Leaders Deserve Boundaries

I once managed a retail store. 

Things were going great. Our numbers were way up. People were happy. 

About a month in, while I was hanging out with my family on the weekend, I got a phone call from an assistant manager.

He had a ton of experience, was great with people, and I could always count on him to follow through and everything that was expected of him. He was great at this job.

But like everyone else in the store, he was terrified of getting in trouble. 

“Jacob, we have a situation at the store,” he asked.

“What’s going on?” I responded.

“There is a customer here that has been bounced around everywhere getting their phone fixed. Customer care gave them some bad information.”

Then there was a pause.

“So what’s up?” I responded, breaking the silence. This didn’t seem like a new situation, I was curious to learn why he felt calling me was necessary. 

“Well she wants a $20 credit.”

“What do you want to do?”

“Well, I think we should do it.” He said hesitantly. 

“I trust you. If you think we should do it, then do it.” 

The next time we worked together I sat down and talked to him about the phone call.

I asked why he felt the need to call me about such a small amount of money. 

He let me know about concerns with previous leadership and wanted to be sure we were on the same page. I let him know that I trusted him to make decisions while I was out, and if anything ever happened we would talk about it and course correct, but I was okay with him making decisions.

Sometimes people just need you to reinforce that it’s okay for them to make decisions.

You deserve boundaries

Say it with me:

“I deserve boundaries.”

Regardless of your position, level of responsibility, or tenure with your company.

You deserve boundaries.

Without boundaries, you will end up like a ship sailing aimlessly in the open sea—no destination, no route, and definitely no peace of mind. 

You jeopardize your well-being, morale, quality of life, and productivity of your team. 

Leadership can feel like a circus, and when you don’t invest in setting boundaries, you become the clown.

And you don’t want to be the clown. You don’t even want to be in the circus. You want to create space for the things that are important to you. And without boundaries, you might not even realize that you aren’t.

As a leader setting boundaries is challenging, because there are always people who need something from you. And if you are a good leader, you care about being there for them.

You can have boundaries and be a great leader.

The ROI of Boundaries

Let’s look at the data says about boundaries:

  • Just
  • Joking

Please! You shouldn’t need a section of a newsletter to explain why boundaries are important.

But I’m going to write it just in case you do…

Setting boundaries is the only way you will have time to think and prioritize and focus on the things that are most important to you.

These are all the things you wish you had time for, but keep putting on the bottom of the priority list:

  • Sleeping
  • Deep work
  • More family time
  • Getting in the gym
  • Building a personal brand
  • Scheduling that vacation to Paris (or Oregon, it nice here in the summer)

Boundaries create space for the things most important to you.

How to Set Effective Boundaries

Are you ready to do this? 

Start here:

  • Prioritize: Not everything that is urgent is important. Learn to differentiate.
  • Communicate: Make your boundaries clear to your team. Transparency is key.
  • Enforce: A boundary is only as good as its enforcement. Be consistent.

Let’s focus on communication.

The best time to communicate is when you are onboarding–regardless of whether it is a client or a new employee.

Let them know you want to be there to support them, but also let them know times you will be unavailable. 

🕶They will appreciate knowing this about you. And when you communicate your boundaries will encourage them to do the same. This is an underrated employee benefit.

When people try to step into your boundaries, take time to learn and teach.

Learn what they needed to fix the problem without you. It might be a tool, a process, or simply to be reminded you trust them to make the decisions.

Teach them how to solve the problem without you. 

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have questions about how to apply this in your life. 

Starting October, I’ll be starting a series focused on conflict resolution, but this month I’m writing about whatever I feel called to write about. 

What should I write about next week? First person who responds wins!

Jacob Espinoza is a leadership coach in Salem, Oregon. For more information visit JacobEspinoza.com.

Leave a Comment