We know people with boundary issues: close talkers at the office, leg spreaders on the train, and parents who ask questions at the most inappropriate times. But when it comes to starting and running a successful business, entrepreneurs need to have The Talk, both with both themselves and the people working for them, particularly if they’ve hired friends or family members.
In this situation, The Talk refers to at least one conversation (and maybe a few more for some people) where you get specific about what’s O.K. and what you expect. No more ducking into bathrooms to avoid certain conversations. No more ignoring a particular person via email. And perhaps most importantly, no more stressing over a situation that’s very manageable— if you have The Talk.
You can find your balance and your boundaries by focusing on three areas:
- Set Parameters. I’ve noticed something kind of interesting among a subset of entrepreneurs. They’re great at talking about their ideas and their businesses, but they struggle to say, “Enough,” particularly when they’re dealing with employees who keep messing up. Maybe a friend is working for a startup, but for whatever reason, the fit just isn’t working. I’ve seen more than a few instances where friends would have been fired if they weren’t friends. Know your limits and be really clear about how mistakes will be handled, regardless of your relationship with the other person.
- Set Standards. At a minimum, you need to establish a clear chain of command. If someone reports to another person that isn’t you, make sure you respect the position of that manager and stick with the team setup. People shouldn’t jump up the line either because they know you or have a personal issue with the person they report to. Support your executives and managers (and make your life easier), by holding people to the standards you set and others agree to.
- Set Benchmarks. Not all work comes with easy-to-define numbers that you can measure. But make it a point to define something that can be measured for every position in your organization to help you define success and hold people accountable. Settle on a benchmark that both you and the other person agree makes sense. Then, you have the foundation for any future conversations where you need to talk about performance.
Look, I understand that these conversations can feel uncomfortable and maybe even tricky. After all, you want to inspire people to believe in your company and the work you’re asking them to do. How can that happen if it feels like all you’re doing is telling people to follow the rules?
It can help if we look at at a bit of research. People actually appreciate boundaries “as a means of simplifying and ordering [their] environment.” Researchers found that “boundaries enable one to concentrate more on whatever domain is currently salient and less on other domains.” In other words, by setting clear boundaries at work, you aren’t hurt your team, but instead helping them stay focused and increasing the odds they (and you) will do an amazing job.
All of this leads me to ask, “What’s stopping you from setting boundaries?” Could your business go farther faster if you give yourself some breathing room and help your team better understand what’s expected?