Written by Kelly Fumiko Weiss & Laura Weiner-Kiser
In this blog post you will…
There are so many types of boundaries. Emotional boundaries. Physical boundaries. Figurative boundaries. Work boundaries. But there isn’t a lot of understanding about what exactly our own personal boundaries are, how they work, and how to change them.
This week, I’m delighted to bring into Conversations Laura Weiner-Kiser of Change by Challenge. Laura is a personal trainer, mindset & life coach, and an expert on how we can change our mindsets to lead healthier lives.
I think the most important boundaries in my life are the ones I set up to ensure the health of my family life. For example, what hours I work. What I bring home with me after work. What I can do to disconnect from work so the stress doesn’t bleed into my personal life. But I’ve found, there are also the hardest boundaries to keep, especially running my own company and even more so in this digital age where I have a super computer in my pocket at all times. What advice do you give to people to set up boundaries so their work doesn’t bleed into their life?
When giving people tips on boundaries, I get honest. I want them to understand what to expect and how they will experience it so that they can tell when they’re on the right path. So I share my story, boundaries were challenging for me. I was raised to believe taking care of myself or prioritizing my needs was considered selfish. It was really uncomfortable creating boundaries for that reason, but it was also one of the most important actions I took to honor the relationship I want to have with myself. When I was constantly bending for everyone else, it was almost always at a cost to me. NOW, I can help and give from a space of choice rather than obligation or low self worth. It’s a very empowering transition.
I try to help them understand settling boundaries with your family, friends or coworkers actually make their and your life easier. They know what to expect and that eases the mind. I encourage people to set boundaries by establishing what is ok and what isn’t ok with given circumstances. Then find clarity within themselves IF someone crosses the “not ok” line, what will they do about it? Often people are so uncomfortable setting boundaries because they don’t want to experience the emotional discomfort. So I have them start with boundaries within themselves. Start by honoring that relationship and see how it feels, it tends to be motivating.
We spend so much of our time at work. I’ve never met anyone who isn’t stressed out by their jobs. I often find myself so ramped up during the day. I personally get very stressed when I need to get something done but have to wait for someone else to do something very small before I can finish. I also get really stressed when I am expected to work later in the day or into the evening because I am an early bird and prefer to work in the mornings. What boundaries can we create for ourselves to reduce stress in the workplace?
Trying to set workplace boundaries is a very personal journey. However, there are some basics people can look to. The most obvious is the hours of work you are available. That may not be the exact same thing as your start and stop time. Maybe you are available until 4, but you like to close your day finishing emails until 5. You’d communicate that you’re only available until 4. Which brings me to the other KEY boundary so many people miss, communication. It starts with understanding within yourself the type of communication styles you will tolerate and the ones that cross your boundary. We can’t expect people to be mind readers, but when we don’t have clear boundaries around our communication it’s like a game of telephone with miscommunications piling on. Whatever the boundaries, a foundational rule for work boundaries I follow is the 80-20 rule. This is my cut off time 80% of the time. I don’t communicate that, but I am understanding that life is life. It will get messy and I will have to choose moments to cross my boundary. What matters in those scenarios is the choosing.
Understand when you first establish these, it will feel uncomfortable to uphold them. That does NOT mean you’re doing something wrong, it just means you don’t have experience of holding them yet. After a month or so your brain will catch up. That being said, I know some of you might be thinking, if I hold boundaries like this I might lose my job. Maybe, maybe not, but that’s something you’ll have to look at. We get 1 life, and our job is part of that life. Is it playing the role you want it to play? Or are valuing work/money over your own happiness?
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about what boundaries to put up. But what about boundaries to take down? For example, I recently discovered that I put up a lot of boundaries to protect myself from potentially getting burnt out, which often means saying no to things on weeknights or weekends for fear of being too tired to do my work. Which means, I miss out on life events and prioritize work instead. I’m working really hard to readjust my thinking around where my energy goes. What are the boundaries that you think people need to break in order to live less stressful lives?
