After publishing my blog series about “over-functioning” in the workplace (you’ll find the links below), I wound up in many conversations with leaders who shared some version of the following: “OK, guilty as charged. I’m a chronic over-functioner. So, what’s the one thing I can do that will help me establish a healthier way of leading?”

For leaders who are chronically over-functioning, my answer is always the following – Know where to draw the line and know how to hold the line. In other words, master the art of establishing healthy boundaries.

This practice is not as easy as it sounds. According to Nedra Glover Tawwab, author of Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself, most of us struggle to set healthy boundaries because we:

  • Fear being seen as mean or rude.
  • Desire to be liked.
  • Obtain our self-worth by jumping over boundaries.
  • Have no clue on how to set healthy boundaries.
  • Feel powerless to assert a boundary.

Set Boundaries, Find Peace goes into great depth about the “how” of setting healthy boundaries, offering a treasure trove of practical insights, language, and tools. Some of my favorites include:

Make an honest assessment of the realms and relationships in your life within which clearer, healthier boundaries would be useful (e.g., family, work, friendships, technology, etc.).

Learn to set clear boundaries by asking yourself what you need, want, or expect. First ask yourself these questions and then adopt the language of; “I need”, “I want,” and “I expect” to convey boundaries to others.

Never apologize for setting a boundary. It gives the impression you believe you aren’t allowed to ask for what you need.

Remember you can’t change other people but you can change what you accept, how you react, and if you will participate.

When you learn to set boundaries and consistently assert those boundaries in different domains of your life, you begin to shift away from default habits (like accommodating and rescuing) to a more intentional form of leadership in which you can consistently draw on your strengths and sense of purpose. In addition, according to Tawwab, people with healthy boundaries sleep better, experience less burnout, have healthier relationships, and experience less stress.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to begin drawing and holding the line!

Links to my blog series Are You an Over-functioning Leader:
Are You an Over-functioning Leader? Part 1: Looking in the Mirror | Blue Wing Consulting
Are You an Over-functioning Leader? Part 2: Understanding Why | Blue Wing Consulting
Are You an Over-functioning Leader? Part 3: Changing How You Lead | Blue Wing Consulting

Image Credit: Gerardo Marrufo on Unsplash

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