leadership dot #2779: boundary

Setting boundaries comes with two challenges: first, you have to find the courage to speak up and articulate the parameters, and then you must come to grips with the frequent guilt that arises because you denied someone what they wanted.

People often allow themselves to be taken advantage of because of the difficulty in establishing limits that leave them feeling good. Never mind that the boundary was appropriate; it’s still far too easy to feel like you “let someone down” when you drew a line, so people often remain quiet.

I found myself in this situation recently: I said no to a request that I felt was unreasonable, then second-guessed myself, wondering if I should have just shut up and done it anyway. I felt bad for not doing something, and I would have also felt bad if I had given in and done it. Which is better?

I am working to reframe setting boundaries. Instead of seeing them as saying “no” to someone, I’m redefining it as saying “yes” to my needs. It feels good to say “yes”, and that habit can carry over to other disciplines where it is helpful to answer in the affirmative, such as with new experiences and taking appropriate risks.

Setting boundaries on small asks builds the muscle to create strength to say no when the situation truly warrants it. Say “yes” to what is reasonable for you, and opt for “let’s talk about that” when others draw the line too close for your comfort.

leadership dot #2762: precise

I understand the volatility of weather patterns and the difficulty in predicting specific outcomes. What I don’t understand are the inconsistencies within the same app forecasting for the same time period. For example, in the “daily forecast” the app showed a high of 50 degrees, but in the “hourly” predictions, 48 was the warmest it would get. I realize there is little difference in two degrees, but the lack of internal integrity calls the whole forecast into question for me.

Think about your organization and whether your employees act in the same manner as the weather app. Do your customers receive different answers depending upon who they ask? Do you provide updated information to your front line so that facts can remain current and accurate? Is there a process to monitor and evaluate the replies that are given?

Maybe the variances are minor but there should be certain responses that are consistent throughout. Strengthen your communication with internal alignment and practiced precision about the numbers that matter.

leadership dot #2753: onslaught

As I walked into the grocery store, I was bombarded with an overload of signs. Hot deals, price declines, low prices, and sales! It reminded me of the quote from Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

In a store that is not known for its bargain pricing, the onslaught of signs was neither believable nor appealing, rather it was akin a paragraph in which the author utilizes an exclamation point for every sentence.

Sale! and Wow! should both be used with scarcity, not abundance.

leadership dot #2752: not applicable

A restaurant promoted their new app with table-top signs, banners, and messages on their packaging. I frequent the establishment and went to sign up…only I was unable to do so. Come to find out, it was three days before the new app was available.

The next time I was there, I tried to sign up again but still could not, so I asked for help. This resulted in three managers taking my phone for the entire length of my meal and only then learning that the cards they had been handing out with the instructions were for the old app and did not work for this iteration. (I did get a free meal for the frustration!)

Don’t let your organization fall victim to such unnecessary sloppiness. Dial the phone numbers before you publish them. Test the links for any websites you promote. And if you go all out to promote a new app, please wait until it’s actually available and then download it yourself first. Not all your customers will have the persistence to try it over and over again.

leadership dot #2742: goodwill visit

At a meeting of the local city council, an economic development representative from the neighboring community was on the agenda. It was a goodwill visit – just providing updates and not asking for anything at this juncture – but it went a long way to prime the relationship so that it is solid when the time does come for a favor.

Here are some examples of how he did so:

  • Showered great appreciation to the mayor and city administrator for the time allocation on the agenda
  • Shared highlights of economic development success – and gave the council credit as “part of a team that worked together.”
  • Showed deference to all the city officials, referring to them by their formal titles
  • Promised that he would be “candid and unvarnished” in his report and answers to questions
  • Answered with “excellent question” to all of his queries
  • Ended with the statement: “If you are ever feeling down, call me to make you feel good. Seriously, you folks are great. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

He spoke for less than five minutes, but that time was well invested. The council knows who he is, knows that he knows who they are and that he sees them as partners in the economic development efforts. The next time he does need something – and surely, he will – he’s starting from a positive position instead of from scratch.

Think about the relationships that may benefit you down the road. The time is now to invest in them, rather than waiting until you need a favor. Make it a resolution to do a goodwill visit and purely show appreciation to one of your partners, with no immediate requests.

Photo by Christina Morillo


leadership dot #2740: biggest variable

An engineer submitted proposed costs to the city council for some trail enhancements. He then noted that the biggest variable was the price for tree removal, openly admitting that the actual cost could be significantly higher than the amount that was currently listed.

All estimates are a guess and the final figures often vary from what is first approved. I like the engineer’s method of calling out the “biggest variable” as a way to help council members understand the level of risk that they are undertaking and to help them gauge total cost projections by monitoring the tree removal line item.

Think about how you present your proposals that, by their very nature, include uncertainties. Can you increase your chances of approval by breaking down the variables that could fluctuate and calling out the places that are the highest risk? Your ability to distinguish that all factors are not equal will demonstrate your expertise and understanding and give the decision-makers more confidence to proceed.


leadership dot #2735: stop talking

We’ve all been there: at a meeting where one person speaks a disproportionate amount compared to the other members of the group. They ask for clarifications, add commentary on almost every item, pose questions and restate what others have said. It’s well-intentioned, but it effectively nullifies their voice.

Groups would be well served if regular meetings had participation-trackers like at the debates, providing real-time summaries of who has spoken the most minutes. Maybe this visual would help people moderate their comments so they only contribute when they have new and relevant insights to add or to ask questions that could not have been clarified in advance. If nothing else, it could prompt a discussion on norms and ground rules for the meeting.

When you speak too much, you are heard too little. Save your words for what really matters.