basis. If you are able to take employees as individuals and work within what you know about them, it can help them see boundaries as a positive. And if they do, they communicate better with you and each other. Understanding the role of boundaries is a golden ticket!
Everyone can feel more comfortable and will likely perform better in a clearly structured work environment with clearly defined boundaries. Your staff will also have a better work life- balance if you encourage it, especially if you mirror it yourself. This promotes good mental and physical health – the basis for everything good. And well-balanced people are more able to be present in the time they’re at work, with a higher level of performance with those around them as well as in the goals they achieve.
This is where it gets interesting! So much so that I’m going to write a series on this. Next month, I will introduce you to an extremely helpful analysis tool with which a leader or your managers can assess each individual to determine both their level of motivation and the level of their skills. It allows you to see each person very clearly and develop a kind of roadmap for their participation in their position and towards your objectives and their own goals!