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Defining Vital Boundaries

Geoff Flemming24 September 2013

Defining Vital Boundaries

A few weeks ago I was in a review meeting with an interstate organisation who was struggling with a recently exited manager. The manager had been employed only 6 months ago and had not worked out almost from day one. There had been many complaints and unrest from that department and their overall performance had slowly deteriorated. Repeated performance discussions did little to rectify the situation and eventually the manager was exited.

The end result is now a tribunal hearing for unfair dismissal – compounded by legal costs, stress and the inevitable distraction.

Over the last 12 months I have seen numerous situations very similar to this. This particular one should have been dealt with in week one of this manager’s employment, but for various reasons the situation was left unaddressed and just dragged on too long. Unfortunately these days in the tribunal system ‘natural justice’ is almost always in favour of the employee often at the expense of the employer, regardless of how thorough the exit process has been managed.

I believe more than ever these days the need for establishing clear and specific behavioural boundaries. With the lack of boundaries comes unrest, confusion over what is right and wrong, and inevitably distractions, lack of productivity and cost – always comes at a cost!

Common sense with good behaviour is unfortunately not common practice!

I recently read an E-Myth article entitled ‘Nobody cares about your company values’. What this article was essentially saying is that having values and behaviours on your website but not embodied within your organisation is an exercise in absolute futility! If you are going to have company values and behaviours then as a leader be prepared to enforce them! Good team members will always thrive in an environment where boundaries are crystal clear and contravening the boundaries [as well working within them] comes with clear and specific consequences.

The steps in establishing boundaries are simple:

1. You and your leadership team (that maybe just you!) decide upon your boundaries and be really clear on exactly what your boundaries mean.
2. Explain to every team member what these mean and moreso why they are important – and the benefits this will have upon harmony, performance and results.
3. Communicate these every day in meetings and display on the walls in meeting rooms.
4. If you have managers teach them with the skills to respectfully hold people accountable to working within boundaries. Also be really clear with your managers that when a situation arises it should be handled immediately
5. Embed these within your HR systems so that you can include them in your interview process as well as any discussions you have around performance management.

This is definitely not about control! It is all about good employees being very clear about what is right and wrong so they can operate and perform at their absolute best. It is about creating a disciplined and enjoyable working environment, conducive to high performance, productivity, as well as profitability.

Having clear and specific boundaries is like having insurance – It could well save you time, stress and most importantly significant expense!

By Geoff Flemming

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