Early in my career, I had a boss that was pretty awful. Demanding, disorganised and personally vindictive. At the time, I felt like this meant I was a bad employee. In hindsight, I realise that he must have been incredibly unhappy to have treated people in the way he did. Second, I’m very aware that he had absolutely no idea how to manage or motivate a team. As a byproduct, he did’t produce the results that he could have with a different approach because people were too afraid to do anything.
When I became a manager a few years later I was absolutely determined to motivate my team to achieve and play an active role in their work, rather than me simply telling them what to do and then telling them whether it was good or bad. Over the years, I have found that setting boundaries is crucial to creating this type of managee/manager relationship.
In coaching there is a stage called contracting. During this stage, the coach and coachee mutually agree rules of engagement for their relationship. This clarifies what is and is not allowed and sets clear expectations for both parties.
I do a similar exercise with my team members and check in regularly. Some of the standard boundaries that might be set include:
-I expect that you set your own deadlines and communicate if they will change
-I expect that you will bring solutions to problems when asking for help
-I will regularly provide you with positive and constructive feedback
-No idea is off limits if you can show you have considered all stakeholders
-I will maintain your confidentiality. If there is a case where I am ethically bound to break confidentiality, I will speak to you in advance
These discussions are incredibly freeing because they remove a lot of barriers for people to take risks in their job because they know where they can and cannot go. A lot of people that have had difficult managers will constantly ask for permission, they won’t challenge themselves to think of new ideas in case they are ‘wrong’ and they will shy away from open conversations that are crucial for true empowerment.
When your team needs to come to you for everything little thing, it becomes a lot of work for you. It’s harder to see their potential. You are more susceptible to becoming a micro-manager. So setting boundaries with your team has a benefit for you beyond the satisfaction of being a useful manager. You have more headspace to focus on your tasks and goals because you have a highly functioning team.
Are there any boundaries you set with your team that made a real difference?