Where are your boundaries? Do you have any? Do you need some?!
In working with a number of executive coaching clients recently, the theme of “boundaries” keeps coming up.
While we have been working at home, many of us feel that our working life has taken over; that any sense of being able to switch out of work mode is more difficult now that we don’t always have a physical boundary to help with that psychological shift.
In our work roles, many of us are working longer hours, feeling that more is needed, just wanting to give more, do more in order to keep up or get ahead – sometimes resulting in overwhelm, taking on too much and risking burnout.
Some leaders I’m working with have struggled with the remote nature of leadership and feeling that there’s a barrier or difficulty in connecting. They are having to unlearn habits of being physically present with their team members can create some anxiety and wondering if they are getting on with the work.
Under all of this, is the sometimes murky territory of our own personal fears, anxieties and concerns about our own health and wellbeing, and for our loved ones – sometimes that’s somewhere we might prefer not to explore, so we turn our back on it.
One approach that clients have found useful is to explore your own boundaries – in roles, relationships, even in your working day.
One client was struggling with a difficult decision and one that would be unpopular but necessary and we discussed why this was difficult – Karen* said that in her role as senior director this was a necessary decision and some staff may need to be cut. However, Karen as a person, found this to be a challenge and created conflict for her between “Executive Karen” and “Human Karen”.
She found that creating some separation between the two and thinking of them almost like different hats would help her to acknowledge her personal feelings, and at the same time to do what was expected of her in her role.
Another client transitioning to a new role in a new organisation found that it really helped to create new rituals about boundaries of what they are prepared to do and what they are not, and establishing these early on – not that they are not fully committed to the new role, but that they want to start as they mean to go on, and not go out of their way to “prove” themselves, so that they can create new habits and avoid recreating patterns have fallen into in the past.
Perhaps we can create a sense of separation or “psychological distance” to help us maintain perspective.
Some questions to ask here:
- Where are the boundaries between me as a person and me in my role? What do I expect of myself in each? What do others really expect (not just what I think they expect?)
- How do I visualise these boundaries ?
- How integrated am I with my role? Is that working well for me? Do I need more separation or less?
- How do I manage the boundary between “work mode” and “non-work” ? Is it working effectively for me? Is this something I could do more consciously? In what ways
- What rituals or activities or statements could I adopt to help me move between my roles easily?
Ideally our personal values are closely aligned with the role we fulfil and the organisation or system(s) we operate within. But sometimes because we care and are committed, we can give too much and continue to do this selflessly – it helps to stand back sometimes and take stock of how fair the exchange is between ourselves and our roles and maintain a balance that will shift like sand over time, but ultimately is sustainable.
If this resonates for you, feel free to comment or get in touch if you’d like to work on it with me