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How Can Leaders Support Boundaries?

Boundaries are needed in many areas of our lives: finances, relationships, friendships, how we spend our free time, and how we spend our time at work. Establishing them and sticking to them can be challenging. But, like a moat around a castle, boundaries are meant to protect.  

For many of us, the boundary or dividing line between work and home has become blurred. We are now working where we live. Work-life balance feels…well, out of balance. We’ve had to adapt our communication and collaboration styles in this new remote work environment, and that’s meant more meetings, more instant messages, and more interruptions throughout the day. Read on to learn what your leadership team can do to support boundaries and avoid burnout. 

Be a Servant Leader

For your team, your mission should be to serve and support them, protect them, advocate for them, and grow them. Take care of your team so they can take care of business. The investment you make in your team (your greatest asset) will have a larger ROI than any other practice or product of your organization. 

Model the Boundaries You Want to See

Demonstrate the boundaries you wish to see in your team each day. What you do often speaks louder than what you say. It’s much harder to hold employees accountable when boundaries are broken if your culture is one of “do as I say, not as I do.” Proactively modeling the right behavior can curb all sorts of common boundary busters like social media use, gossip, absenteeism, or overworking. 

Schedule Communications

As leaders, we’re often required to be available all hours of the day. That’s part of the gig, but this isn’t always the case for the rest of your team. Hold your after-hours communications or use the scheduling feature for emails so you’re not bothering your team outside of business hours. When you send communications outside of business hours, you’re sending the message that you expect your team to work the same crazy hours that you work. Respect their time away so they can recharge. 

Have a No Meeting Zone (NMZ)

Try implementing an NMZ two afternoons a week. This is a meeting-free and interruption-free zone where the team can focus on getting real work done. Of course, you may have to make exceptions for client meetings, but avoid scheduling internal meetings during this time. This can be a great tool for your team that helps put structure around your day and workweek.

Like most things in life, good boundaries start with great communication. Check in and listen to what your team has to say. Make sure you’re creating a safe environment where team members feel comfortable expressing when they need help with boundaries. No matter what boundaries you set, anticipate exceptions and keep the door open to learn from them. 

Boundaries are meant to protect, but in a blurry, hard-working world, they’re difficult to set and stick to — especially for leaders. By leading by example, putting good practices in place, and encouraging honest, open feedback, you’re laying the foundation for the healthy boundaries that support a sustainable team.

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