Leadership Blog Series: Positive Boundaries

Written by Sharri Margraves, HR Associate Director for Organization and Professional Development 

What are your “hard and fast” boundaries, and which are those that are easier to slip up on? Although maintaining healthy boundaries of all varieties is a critical component of a leader’s well-being and success, time is perhaps the most common boundary because of its fluidity, with demands changing daily.

While even the most effective leaders will have to make hard choices from time to time, the hallmarks of weak boundaries can be challenging to rein in. Reflecting on my career thus far, I can see that I made too many value trade-offs between my time, my family and my hobbies over the years.

I worked over two solid decades before I had a supervisor who expressly set positive boundaries around time. She was leaving for vacation and made a point of turning off her email and her phone during our staff meeting, saying she expected the same from all of us when we left the office.

Two powerful points were made with her simple actions: 

  1. The behavior of a supervisor sets the tone and culture. Leaders need to talk about boundaries as part of norms and culture. We need to recharge to be effective, and we need to help others do the same.
  2. Your staff can handle it. Develop your staff and your trust in them. They will make the best decisions they can with the information they have.

Leaders can enhance their authenticity by maintaining positive boundaries. An easy way to start? Do what you say you will do and don’t do what you say you will not do. One leader I know is clear about not doing anything “illegal, immoral, unsafe, or unethical, and I get to decide what that is.”

Additional ways you can establish and encourage positive boundaries for your team:

  • Model behaviors that demonstrate healthy boundaries.
  • Help employees identify and communicate boundaries.
  • Have conversations about boundaries; normalize discussions on the topic.
  • Reward and recognize employees who set and maintain boundaries.
  • Acknowledge when boundaries are overstepped.
  • Communicate to your team the importance of boundaries.

Find recommended live, online courses below to assist with establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries for you and others, and reach out to MSU HR’s Organization and Professional Development department at prodev@hr.msu.edu if you’d like additional guidance or resources.





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