Boundaries Make the Team and Make the Player

Leaders help make people more productive by setting boundaries for work. Call them expectations, guidance, or whatever other word you choose to use there; except limits – don’t ever use limits. It seems like semantics but it’s not. Limits are perceived as repressive while boundaries or expectations are seen as guiding. Words matter.

Boundaries with the Lone Wolf

A lone wolf on the prairie. Working with a Lone Wolf requires boundaries.Boundaries are especially useful when dealing with the lone wolf team member. Every leader will encounter a lone wolf at one time or another in your journey. You probably recognize the type. They are part of your team yet seem to do their best work when left alone. The lone wolf may likely get along with the other team members but doesn’t seem to do well at either delegating or sharing workload. They are not hostile to others but just prefer to do their part and get it done. The benefit of this is that they are usually hard workers and simply get the job done. As a leader it is inevitable you will encounter at least one lone wolf on your team.

My Lone Wolf Story

One that sticks out for me was someone I worked with on a volunteer team; in fact specifically it was Cub Scouts. Volunteer teams are always a challenge anyway. It’s like herding cats. You want to really test the mettle of a potential leader observe them with a group of volunteers.

Derby Crisis

A collection of Pinewood Derby cars ready to race.We had our annual Pinewood Derby coming up less than a month away. This is where the boys between the ages of 6 and 11 make their own little race car out of a small block of pinewood and hold races on a track made for that purpose. It’s a big deal for them and a lot of fun.

The derby chair got overwhelmed and quit. Cancelling the derby was out of the question. So we quickly put together a committee and I was asked to take the lead. We compiled our timeline and our list of things that had to be done. One of the members of this team was my lone wolf. I remembered from previous experiences that when this person was teamed with others to do something she typically did it herself in her own way. It got done quickly and effectively but it was primarily her doing it. For this project she agreed to take on securing the trophies and awards for the derby winners.

Using Boundaries for Results

I COULD have insisted that she work with a teammate to get the work done. After all, we have to think about backup. We have to worry about training someone to do it next year. There are many arguments about why I SHOULD have insisted she work with a team. The one argument against was that she would end up doing it herself anyway and frustrating any team members who wanted to do something. Truthfully, most of them were content to let her do the work – remember, volunteers.

What I did was simply set boundaries for her. I told Jenny (not her real name) what the expectations were as to the type and levels of awards we wanted. She was given a budget. Jenny was given a deadline. And then I set her loose.

You can probably already guess at the outcome. Jenny was done well before the deadline. She was on budget. The trophies and awards were perfect. And overall the derby was a success. Everyone had a great time!

Boundaries Make Sense

It seems counter-intuitive as a leader on the surface. Our job is to get people to work together towards a goal, right? Yet if you look at it, she WAS part of a team and she DID work towards a common goal. I felt that she could best do that in this circumstance by being given guidelines and allowed to do it her way.

Boundaries Make Freedom

The boundaries didn’t tie her down; just the opposite. The boundaries allowed her the freedom to work the way that she worked best. And yet at the same time, the boundaries ensured that the results were consistent with what we needed even if it wasn’t exactly the way I would have done it. If you are working with a lone wolf, sometimes the worst thing you can do is try to make them be something they are not. It is often best to leverage the way they work and how they work to meet the immediate need.

Boundaries work with not just the lone wolf but with everyone on the team. Author and coach Dr. Henry Cloud once wrote that

Every human being must have boundaries in order to have successful relationships or a successful performance in life.

So we set boundaries for teams, for individuals, and as leaders we especially set them for ourselves. It works for the lone wolf, it works for us too.

Unsure about where the boundaries are or how to set them? I can help. Contact me at psimkins(at) to schedule a FREE Discovery Strategy Session.

Success Requires People

It’s a fact: no one has achieved any real, lasting success on their own. They have always done it by working with other people.
John Maxwell (Teamwork Makes the Dream Work), Jim Collins (From Good to Great), Ken Blanchard (High Five! The Magic of Working Together) and many others emphasize again and again, both from research and anecdotal evidence,  that we are designed to achieve success with and through others.   None of us is as smart as all of us.
So if you really want success, you need to work with and through other people.
And that means we need to get along with them.

Respect is the Start to Good Relationships

 Respect is crucial to being able to get along with and work effectively with other people.
 Herbert Casson once wrote:
“In handling men, there are three feelings that a man must not possess-fear, dislike and contempt. If he is afraid of men he cannot handle them. Neither can he influence them in his favor if he dislikes or scorns them. He must neither cringe nor sneer. He must have both self-respect and respect for others.”
Respect for others means that we truly care for others, we believe in others.  We may not always agree with their politics or religion or even their choices, but we care for them and believe in them.   Respect means we accept them for what they are now, not as we would hope them to be; even more importantly when they don’t think like we do.
This is the foundation of great marriages, fabulous families, thriving and relevant churches, and productive and effective organizations.

Granting Respect

Many will tell you that respect is earned but it’s not.
[snaptweet]Respect is granted; it is a conscious choice of the respecter to the respected.[/snaptweet]
You can do all the good and positive things in your life you want and there will be some who simply WILL NOT RESPECT YOU.
Does that mean you didn’t earn it?
Not necessarily; they may have simply refused to grant it.
Some will grant respect until you prove unworthy of it, based either on your position or standing or simply because of who they are as opposed to who you are.  I tend to fall into this category.
Others require proof that you are worthy of respect and even power, position, or standing or status will not get you their respect until you can demonstrate your worthiness.  I have always found this position to be kind of self-serving.  I would rather have you prove me wrong for respecting you than spend a lot of time trying to meet an undeclared, usually unreachable, bar to earn my respect.
Self-respect then becomes critical because we can’t possibly respect others unless we respect ourselves.  If we don’t measure up, then no one else does either.  People who have low self-respect will never really respect others because they see no value in the relationship–because they see no value in themselves.  Many who demand you earn their respect fall into this category.

Respect yourself, grant respect to others and you are well on your way to working effectively with others and achieving your dreams.

Keys to apply today:

  1. DEVELOP YOUR SELF-RESPECT – Find the good in yourself.  Write a list of what’s good about yourself.
  2. BE A GOOD FINDER – It is easier to like and care for others when you focus on whats good about them.
  3. Pick one person you encounter daily.  Write down what you like about that person.  Even the most obnoxious have something.  If you can’t find anything, then the problem is you need to go back to number 1 because if you can’t find the good in yourself you can’t possibly find the good in others!  Call them, write them a note or an email or visit in person and tell them how you appreciate them for those things you like about them.