We all understand the importance of setting boundaries in our life. Without a specific set of ‘rules’, we would never be able to get anything done or enjoy the activities we need to make time for. When it comes to our career, setting boundaries is just as significant, especially as we advance up the professional ladder.
Boundaries can be emotional, physical, or mental, and need to be defined and maintained to allow us to stay focused and feel balanced.
Emotional boundaries are individual in the same way our fingerprints are unique to us. A physical boundary involves touch. This can be a handshake, as well as your documents, laptop, and even your favourite pen. Mental boundaries relate to opinions and core values.
Can you relate to any of the following statements?
- Is your office schedule a drain?
- Does everything feel unmanageable?
- Are you saying yes to every task and project?
- Do you feel out of control?
There’s a strong possibility that you haven’t set limits and you’re putting yourself and your health at risk. When you respect the boundaries you set for yourself, others will follow your lead.
Setting boundaries when you are already in an established role can be challenging, but not impossible. There may be some friction as you build these new systems, but it’s worth persevering. If you are starting a new role on your executive journey, then start as you mean to go on by establishing your boundaries from day one.
Here are 10 ways to set healthy boundaries at work
- Core values – boundaries and values go hand in hand. When we learn to respect ourselves and honour our core values, we can define our role in the workplace. If integrity, honesty, and personal development are important values to you as an executive leader, then you need to reflect these in the boundaries you set.
- Know your limits – we all have strengths and weaknesses, and we have all experienced situations that have caused us discomfort or stress. Emotional boundaries may be crossed if you allow anger or resentment to show themselves. Working with an executive coach helps you to reset your boundaries where knowing your limits is concerned.
- Communication – the simple act of telling your colleagues confidently the terms of your boundaries is not only healthy, but it also allows you to lead by example. Setting hours of work is an excellent example – if your team are aware that any office conversations are only conducted up to 6 pm on a Friday, and no later, it shows them how to establish a better work/life balance.
- Build your boundaries – it’s no good saying you want to set boundaries if you don’t know what to set, or how to set them. Think about where, in your working day, you would benefit from having a more assertive boundary. Perhaps you’ve slipped into the habit of answering emails late at night? Maybe you talk too much in meetings instead of allowing others to contribute while you listen?
- Establish processes – boundaries are easier to maintain if you have specific structures in place within your day. Make sure your team know the method you like to work by. It might mean setting a weekly team meeting rather than sending a barrage of emails every day.
- Just say no – when you say yes to every project that crosses your desk, it can lead to overwhelm and stress. I talk a little bit more about letting stress and anxiety take control of your life in this post, 5 Tips for Advancing Your Career. Learning to say no is a wise boundary to set yourself.
- Monitor friction – as I mentioned earlier, if you are in an established role and are trying to set boundaries, you may come across conflict from other people. In this case, it’s worth appreciating that any resistance is confirmation that a boundary was a necessity. Being prepared for other people to express displeasure or anger will help you handle the situation. Working with an executive coach can help you explore your communication skills to handle this with more confidence.
- Delegation – learn to trust your team, communicate with clarity, and delegate the tasks that drain your time and overwhelm your schedule.
- Work and home life balance – setting boundaries at work will help you feel more in control of your day. It’s important to carry those boundaries over to your home life so you can create the work/life balance you crave. Creating a family dinner time, no tech on a Sunday or other structures that give you a more defined home life is vital.
- Ask for help – working with an executive coach allows you space and time to work through any limiting beliefs you have that may be preventing you from setting appropriate and achievable boundaries. I talk more about limiting beliefs in this post, 5 Signs You Need an Executive Coach. A coach can help prioritise your goals, reflect, and refocus your role, and make changes to your work/life environment.
It takes time to set boundaries, and it can take focus and determination to keep up with these new processes. Building boundaries, however, will make a significant difference in how you feel and act at work.
How to stick to your boundaries and maintain them
While setting your boundaries is of paramount importance, learning to maintain them is also vital to how successful your new systems will be.
Managing your boundaries requires an understanding between your professional self and your personal self. As an executive leader, you have a distinctive role to play, and your new structures play a part in that. Although you appreciate the need to be an empathetic leader, you must also remain professional to ensure your team respects your boundaries.
Embrace your executive journey, develop your leadership skills, but remain vigilant that your professional role doesn’t blur with your personal life. Once you cross that line, it becomes harder to maintain your boundaries.
Be consistent, so everyone knows why your boundaries are important to you and the way you work. Presenting clarity about your boundaries from the offset shows your team that the rules apply to everyone. They understand how you operate and that your processes are strong, and you have no need to rethink or re-evaluate.
At the same time, it’s wise to allow for some room to move as you don’t want your team to feel that anytime they approach you, it will be a firm no. A great leader learns to maintain their boundaries while still offering the support and guidance their team require.
“Jane’s coaching sessions were massively positive and enlightening. She literally cleared my mind of the ‘stuff’ that was holding me back and got rid of these limiting beliefs that I had built into my mind. We spent a lot of time distilling my true values and purpose. This has been a fantastically liberating experience that has given me clarity of purpose and clear direction.
We spent a lot of productive time on establishing and articulating my personal goals on which Jane regularly holds me to account.
In summary, Jane has a unique combination of hard earned experience gained in the corporate world, a powerful intellect and is an accomplished coach. She will deliver.” – Steve, FTSE 100 Finance Professional
Set achievable boundaries and put yourself back in control of your executive leadership journey.
Book a Discovery Call with Jane Hooper today.
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