Boundaries are tricky, especially for people who don’t like to disappoint others. And therein lies the irony.
When we say YES to too many people, we invariably will disappoint some of them. We can’t be all things to all people! Quite often, we blame others for being too pushy or for asking too much of us.
What if we flipped our thinking? What if we re-assigned our decisions regarding how we spent our time to ourselves?
Boundaries with Co-Workers
Consider this scenario, which plays out every day in companies everywhere:
It’s Monday at 9:00 AM. Your to-do list is a mile long. You have reports to complete, calls and emails to return, meetings to schedule, presentations to prepare. Your co-worker comes into your office and says, “I am SO busy. I HAVE to get this presentation done by Noon, or Bob is going to be unprepared for the customer meeting. Can you PLEASE help me with _______?”
Immediately your pulse quickens. You feel the walls closing in on you. How are you ever going to get through your own list if you say yes to someone else’s list?
“Sure I can help you. What do you need?”
And right here, in this moment, you have CHOSEN to let your co-worker into your space, into your container.
When we say YES to others in situations like this, we say NO to ourselves. We say NO to the space we need to either accommodate additional priorities, or we say NO to our own breathing room.
I’m currently working with an executive who has trouble saying NO. She initially came to me for help with her time management.
However, as we began our work together, I discovered that her challenge is not so much time management, as it is a lack of self-worth, and lack of assertiveness.
Our work is focused on helping her understand her value, and finding her voice to speak up in situations that have the potential to marginalize her.
Her intention is to demonstrate that she is a team player, and is someone who is reliable. However, there is a big difference between being someone who others see as reliable, and who others see as a sacrificial doormat.
As I repeatedly tell my clients who often have difficulty staying focused on their goals, self-sacrifice is not a noble virtue.
I’ve assigned my client the accountability to say NO (in a respectable way) at least twice day to others who often try to delegate their own obligations. This does not include an apology. We don’t have to apologize for respecting our own boundaries.
“I understand you have a lot on your plate. I do too and it’s stressful! That’s why I can’t help you out right now. I really have to focus on my own priorities.”
Obviously, if you have plenty of time on your hands, and you have ample room in your container, you likely have the time, energy, and space to support someone who is coming into your boundary. However, before saying YES, check yourself.
- Are you exhausted?
- Are you behind on your own commitments?
- Are you sacrificing your own commitments to accommodate someone else?
- Are you driven to say YES simply because you don’t want to disappoint others?
- Does it feed your ego when others come to you for help?
Boundaries with Customers
This also applies to customer relationships, and reinforces the importance of two aspects of customer management:
- Strong project management skills & processes that keep projects on track, and within scope, time, & budget.
- Crystal clear project scoping that clearly identifies all deliverables, removing any ambiguity on what’s expected.
Self-sacrifice is never a noble virtue. If we want others to respect our boundaries (and our value), it is up to us to implement them.
No one will ever respect us more than we respect ourselves. We set the standard for how others treat us.
Who and what is in your container? Who put it there? You did. No one else.
Do you need help identifying, setting, communicating, and respecting your boundaries? I love to help others adapt this mindset, so that they can stay focused on their goal.
Please reach out to me if you want to learn more!
Sign up here to receive Successful Culture’s leadership blog every Friday. All posts contain actionable content to make you the best leader you can be, to help you develop your people to their greatest potential, and to help you build your best organization.
About Successful Culture
We work with business owners, CEOs, and leadership teams that want to achieve their greatest personal & organizational potential. Through coaching, strategic consulting, retreat facilitation, and workshops, we equip leaders & emerging leaders with the mindset, tools, strategies, and processes they need to excel.
Please check out my Inc. Magazine columns on my Author Page too.
Learn about the 12 Habits of Horrible Leaders, and How to Break Them.
Wishing you joy and success on your journey!
CEO, Successful Culture
“Taking Leaders from Triage to Transformation.”