Leading by boundaries is an essential part of setting the stage for a successful, professional relationship. When there are no boundaries, you are likely to be taken advantage of. Boundaries allow both you and the people you work with, whether clients or coworkers, to know what to expect and how to approach a situation.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when setting boundaries:
- What are expectations for turnaround times? You and those you work with should all understand this. Set appropriate turnaround times and then follow up.
- Do you use appointment setting software? To make it easier on everyone, I use calendly to set appointments (they have a free basic version that works for most people). Then I don’t have to back and forth with someone or drop everything I’m doing to help someone. I just invite them to find a time that works for them and me and we can meet.
- Do you email during business hours or outside of business hours? You can schedule am emails so it appears you’re working during business hours instead of the random middle of the night email (this also helps put it at the top of someone’s inbox). Turn off your work phone after work. Don’t look at your emails once you’re clocked out.
- Are your communications professional and personable? Be careful about what you say and what you entertain. Keep things within the realms of the work you are doing.
Remember to keep work at work, set appropriate boundaries for the times you work, places you work, and subjects you talk about. Make sure you are comfortable and taken care of. Leading by boundaries means setting boundaries for other people and for yourself as well.
Why is leading by connection important? Connecting with someone allows you to establish trust. It is much easier to talk to someone when you have something in common. Find ways to connect by looking for clues into what the other person likes or is interested in.
Finding commonality in interests opens up the conversation in all areas. For example, start a conversation with a co-worker by talking about their most recent camping trip or how their home improvement project is going.
Leading by connection is directly related to listening. You can easily find out things to talk about by listening to what the other person is saying. Likewise, the other essential piece of connecting is consistency. How often are you checking in with your team members? Are you genuine in your conversations? Let them know you care by connecting.
In my experience, communication is the foundation of leadership…of ANY good relationship. If you can’t communicate effectively then you will be limited in your ability to impact others. Not only should you listen, but you need to be able to effectively communicate your needs in a way that allows those you lead to be successful in what you want them to do. It is essential to learn the skill of leading by communication.
Here are a few tips to effective communication:
- Listen to the person you are talking to and then make sure you understand by rephrasing it and repeating it back to them. Then you can move forward with a solution if needed. Of
- Do not interrupt.
- When you email use a friendly greeting, efficiently answer or ask the question at hand, and use simple language. The goal of an email should be to answer all the questions at hand with the least amount of words possible.
- Offer a few specific solutions instead of making a blanket statement.
- Keep in touch with your people. Consistency makes a huge difference in eliminating issues before they become a bigger problem.
- Respond in a timely manner.
- Act the way you expect other to act. The old adage “show me, don’t tell me” is especially important in communication. Are you interrupting expecting someone to listen? Do you assume things before they’ve said their bit?
Communication is a practiced skill and so is leading by communication! Evaluate your ability and find ways to improve. You can do this!
I have found that people tend to jump to conclusions that leads to interrupting the person that is speaking to them. I know I have had this problem more than once.
We hear the first few sentences and assume the person speaking just wants a solution. We’re used to things moving fast and moving on so we try to get things out quickly and move along.
What are you missing when you approach a conversation thinking you need to be done with it so you can get to what is next?
You miss the whole point. Most people talk because they want someone else to listen. We learn about them as a person by actively listening to the whole story they want to tell. Listening leads to trust.
When someone has a question, jumping straight to a conclusion or a quick response does not allow us to coach, to lead them to a correct answer. Ask for them to explain where they are stuck, what is going on. As they go through the problem they often find their own answer.
The benefits of listening: A co-worked told me about a math professor who had a stuffed animal on their desk. He would tell his students to talk to the stuffed animal about the problem they were having with their math before they talked to him about it. Most of the time the students didn’t have to ask the professor their question. The entirely mute stuffed animal helped more than anything.
We too often try to fix other people or are in a rush to move to the next thing by being short with them. BUT when we listen, we help develop trust and autonomy. Leaders listen.
Leading by Example leads to trust and loyalty from your employees and clients. If you expect behavior that you do not demonstrate, those who you lead might view you as hypocritical.
In my former life as a Junior High teacher, it was pounded into us that kids will mirror and exaggerate the things that you do. If you joke around and act goofy, you will find your students will be super goofy. You’re rude to them? They’re awful to you. And the reverse is true, if you come prepared and professional, so are your students.
For example, in the picture above there are children jumping and following each other. Do you think that started with verbal instructions or someone showing them how to do it? I bet it was by leading by example.
Leading by example absolutely applies to any interaction with people, particularly when you are in a leadership position. Psychologically speaking, we want to fit it, to be part of the group, and (especially) to be appreciated. Therefore, when you act the way you expect your people to act, they will mirror that behavior. Want your employees to respond to you in a timely manner? Then do it for them. If you want them to treat their clients with respect, show them how.
I am one who feels it’s essential in communication to show gratitude and respect. At a team meeting a few months ago we were addressing this issue of showing gratitude and kindness. One of our employees said, “Jess, you show us how to communicate with you by the way you respond to us with a thank you every time.” That’s the key. Be the employee you want. Show your co-workers how to communicate, how to work, your loyalty.
