Got Boundaries?

Got Boundaries?

Uncategorized

 

There’s a line from a Robert Frost poem that often comes to mind when I speak with leaders about managing their teams: “Good fences make good neighbors.”  This line could be a mantra for leaders about the importance of boundaries.

As a leader, you have several roles related to boundaries in the workplace:

  • Set and maintain good boundaries for yourself
  • Establish and articulate boundaries for the team
  • Monitor and maintain team boundaries
  • Respond and repair when boundaries are violated.

In order to lead effectively, it is imperative you have clear boundaries for yourself, both personally and professionally. Your management of boundaries serves as the model for boundaries within your team. Once you manage your own boundaries successfully you are equipped to manage boundaries within your team.

The first step in setting good boundaries, whether for yourself or your team, is awareness. Know what is essential for you or the team to function at your best and what are the absolute deal breakers.  For your personal boundaries, identify what energizes you, what drains your energy and what takes you off track. Encourage the team to make the same assessment for themselves individually and for the team as a whole.

Find a way to communicate boundaries within your team in ways that are clear and respectful. When individuals express their boundaries, they don’t need to defend, debate, or detail their feelings. For the team, boundaries should be negotiated and agreed upon by consensus, understanding that as the leader, you may need to negotiate the middle ground between competing priorities.

Two things to keep in mind when setting boundaries: make them few and make them important. Too many boundaries create confusion, exhaustion and opportunities for conflict. Your role as the leader is to monitor the team’s process and progress and issue warnings if it appears boundary violations are imminent. Recognizing potential problems ahead of time can help the team to make boundary adjustments, rather than responding to damage when a boundary is violated.

Once you’ve created a boundary, view it like a fence. It separates what is acceptable from what is not. Keep in mind that fences have gates – places where people can get from one side to the other with permission. Know when it’s time to open the gate or adjust the boundary and do it with intention, clarity, and consistency. Just as landowners periodically walk the perimeter to see if fences have been breached or need to be adjusted, take time to review your personal and team boundaries from time to time to see if new boundaries need to be drawn.

Good boundaries make good teams, just like good fences make good neighbors. Learn to be a boundary master and you will Increase Your Impact.

Dr. Sherene McHenry, Relational Leadership and Burnout expert, is a widely acclaimed speaker, author and coach that demystifies how to lead, motivate and resolve conflict for optimal results. Known for being wise, witty and practical, Sherene provides instantly implementable tips and strategies for enhancing effectiveness, increasing engagement and decreasing burnout, frustrations and miscommunications.

Be A Better Boss

Be A Better Boss

Achievement Conflict Resolution Employee Engagement Leadership Motivation Stress

I’m sure you’ve already noticed that the world is full of two types of people: those who get things done early and those who put things off until the last minute. Those who get things done early prefer structure, deadlines and plenty of breathing room to finish assignments. Their mantra is, “Once it’s off my plate, I can relax.”

Those who procrastinate prefer freedom in how and when they approach tasks, time to passively noodle the assignment and gather as much information as possible, and the adrenaline that accompanies an approaching deadline. Their manta is, “Relax, the deadline isn’t here yet.”

Managing those who get things done early is a dream. You give them a job and it gets completed in a timely manner. Unfortunately, the strain is transferred to employees who can’t bear to have unfinished projects, and who run themselves ragged to finish jobs only to be assigned additional tasks.

“If you want something done, give it to a busy person,” is the adage of most business owners and managers. Wonderful for the business and the manager, but not so great for the dependable employee burdened with one more task. In addition to not being fun or fair, it’s demotivating to be repeatedly asked to pick up other people’s slack.

What your persistent, getter-done-or-die-trying employees desperately need is protection from you, other employees and even themselves. As a wise leader, knowing they will sacrifice and suffer rather than be late or fail to follow through, you’ll want to keep tabs on their workload and how they are holding up.

High performers who keep getting additional jobs are at huge risk for burnout. Once that happens, they either quit, find a different job, or take their heart out of the workplace. At a bare minimum they’ll start doing “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay,” nothing more.

All it takes for your Rock Stars and Steady Eddies to soar under your leadership is for you to protect them. Do this by monitoring their workload, dividing up assignments so everyone is sharing the load, and giving them a bit of breathing space before dumping another task on them.

