Where Do You Draw the Line?

Street line

What are your boundaries? Have you ever taken the time to define them? And if so, does your team know what they are?

If you’re thinking, “I don’t need boundaries,” well maybe you don’t, but your team does! While the term “boundaries” might sound constraining, boundaries at work and in leadership actually give us more freedom! They give teammates the freedom to make decisions, and they give leaders the freedom to focus on the big picture, knowing that their teammates are trusted and empowered to handle things appropriately that fall within their realm of expertise. As that trust grows, so do your teammates’ boundaries. Boundaries are especially essential for new teams with new leaders who don’t know where the lines are drawn.

Here are some examples of boundaries all leaders should clearly communicate to the individuals they lead:

  • Decision-making: What decisions are okay for your teammates to make without you, and what decisions need your involvement?
  • Expenses: How can you establish a budget or check-in point so that your teammates don’t have to gain approval from you every time they make a necessary purchase?
  • Client/customer challenges: When are you okay with your teammates handling customer complaints, and at what point do you need to be brought into the loop?
  • Personnel issues or needs: What personnel issues need to be brought to you, and when should the teammate be trusted to handle it on their own? Do you want to be involved in every hiring decision, or do you trust your team to select the best candidate for the job?

When we don’t have clear boundaries, both sides become frustrated. Leaders either feel too out of the loop because their teammates are running without them, or they feel saddled with the burden of making every minute decision. Teammates, on the other hand, either overstep their decision-making abilities or they are too cautious and feel apprehensive about making even the smallest decisions without their leader’s approval.

If your teammates don’t know where you draw the line, talk to them individually (our boundaries should vary from individual to individual). Tell each one where you trust them to move forward, and when you want to be involved in the decision. Then – and this is very important – when they do come to you with questions, don’t just give them your answer. Explain your answer and your thought process behind it. The more your teammates know the “how” and the “why” behind your decisions, the better they’ll be able to make decisions like you, which over time allows you to expand their boundaries.

In what areas do you need more clearly defined boundaries from your leader or with your team?

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