To end with a cliché, remember that actions speak louder than words.
Gratitude. It shouldn’t be a secret but begs to be repeated: people are more willing to work hard, do what they are asked, and remain loyal when they feel appreciated. The flip side of this is helpful, too. When you look for things to be grateful for, your mindset is in a more positive place and allows you to see what good is going on.
I have found having gratitude is especially important when having difficult conversations when there are issues to address. When I approach an employee or client with something they may not like to hear, I use the Sandwich Method:
- Start with something specifically positive, something I’m grateful for that they do.
- Talk about the difficult situation that needs to be addressed and come to a resolution if needed.
- Say something else specifically positive.
I have found using this simple method has allowed my conversations with co-workers and clients to maintain a positive light. That positive light stays even when we need to work through problems. People feel when you are sincere and grateful.
So next time someone you work with does something you are grateful for, let them know via email, text, or phone conversation.
My home office is currently a mess, but no one knows it when I hop on Zoom to have a meeting. I’m just a talking head with a decent shirt on. The mess is out of the line of sight of the camera. One of the important principles of communication and leadership is acting with empathy.
Acting with empathy means knowing that there is always more to a situation than what is shown. The talking heads in our lives all have more going on than we can see. When you communicate with a client or a co-worker, remind yourself of this. Take time to ask how they are doing with sincere questions and follow up on things you know about them. Take time to get to know the people you work closely with. You will find there is a lot more to everyone than the current situation at hand.
I have found that there have been times where I have been frustrated with the chit-chat. I just want to get to the meat of the problem and get it resolved. BUT, when I take the time to get to know someone, to simply ask “How is it going?”, my empathy and ability to work with the person expands. When a client or co-worker knows you care, 9 times out of 10 they are more willing to do what needs doing and see you as a partner in solving problems and working together. You both become more than a talking head.
When you have empathy for another’s situation, you are able to be on their side, take things less personally, and work together cohesively. Acting with empathy allows for the potential of even greater collaborations.
So, the next time you’re on a call with a client, or working through a problem with a co-worker, remember they are more than just a talking head and so are you.
One of my favorite types of book to read is biographies. My taste is pretty eclectic when it comes to the person – from Ben Franklin to Arnold Schwarzenegger, musicians to spies and tattoo artists. I enjoy reading people’s stories, understanding what they deem as important events in their lives. From the countless stories I have read, I noticed a common theme Passion + Hard Work = Success.
One thing that I have found that rings true in all the biographies I’ve read is that success does not come easy for anyone. No matter what you deem as success – whether it’s fame, fortune, or a happy family life – it only comes with focus, passion, hard work, and a bit of luck. The relationships we create with others also help. No one becomes their version of success alone. I guess the one exception is if you see success as living as a hermit in the backcountry; but even then, someone had to create the clothes and tools you brought with you to your cave.
Amy Poehler, in her book Yes Please put it well, “most people become “famous” or get “great jobs” after a very, very long tenure shoveling sh** and not because they handed their script to someone on the street.”
Our perspective is often jaded because all we see is the end result. We see the lifestyle that we want, the happy relationship, the money and we desire it. However, we don’t see all it took to get there. Amy Poehler said it this way “See, years and years of hard work and little bits of progress isn’t nearly as entertaining as imagining me telling a joke in a Boston food court when suddenly Lorne Michaels walks up and says, ‘I must have you for a little show I do.’”
So what does that mean for us? It means we need to keep working, keep pushing, keep pursuing our passion. Keep your idea of success at the forefront. Understanding that one step at a time is the way up to your mountain. And enjoy the scenery along the way, every step brings you closer to your goal. Passion + Hard Work = Success.
I just read Talking to Strangers by Malcom Gladwell and I have to say I was enamored by the storytelling. There were so many good stories that walked me through the serious issues of trust and learning to deal with people on a grand scheme that I identified with deeply. I appreciated the honesty of the book, the openness of what it means to open up to someone else, and of our inability to really know what’s going on in someone else’s head.
Personally, I am someone who defaults to trust and consider myself honest and open. I understand that most people are inherently good and are trying to do their best. This book was a reminder that not everyone is like that, BUT that defaulting to trust is the only way to have a functioning society.
My disappointment with this book was I didn’t feel like there was a conclusion on how to solve the problem. It presents the difficulty of defaulting to trust – you’ll probably get deceived by someone who is only looking out for their self-interest – but it never provides a solution other than to say society wouldn’t run if we were all suspicious of every stranger we interact with.
But maybe that’s just it, there is no way to be 100% correct about everyone else’s motivation, desires, and honesty. We live in an imperfect world where we only see things from our perspective. Even when we try to see things through other’s eyes, we only have the context we are aware of. So we default to trust hoping we learn from our mistakes and can move on quickly when we are deceived.
So I will continue to default to trust, with a wary eye when talking to strangers. My hope is that I see the times I am deceived before they become big problems. And my society will continue to work because of this.