That’s a very complex question because some boundaries people need to take down are the same ones others need to put up. I would say overall people need to understand the necessary boundaries required in their individual life to feel respected primarily by themselves. That will look different for everyone, but we’re all unique so it’s kind of supposed to. I would also suggest implementing boundaries based on the life you want to live and your value system. For example, I value health, so I wake up early before work to get my workout in. Do I WANT to do that every day, NO WAY! But it is how I want to live my life and it does contribute to me feeling respected by myself. As for boundaries to drop, one’s made that create disconnection out of fear. Fear is a useful emotion, but it’s amplified in our culture because we don’t face many physical threats. If you have a boundary to only talk to people who agree with you, that would breed disconnection and polarization. It’s hard because in today’s culture things have grown heavily polarized. Trying to separate us based on our preferences….who cares if I like ketchup on my hotdog and you prefer mustard… NOBODY. But when it comes to politics we get too heated and we end up creating boundaries that cause disconnection which ultimately amplifies our stress.To that degree looking at boundaries that influence your stress for the better or worse I would also suggest. At the end of the day we need to be able to do an honest self reflection week to week on how we lived our lives and consider how we can better support ourselves.
Thank you, Laura, for this incredible conversation!
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By Kelly Fumiko Weiss
In this blog post you will…
Any time I’m training Project Managers, I start by asking them what it means to be a good project manager. What are the duties and responsibilities? What does success look like?
Inevitably, the first answers are always administrative:
“Having all the paperwork in order, invoices, contracts, Gantt charts, etc.”
“Creating the project plan and keeping it updated.”
“Sending out weekly status reports. Scheduling meetings. Tracking milestones.”
While these are all tasks that a Project Manager has to do, none of them are what makes a person a good project manager. And they certainly don’t make someone a People First Project Manager.
Project Management is about communication. 90% of a Project Manager’s job is communication.
You could have the best project management in the world and never see a Gantt chart. You could have the worst project management in the world and have all your paperwork in order.
What makes the difference?
The key is making sure the PEOPLE on the project are taken care of and that they know what’s going on.
What does this look like?
Here are some of the key components to being a People First Project Manager:
To start the project off:
During the project:
To end the project:
I could go on and on here, but we hope the theme is clear. Every bullet point on these lists is about making sure:
There is no mention on this list of administrative work being the sign of quality project management. Sure, we need RAID logs and project plans and invoices need to be paid. But those are just artifacts. The COMMUNICATION around project artifacts is what’s key. What difference does a RAID log make if people don’t talk about the Risks, Actions, Issues, and Decisions that are critical to a project? What difference to project plans make if people are not working together to adjust them and agreeing to the project’s course? What difference does invoicing make if there isn’t agreement as to how the invoices are being sent, at what points, for what milestones, and what to expect?
90% of a Project Manager’s job is communication.
And being a People First Project Manager means using the tools of project management to facilitate conversations that will ensure everyone has what they need and knows what they are meant to do.
Project Managers are meant to serve. And the best way to serve is to put the people’s needs first.
To help, Allize offers a variety of Project Management capabilities that are effective in the short and long term. We can help train your project management teams on how to run effective projects OR we can help lead by example and serve as the project manager for initiatives starting or in flight.
Project management is at the heart and soul of what we do, and we want to share our skills with you!
Blog post follow-up…
By Kelly Fumiko Weiss
In this blog post you will…
It’s no secret that managers make or break a job. If you have a good manager, the company could be burning down around you and you’ll probably stay and ride it out. If you have a terrible manager, you could be in the best job in the world that meets all your goals and desires, and have to quit to save your sanity. Perhaps these statements are a little hyperbolic, but that’s what it feels like, right?
Over the course of the last 20 years, I’ve had every kind of manager under the sun. Good ones. Bad ones. Nearly invisible ones. People older than me. People younger than me. People who love managing people, and some who absolutely hate it.
What I’ve noticed though is that unlike most things in life - where the bad is what sticks with you more than anything else - what sticks out the most to me when I think about the managers I’ve had are the lessons I’ve learned from the good ones. The great ones. The Managers that I’ve loved. The ones that affirm your life and your job and make you want to be a better person. I rarely think about the bad Managers I’ve had. But I think about the good ones all the time.
Not all advice is equal. Maybe the advice I’m about to share won’t resonate with you the way it did with me. But I hope, regardless, it will give you faith that caring about people enough to share your wisdom with them can literally change their lives.
