It happens at work and in life. You get drawn into a dispute, and after a few minutes you find yourself defending a position you never took. Or people come to you to mediate a situation that does not warrant your involvement. Or you find yourself doing things for someone out of duty, not honor.
I could write volumes on what motivates people to behave this way, but that’s not important. These are boundary issues. The bottom line is when others don’t have them, you must create them for yourself.
A boundary is simply an imaginary line between what you will and will not allow.
You can’t change someone else’s behavior. They are on their own journey. If you sense someone is a victim for attention or notice they’re triangulating others against you for personal reasons, there is nothing you can do about their behavior. The best thing you can do is to quickly create a position and stick to it.
Establish your home base
Your home base is your position no matter what curveball gets thrown your way. Don’t play their game. You will not win if you’re defending. You must be proactive to gain momentum. You must be the moving party.
If you want to take the organization in a new direction, don’t defend against how business is just fine now without the change, instead segue way back to your home base. Ask them what they will do when the industry shifts and your speed to market will take too long to catch up.
This takes planning. When conflict occurs in the moment you must think quickly. Pause, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “What is my home base? Why this? Why now?”
Trust your gut
When you can’t decide what is your home base that’s a signal something is out of alignment. Trust your gut. Your mind might be too analytical and your heart too emotional. Step back and allow for a broader view. Rely on your intuition. The decision may not even be yours to make. Who else should be involved?
Clear boundaries establish trust
Your team will respect you for your boundaries because they’ll know where they stand. Consistency is key.
They should know if they come to you complaining about another employee you will first ask, “Have you spoken with him about this? What do you think his perspective is?” If they complain about not having enough time to do something new you will say, “I trust your advice. What do you think we can stop doing to make time?”
If your daughter tells you that you are the only parent who won’t let their child go on a ski weekend without adult supervision, she should expect that you will say, “I’m comfortable with that. I’m the only one who is your parent.”
Know your home base and establish boundaries. It de-escalates drama and makes decision-making a lot easier.
Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE, president of MaryLeeGannon.com, an executive coaching firm that helps busy leaders thrive, earn and influence from the convenience of their office, an airport, or at their leisure. Mary Lee is an award-winning mindful executive strategist, ICF certified coach and author. She has 20-plus years as a CEO leading organizations worth up to $26 million within 60,000 employee organizations, as well as coaching executives on how to get off the treadmill to nowhere with mindful confidence, connection and calm to enjoy record performance and more time with the people who matter while it still matters.