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Boundaries for Leaders

Dr. Henry Cloud, the boundaries guru, defines leadership as simply “the process of turning a vision into a reality.” You can only do that through teams of people. That’s why leaders need to invest time and energy into creating teams and workplace cultures that support productivity while maintaining employee satisfaction. Unhappy people don’t stay productive for long. Without appropriate boundaries onto projects they should own for themselves, they won’t have that motivation.Cloud explains that leaders have a natural tendency to work without boundaries for themselves and their employees. The most effective leaders set those boundaries and hold themselves accountable for staying within them. The best leaders set boundaries that empower people and teams to reach goals, while rooting out bad behavior proactively. They have to do this in a way that works with people’s brain functions of attention, inhibition, and working memory. They create the right boundaries; ones that produce freedom without lines that delineates where your property begins and ends control.A boundary is a line that delineates where your property begins and ends. You decide what will happen in that space. Boundaries at work for leaders have two parts: what you create and what you allow.Dr. Cloud says, “As a leader, you are in charge of the vision, the people you invite in, what the goals and purposes are going to be, what behavior is going to be allowed and what isn’t. Leaders build and allow the culture. You set the agenda, and you make the rules. And what you find there, you own. It is your creation or your allowances that have made it be. Simply stated, the leaders’ boundaries define and shape what is going to be and what isn’t. In the end, as a leader, you are always going to get a combination of two things: what you create and what you allow.”That is a transformative statement if a leader grabs hold of it: “In the end, as a leader, you are always going to get a combination of two things: what you create and what you allow.”A central principle of boundaries is ownership. Leaders define and create the boundaries that drive the behavior that forms the identity of teams and culture and sets the standards of performance. Leaders define the direction and are responsible for making it happen. And they are responsible for the accountability systems that ensure that it does happen. It always comes back to leadership and the boundaries they allow to exist on their property. Leaders are a positive force for good and a negative force against bad. You know what they are for and what they are against.Boundaries must start within the leader’s own life. A look at the world's most successful leaders shows that one principle they all seem to have in common are clear boundaries. We live in a plugged-in world where high-performance leaders must know when it is time to create boundaries to help them continue to elevate.For a busy leader it can be challenging to discern and prioritize all the tasks that are thrown their way each day. However, every leader eventually has a moment when the lack of clear and defined boundaries creates major conflicts both personally and professionally. There are four boundaries you must create if you want to grow as an effective and productive leader.

  1. Time Boundaries  At one time I accepted every call, responded to every email, and attended every event. I finally realized that I was not taking care of myself. When you are in control of your time, you prioritize tasks based on importance. It is essential to create time boundaries so you can protect your personal time as well. Every task and request is not a priority. You can’t do everything.

  2. Financial Boundaries  Everyone wants the best deal, and everyone wants their idea to be prioritized. But your company must always focus on becoming the best solution, which may not be a bargain. A leader must also have boundaries about which ideas their limited resources can support.

  3. Social Media Boundaries  Do you have too many notifications popping up on your phone? How many times per day are you scrolling through your timeline? Maybe it is time to turn it off. It is essential to set specific times throughout the day to check your social media feed, instead of every time an alert goes off. Effective leaders often find it helpful to check morning, noon, and night for 15 to 20 minutes each day. That’s a total of approximately one hour of social media time each day at three times per day. It limits the constant distraction without interrupting productivity. Just because anyone can get a hold of you 24/7 doesn’t mean you have to answer.Even in an online world we need to have posted hours, policies, and processes we follow. This is not so much to cover our backside as it is to make our workplace enjoyable for our clients and ourselves. No one can work 24/7 and live a happy life. Set up regular office hours and then abide by them. Just because someone can tweet you any time of the day doesn’t mean you have to answer them in real time. Email doesn’t have to be answered every time something comes in.

  4. Personal Time and Recharging Boundaries  Make clear, non-negotiable personal time and rest a priority. Whether it is making time to spend with family or a dinner date with friends, make it a regular priority. You need time to unwind and refuel in order to remain effective.

Take responsibility for creating boundaries, starting with yourself. You, your family, and your team will all be more satisfied and productive.

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