So, here are the top five nuggets that I’ve kept with me from various managers over the years. (It almost feels wrong to share these out; like these little nuggets that feel like they are just for me. But it also feels wrong to keep them.)
Top 5 lessons I’ve learned from Managers I’ve loved
#1 - The hardest part about management is delegating work to people when you know you could do the work better
We’ve all been there, right? You watch someone doing work and you think, “I could do that so much better.” Sometimes it’s true. Sometimes it’s just hubris and human nature. But when you are a manager, it happens all the time. That’s because it’s part of our job as managers to LET PEOPLE LEARN. Our teams have to try, and make mistakes, and try again. People don’t get better at what they do from being told exactly what to do, or having their work highly edited, or from you doing their jobs for them. People learn by doing. Our job is to advise, guide, and when needed train. Our job is not to rob them of the opportunity to figure it all out.
Still, let’s face it. It can still be painful. Things may take longer. Or have to go through more drafts. Or may not turn out the way you would have done it. But that’s okay. You just have to remember that’s part of your job as a manager. And your team will thank you for it.
#2 - You don’t have to point out the asshole in the room
This one needs a little context. When I was younger, and I saw people being treated poorly or differently, I would call it out in the moment. I would get defensive and all my instincts to be a protector and advocate would come bursting out. But I didn’t always choose my moments well. And sometimes I made things worse by letting my emotions show too much. I also didn’t have faith that people higher up than me were noticing. I didn’t have faith that something was being done about it.
That’s when I had to learn that talking to my manager 1:1 about what was going on was far better than calling it out in the room. Checking in on my coworkers 1:1 was more caring than exacerbating the situation. And I learned that HR matters are far more delicate than you might think.
As I’ve advanced in my career, I’ve also learned that from a management perspective, pointing out publicly or even in a small group setting, that someone is being a jerk is feeding into office gossip and contributing to a toxic work environment. We all need to vent to our coworkers. But it must be done in a safe space and should be less about the person who’s being a jerk, and more about finding support for how the jerk is making you feel.
#3 - Compiling your questions and going over them all at once is better than constantly pinging someone throughout the day
I had an amazing manager who I really trusted and wanted his opinion on everything. I also wanted to prove myself to him and show him that I was working hard. He took me aside one day and told me that the constant pings were really hard for him. It was distracting and counterproductive. He said it very kindly and constructively, and presented a solution for a collaborative doc where I could list things out and we could go over them together at a set time each week. If something was truly urgent, then I could book 15 minutes on his calendar.
I was so grateful to him for sharing what he needed, and letting me know how my actions were impacting him. And now it’s something I think about every day. We live in a world with collaborative tools that ping us ALL THE TIME. In the spirit of this advice, my workaround has been to have set times on each day to check all of my pings. So I don’t feel like I’m constantly being distracted as people reach out to me. And for people I manage, I have set 1:1s that they know they can rely on so they have time and space to talk to me.
This advice has continued to resonate with me on multiple levels - being vulnerable, advocating for yourself, presenting a problem WITH a solution, and giving feedback with care.
#4 - Emotions are contagious. And some people (like me) are more contagious than others
I never really thought about how my moods were affecting people around me, until my boss took me aside and let me know that when I’m in a good mood, everyone is in a good mood. And when I’m in a bad mood, everyone is in a bad mood. He said that energy matters. And he gave me a book on the topic of “energy leadership” for me to learn from.
I loved that he was helping me to be more self aware AND giving me resources to learn more about energy in the workplace.
Over the years, I have noticed that he is right. When you are in a group meeting, there are some people that you don’t notice as much. You can’t tell what kind of day they are having and you may even not pay too much attention to them in the room. Then there are others that fill up the whole space and, even if they aren’t talking, radiate how they are feeling.
Learning this about myself has been key to my growth in the workplace. I now take it on as a huge responsibility to manage how I present myself to my team. That doesn’t mean I fake who I am or what I’m feeling. If I’m having a bad day, I let people know upfront so they understand that my energy isn’t to do with them. But for the most part, I try to smile, lead with kindness, and try to have my personal energy help the situations I’m in, not hurt them. I will forever be grateful for this level of self-awareness.
