bound·ary | \ ˈbau̇n-d(ə-)rē \
Definition of boundary
: something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent
I’ve quickly come to discover that the subject of boundaries is an area that has suffered vast mishandling. What’s even more alarming is the number of people who choose, day in and day out, to live their lives and run their businesses void of boundaries. After chuckling at the initial onslaught of hate mail as a result of Session 1, I realized that “Askholes” were merely surface issues. The reality is people are going to spend their days ‘peopling’. That’s a fact. However, the root cause of this uproar is a lack of boundaries. There’s an old adage that says, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future”. Well, I’d like to offer this: Show me your boundaries and I’ll show you what you do or do not value.
The presence of a boundary suggests that there is something of great value that needs to be protected. A harsh truth is many of us don’t take ourselves seriously enough to establish healthy boundaries. We don’t believe in our genius enough to protect it from fraudulent withdrawals. We don’t savor our wisdom enough to bottle it up for a diligent demographic. Newsflash: Your boundaries are your responsibility. While we may not be able to control the freedom of others to establish a boundary in their lives, we have the power to enforce a boundary in our own lives. It sucks to admit this but we don’t really take the necessary time to think through the far reaching effects of our boundaries until we are stressed out, close to burnout or a combination of both. Establishing and adhering to personal boundaries should be a foundational pillar for any small business owner who works with clients. It should be even more so essential for those who work from home.
I’d like to give you 3 tips to create a balance that helps you keep your business dealings in the professional realm, without having rigid policies that can turn clients off. You ready?
1. Set Your Own Ground Rules Now, your boundaries don’t have to be a strict 50-page diatribe. You’ll do well simply knowing how you want your business relationships to be structured, and then creating habits to enforce that vision. Think through the areas where you feel you need to create more structure. You have to be clear on how you want to communicate and interact with your clients and then begin to incorporate those behaviors into your business. Here’s an example: If you don’t want to feel like you’re on the draft clock to respond to messages over the weekend, or have clients expect instant response times, set a ground rule that you won’t have any client interaction over the weekend, even if you are working.
That means no calls, no emails, no texting. Over time, your clients will learn that you are only available Monday through Friday. The most common reason why many of us fail in instituting and maintaining boundaries is that we succumb to the guilt of implementing structure. Hear me very clearly. The only individuals who have a problem with your boundaries are people who benefited from you having none. If you want to receive the maximum return on your investments, your time and your expertise, you have to make a decision to blow the popsicle stand of guilt and establish healthy boundaries! In the words of Big Red from The Five Heartbeats, “My office hours are from 9 to 5!”
2. Always Be Consistent Implementing boundaries is all about creating procedures, and the best way to create a positive procedure is by doing it consistently. If you give in once, or let something slide, you’re going to have to work twice as hard to respect your own ground rules next time.Of course, there may be exceptions here or there, even when you have very clear and concise boundaries. For a loyal client, you may decide to be a tad lenient with your availability and turnaround time when the situation warrants it. When this happens, the key is to acknowledge to yourself and to your client that it is a one-time exception to avoid letting future expectations burn you out.
3. Communicate Your Ground Rules to Clients The sagacious entrepreneur understands how much effective communication is vital in various areas of their business. It’s also important when getting clients to respect your boundaries. While you don’t have to justify why you make the decisions that you make as it relates to your business, sometimes sharing a little background information can help massage the client’s understanding of your situation. Here’s an example. You take off every Thursday afternoon to go to your daughter's soccer games. You could just make a unilateral statement to all of your clients that you will be out of the office on Thursday afternoon, so they won’t expect a response to their messages. Or, you could share why you take off on Thursday afternoons to expand the personal report between you and your clients. Either way, it’s important to make sure your clients know in advance that you will be unavailable during that time. An effective boundary is a communicated one. Your highest potential includes being an effective communicator!
Over the couple of days, take some time and really think about the areas in your business that could use a fresh overhaul of systems and structure. You never know, the very thing that could be standing between you and your next level of productivity could be the boundaries that you’re afraid to establish. Take the risk. Do the work. Put some respect on your name and your business and get some boundaries!