I can almost hear you panic at the thought of spreading out the workload, particularly to employees who procrastinate, turn things in late and always have a good excuse. While panic isn’t necessary, you will need to manage and train your Last Minute Lucys and Larrys to meet deadlines.

While they might not like it, procrastinators need you to set and hold appropriate deadlines and work boundaries. Without them, they will drop the ball and needlessly cause extreme frustration and stress.

It’s helpful to understand that procrastinators actually need the adrenaline that accompanies a deadline. Deadlines propel them to work smarter, faster and more effectively. Deadlines kick in their creative juices. Working on deadline is their preferred and most effective work mode.

Here are seven tips for bringing out the best in your procrastination-prone employees:

1. Set clear deadlines.

2. Ask for their commitment to meet the deadline.

3. Ask when they would like for you to check their progress.

4. With clearly outlined expectations, allow great freedom to determine how and when they approach the task.

5. Refrain from doing it yourself or reassigning a task before the deadline.

6. Hold them accountable for missing deadlines by letting them know the physical, financial and emotional cost of their actions. If this doesn’t bring about desired results, set consequences. No matter how brilliant or charming, if they can’t meet deadlines, they aren’t a good fit for your company.

7. Lastly, recognize the immeasurable gift they bring your company by being able to nimbly respond to anything that gets thrown at them. You need and want them on your team.

While boundaries and deadlines are your best friends as a manager, remember to refrain from rewarding your persistent rock stars with yet another job. Effectively manage both types of employees and you’ll set yourself and everyone else up for long-term success.

Originally published in Garden Center Magazine, February 2015, http://www.gardencentermag.com/article/garden0215-managing-procrastination-prone-employees/

Are Your Dreams For Your Life And Organization Big Enough?

Are Your Dreams For Your Life And Organization Big Enough?

Achievement Dare To Dream Dream Employee Engagement Leadership Motivation

For as long as I can remember, my father has given me the gift of encouraging me to dare to dream big dreams. When an opportunity to win a trip to Europe through our middle school magazine drive was presented, I knew that would win it. All I had to do was sell a copy of Reader’s Digest and submit a 25 word essay on what I would learn from the experience trip abroad. No problem. I eagerly rushed home and asked my mom to buy a copy. “No, dear. Grandpa gives us a yearly subscription.”

Undaunted, I canvased the neighborhood. Everyone turned me down. Mom suggested I try doctor offices and helped by driving me around town. Repeated rejections followed from doctors and staff. Unwilling to give up, I pressed on. Finally, I sold the coveted subscription to Dr. Brown.

After batting about ideas as a family, I sent my essay off praying, “Please, Lord, let me win.” Months came and went without word, but deep inside I knew I would win. I even turned down an invitation to a prestigious competition, saying, “I think I’ll be in Europe.”

Then came the announcement. “All students please report to the auditorium.” Upon entering, I immediately spotted the man from Reader’s Digest. Someone had won. Heart pounding, I anxiously awaited my fate.

After thanking everyone, he declared, “Out of 13,500 submissions, we selected 17 winners. One is from here.” He paused for dramatic effect … then, he called my name. Overjoyed, I took the stage. While it may not happen every time, don’t let anyone tell you that dreams don’t come true.

As an adult I read Barbara Sher’s “Wishcraft: How To Get What You Really Want.” Promising good things would result, she suggested identifying 100 things that I wanted to be, have or do. So I created my first Top 100 List in 1996 with dreams ranging from the dramatic, to the mundane, to the fanciful and the heartfelt.

About five years later, I found my list. Amazingly, 40 of my wishes had come true with little or no effort on my part. I don’t even remember writing down one of my favorites, “Overdose on the theatre in London.” Mom and I had a fantastic trip and even got upgraded to first class on the flight over.

Before you’re tempted to think I get everything I want, I don’t. Several of the deepest longings of my heart, haven’t and won’t come true. I, like everyone else who walks the planet, have mourned unfulfilled dreams. The good news is we humans are incredibly resilient, and our dreams can change over time.

What about you? Do you have lofty dreams for your business? For the people you lead and serve? For your life? For your community? For your family? Do you have a Top 100 List? Do you encourage your staff to dream? To set grand goals for their departments and individual performances?