#5 - The most important thing leaders can do is maintain a clear head
We often buy into the idea that we must work all hours of the day to be good at our jobs, to be good workers, to prove ourselves, to hustle, to succeed. But at the end of the day, leaders need to have their full faculties to make the best decisions. So, if I’m exhausted or overwhelmed, overworked or disjointed, I’m not going to be a good leader. This means that we must learn to step away. To take breaks. To take days off. To lead by example and understand our own headspace and put our best self forward. Therefore, the best thing I can do as a leader is make sure my head is clear. And if that means working fewer hours or stepping away when I need to, then so be it.
These are the best pieces of advice I have ever received. As you can see, they are very personal to me, but I hope some or all of them resonated with you.
Moreover, at Allize, we would love to help you train the next generation of managers. We have training programs that give managers practical and actionable advice on how to manage people 1:1 and in teams, all with a people-first, human-centered approach. Our management training can be done in a 1:1 setting, group setting, or enterprise wide. We can focus on first-time managers, or help existing managers shore up their best practices. The most important part is to make sure that your company knows that you value quality managers, and that you are doing your part to make sure that your managers have the training and tools they need to succeed in supporting your employees and creating a quality work environment.
Blog Post Follow-up
The Employee Experience: What Different Markets Have In Common and How We Can All Make the Employee Experience Better
By Kelly Fumiko Weiss
Over the course of my career I’ve had the privilege of working in multiple markets.
Throughout high school and college I worked exclusively at nonprofit organizations, ranging from helping children with special needs to social service agencies to immigration advocacy organizations. I am currently on the Board of a local food pantry.
After receiving my graduate degree in social service administration I worked in municipal government and later worked for many years in a large public sector school district.
Twice I have worked at religious organizations, including a Christian school in Hong Kong and an Archdiocese Pastoral Center.
And I’ve also worked in the private sector. Most recently at two different large IT consulting firms.
I’m not sure how many other people have crossed markets as much as I have, so I wanted to share some employee experience commonalities that I’ve seen. Spoiler alert: what these markets have in common FAR outweigh their differences.
I know the urge to think the grass is greener can be strong. If you are feeling the constraints of the nonprofit market and think maybe the private sector would be better - I can tell you, there is NO market that has figured out how to prioritize their employees well.
First, let’s talk about what drives these markets. These are oversimplifications, but they paint a broad picture and give us a starting point.
Public Sector Organizations
Notice something missing from all of these lists?
What’s missing is the employees. The people doing the work. Without fail, across markets, even at companies that really care about their employees, companies that are a true delight to work at, the employees will come second (or third, or last) to their larger drivers.
Let’s talk about some other similarities in the employee experience across these four markets:
I’m guessing that regardless of what market you are currently working in, most if not all of these bullet points resonate with you.
So, why is it that we don’t put our employees first?
Why is there cognitive dissonance around the idea that if employees are well taken care of, they will be able to better do the jobs they were hired to do?
When did we stop valuing expertise?
Why do we think we can get work for free?
Why isn’t a well taken care of workforce seen as the better business decision?
Let’s face it, we are all complicit in this because we all need our jobs. So none of us rock the boat too much. Being a disruptor can lead to being unemployed.
And if we are in leadership, we are beholden to the constraints of how much money we have and therefore how much money we can spend. These things are real.
It’s easy to say that the employee experience should be better when you’re in the vacuum of an aggrandizing blog post. It’s much harder to push back on the tide of poor employee experiences when you need to get your paycheck and your health insurance OR you are the one that needs to keep the company books balanced.
So, what are we to do?
How do we make employees feel seen and respected at work in the face of immovable institutional barriers?
Here are some suggestions that do not require institutional change, cost no money, AND if enough people do them, intrinsic change may follow. At Allize, we have about a million more of these suggestions, so look out for future blog posts where we will continue to talk about these and other topics.
Like I said, this list doesn’t solve the institutional problems. And there are a million more ideas we could share. But if you enacted even half of this list, what a difference it could make.
We’d like to hear from you on ways you’ve discovered to improve the employee experience at little or no cost. It doesn’t matter what market you are in. The problems are often the same. Please share your ideas in the comments below. We can’t wait to hear from you!