How To Enforce Boundaries With Compassionate Accountability

Posted on May 31, 2023 by Nate Regier / 0 comments
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My friend Laura Cole works with leaders and teams around organizational culture development and change management. Laura’s most powerful tool is Watson, who has an uncanny ability to detect and reflect the kind of energy people are sending out.

Watson is an integral part of Laura’s leadership development programs. When I interviewed Laura about compassion in leadership on my podcast, she emphasized the importance of boundaries and how so many leaders struggle with this. This is Watson’s sweet spot.

Compromising Boundaries to Be Nice

Watson has a habit of nibbling shirts. Yet successful executives at the top of their game regularly allow him to bite holes in their shirts because they don’t enforce boundaries.

Watson is a horse. Why do successful executives allow a horse to bite holes in their shirts? Laura explained that most leaders make the excuse that they don’t want to be mean or don’t know how to stop it. Being unclear or inconsistent on boundaries isn’t kind or helpful. As Laura noted, it deprives others of a more healthy way to interact with us and form a meaningful relationship.

Lack of boundaries deprives others of a more healthy way to interact with us and form a meaningful relationship.

– Laura Cole

Boundaries are a foundation for strong relationships. Furthermore, when we don’t set and enforce boundaries, we can easily slip into forming negative opinions of others who seem to disrespect our wants and needs.

The solution isn’t to come down hard on people with threats, attacks or blaming, which comes from a misunderstanding of accountability that undermines human value, capability and responsibility – the three switches of The Compassion Mindset.

Learn more about the Three Switches.

Compassionate Accountability® is the process of setting boundaries AND strengthening relationships at the same time.

How to Enforce Boundaries with Compassionate Accountability

Enforcing boundaries, standards, and commitments isn’t easy, and you don’t have to be mean about it. But it does require clarity about your role as a leader and the courage to speak clearly and consistently. It also requires that leaders let go of trying to manage other people’s emotions and reactions. Here are some examples of healthy boundary setting without attacking, blaming, or threatening:

  • “These are the standards we have set, and it’s not negotiable that you meet them to be employed here.”
  • “We agreed I could attend my daughter’s volleyball game tonight, so I will not stay late and work on the project.”
  • “I won’t cover for you because it’s your responsibility to come up with your own ideas on this project.”
  • “You have been late three times this month, so I am initiating a corrective action plan.”
  • “Please include me next time on the meeting invite. It’s import- ant that I am involved in this decision.”

Leaders No Longer Get To Choose Between Compassion and Accountability

You might try and convince yourself that if you are just kind and supportive, others will somehow step up and take ownership of their behavior. They won’t, and this approach to leadership will not deliver the best and most consistent results.

Gone are the days where leaders could choose compassion over accountability, or the other way around. The Watson’s of the world want compassion AND accountability in full measure. If you don’t take responsibility for your boundaries, not to mention the standards of performance for you organization, you will have a closet full of shirts with holes in them. That’s because every day, in every interaction, you are training others how to treat you.

Boundaries are the distance between us where I can feel good about you and me.

– Brene Brown

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