Or, have you forgotten to dream? Did you learn along life’s way that dreams are for other people? That it’s safest not to dream or expect good things? That if you don’t dream, you don’t get hurt? Worse yet, do you squelch the dreams of those around you, particularly those who work for you?

I encourage you to compile your personal Top 100 List. If that’s too daunting, do a Top 25 List. Additionally, create a Top 25 List for your business and/or department. Then, ask your employees to create a Top 10 List for the business, their department and/or their job.

Depending on the size and structure of your organization, combine appropriate employee groupings and work together to determine your priorities for the business and/or department. You’ll be amazed at the creativity, energy and teamwork that result. You’ll also know where to focus your energy, time and other resources required to turn lofty and yet worthy dreams into reality.

Originally published in Garden Center Magazine, January 2015, http://www.gardencentermag.com/article/garden0115-top100-priorities-list/

#1 Reason People Quit Their Jobs

#1 Reason People Quit Their Jobs

Bad Boss Burnout Conflict Resolution Employee Engagement Leadership Motivation Stress

A recent Gallup Poll of more than 1 million U.S. workers indicates the #1 reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or supervisor. Wondering if you or one of your managers is struggling as a boss? Look at your turnover rates. If they are low, you’re doing well. If they are in the middle, it’s time to start paying attention. If your turnover rates are high, you’ve got a problem. Unfortunately, turnover rates are often overlooked or explained away with a, “They’re leaving for more money.” Research indicates otherwise.

Your ability to communicate and resolve differences is key to your leadership success and employee satisfaction. For almost a quarter of a century Dr. Arnold Lazarus’s “Rules for Fighting Fairly” has been my go-to guide for teaching people to respectfully resolve conflicts.

If you want to maximize your effectiveness as a leader and strengthen relationships:

Rather than criticizing the person, address specific behaviors. While it may be accurate, telling someone, “You’re inconsiderate, lazy, or rude” only escalates problems. Instead of attacking their character and forcing them to either shut down or become defensive, state the problematic behavior. “When you are late,” “When you interrupt,” “When you leave customers waiting,” all clearly identify a problematic behavior without attacking someone’s personhood.

Addressing problematic behavior allows you to get to the heart of the matter quickly, decreases defensiveness and significantly increases your likelihood of being heard, which is critical to resolving conflict.

Refrain from telling employees what they are thinking/feeling, how they’re going to react or what they do/don’t know. Sentences that start with, “Now don’t get mad, but…” or “I know you think you know best, but…” are pretty much guaranteed to escalate into arguments. While you might be spot on, it’s not helpful or productive to micromanage another person’s emotions or thoughts. Instead of throwing gasoline on the fire, say what you need to say, then allow the person to respond.

Avoid saying, “You always” and “You never.” Unless you’re complimenting someone, “You always/never” is guaranteed to escalate emotions and derail disagreements. Instead of coming to a resolution, you’ll be hearing about the time(s) they did or didn’t do “xyz.” Drop these two phrases from your vocab and you’re well on your way to a productive disagreement.

Avoid right/wrong, good/bad categories. Most of how you desire things to be done as a business owner or boss are a preference rather than a rule that exists proclaiming there is only one way to do things. While cheating, stealing and lying are non-negotiables for most, how and when something gets done is generally a preference.

Determine your non-negotiables, values that are unshakable if someone wants to work for you and things that must be done in a precise way. Then, with clearly established goals and expectations, give your employees the freedom to determine how to best accomplish their tasks. They’ll be less argumentative, feel respected and be far more productive.

You’ll want to be prepared with appropriate consequences for employees who are chronically late, treat others poorly or do subpar work. As painful as it is, good leadership entails holding people responsible for their actions or lack thereof. Other employees take their cues about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior from you.

While conflict may not be pleasant, it doesn’t have to be destructive. These four guidelines are a great starting point for productive disagreements. If you’re thinking, “Wait, Sherene, there’s got to be more,” you’re right. Stay tuned. I can hardly wait for the next blog.

Originally published in Garden Center Magazine, August 2014, http://www.gardencentermag.com/article/garden0814-leader-employees-relationships/