"Healthy boundaries are not walls. They are gates and fences that allow you to enjoy the beauty of your own garden." -Lydia H. Hall
As a recovering people pleaser and former president of the Nice-Girls Club, setting and holding clear personal boundaries isn’t a strength that comes naturally to me.
(Rather watch and listen? Click below to join me in a FaceBook Live!)
Boundaries definitely fall into the pile of stuff I continue to work on and have to give special awareness and attention to.
This past week, I participated in Terri Cole’s Boundary Bootcamp (if you know don’t her, her work is definitely worth checking out). She got me thinking about my personal boundaries, which were in need of a tune up, but also about business boundaries.
Just like we need to set boundaries in our personal lives, our businesses require healthy boundaries to survive and thrive.
I'm not talking about the step-outside-your-comfort-zone, stretch-your-goals kind of boundaries here.
So we’re all on the same page, boundaries are anything that mark a limit. A great distinction here with both personal and business boundaries is that these boundaries aren’t meant to keep people out! It’s not about other people, but instead about us and our responsibility to ourselves and our businesses.
Without clear boundaries in our business (and personal lives) we can begin to feel resentment, guilt, anger, frustration, unheard, taken advantage of, disrespected, walked all over, and burnt out...Not a list that adds up to business happiness and success.
But wanting our business to grow, thinking about getting and keeping clients, wanting to offer value, wanting to be liked, wanting to make a profit, as well as insecurities, limiting beliefs, fears, lack of clarity, and our personal histories can get in the way of setting and holding clear business boundaries.
Boundaries in our business affect everything from the customers and clients we work with to the prices we keep.
If you’ve ever found yourself making excuses for clients, allowing unwanted interruptions, over giving, being wishy-washy with your prices or offering, begrudgingly rescheduling or canceling appointments, answering messages on your "off" hours, or constantly overworking...it might be time to take a look at your business boundaries.
Conversely, if you’ve been single-handedly building a wall around you brick by brick to keep everyone O-U-T, it might also be time to take a look at those boundaries.
Just like personal boundaries, business boundaries teach other people how we expect to be treated and what we will and won’t allow.
Boundaries also let people know what to expect and can make them feel more confident, clear, and secure when they work with or buy from us.
Think about Apple, like them or hate them, we’re very clear on what we can expect in terms of product, pricing, policies, hours, and what they will and won’t help us with at the genius bar. This makes us feel better every time we hand over our credit card, and we seamlessly fall into the boundary lines with our expectations.
And wouldn’t you know it, like so many things, weak boundaries can stem from some outdated programming in our minds that serve as a form of protection but really cause us more harm than good.
Does your boundary software need a little updating?
"The first necessity in learning to draw boundaries at work is truly giving yourself permission to do so," says Terri Cole.
Setting clear business boundaries means getting clear on what your boundaries even are.
What do you want your business to look and feel like?
Think about your working hours, when and how you can be contacted, your work space, your pricing, what services and products you will and won’t deliver, what customers can expect from you…
The goal is to get clear on what works for you in your business and to communicate those boundaries clearly to others and hold them.
A word of caution: there can be a tendency to want to pull a 180 when we’re looking at our boundaries.
Boundaries aren’t about becoming cold, distant, or unconnected. They aren’t about being guarded and detached. In fact, that’s a poor boundary!
Remember, boundaries aren’t about keeping other people out, this is all about taking responsibility for your business and how you operate in it.
There's no wrong or right when it comes to your business boundaries, but there is a wrong or right for you and your business.
Don't want to answer business emails on the weekend? That's cool, and that's a business boundary. But it's up to you to communicate this effectively and stand by it.
Don't want to offer refunds for cancellations? That's your prerogative and another business boundary. Again, it's your responsibility to make this loud and clear for your clients.
Don't want to be interrupted by loved ones in the middle of your workday? Awesome boundary and you know what's coming, it's up to you to make it clear as uncomfortable as it might make you feel.
There are, of course, many, many more areas we can set and hold boundaries in our business.
How do you know when you're veering into unwanted boundary territory? Pay attention for these physical and emotional cues: a tightening in your chest, anger, guilt, or resentment.
Before any of us go pointing fingers at our customers, spouse, kids, or friends, pause and remember it’s up to us to communicate our needs and set boundaries.
No one can do this for us, and much to my disappointment and surprise, no one can read our minds.
Our weak boundaries aren’t anyone else’s fault. You’re also not “bad” for not having clear boundaries. Most of us didn’t get an entrepreneurial guidebook when we started our business with a how-to section on setting business boundaries (ditto for life)!
Setting business boundaries can be learned, and it all starts with giving ourselves permission, getting clarity, and communication. People can’t respect or honor a boundary they don’t know or understand. Then, you know, you gotta hold to them, even when it's uncomfortable.
I’m curious, where do you see yourself holding strong business boundaries? And where could your business boundaries use a little more love? I'd love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments below.
Wishing you your version of success and so much love!