“I didn’t realize I was really in control.” This was a comment I heard in a recent coaching conversation. I’ll call her Jacki. Jacki is a senior manager in a mid-size accounting firm, has a family of five kids and is very active in their respective sports. She felt like she had mastered the art of delegation years ago and has a great team to allocate her workload. Her firm supports work/life balance and offers a flexible schedule and work arrangement. When I started working with Jacki, she listed off all of the things that she had going for her – a great job, fulfilling career, loving family, and on and on. Yet, she continually felt like her life was spinning out of control. Over the past several months, we talked about her workload, her calendar, start-up and shut-down routines, what type of things she can and does delegate (both at work and at home), and how and when she takes time off. Yet that out of control feeling just kept creeping back in.
In our last session, we really dug into what the common denominator could be. Nearly 45 minutes into our conversation, she realized that in an effort to “be there for her staff” she was allowing them to call or message her any time of day or night. Due to employees located all over the U.S. in multiple time zones, that meant calls or messages were coming in sometimes as early as 3 a.m.! Her staff did not expect her to answer at all times of the day or night; she was simply making herself available for their convenience. She was trying to do the right thing for her staff, yet it had her feeling helplessly out of control. She decided that at her next team meeting, she’d let her team know that she would be silencing all work-related messages between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Jacki was a little anxious about defining this boundary after having been so openly available, but to her surprise, her team embraced it and congratulated her. She heard comments from them like “I was always surprised how quickly you responded” or “I send messages when it is convenient for me. I don’t expect you to respond until you are at work.” At our next call, she confessed, “I didn’t realize I was really in control. I don’t have to be available 24/7 and my team doesn’t expect it.” It was so freeing for her, and at the same time, it communicated to her staff the importance of boundaries.
We all fall victim to losing sight of our boundaries at times and need to redefine them. Where do you see that a boundary line has blurred in your life?