Boundaries Bouncer

For so many reasons, your team needs boundaries and you gots to be the one to set them.

Teams (as well as humans in general) need boundaries to function well. There are so many reasons why, here are just a few:

  • to keep the team focused on the tasks at hand
  • to give teams the breathing room to actually complete said tasks
  • to avoid too many/not relevant meetings
  • help solidify the purpose of the team and your work
  • that whole mental wellbeing thing, heard of it?

If you want an extensive list, I could go on, but you'll need to pay me. For extra $$$ I'll even rap it.

It's up to me, as the manager, to set those boundaries for my team. Although I have a good idea of what our boundaries should be, I always check in with the team to see if they agree or if they have more stipulations they want to add.

What is most important to me is that I take on the difficult or uncomfortable conversations to set those boundaries and that the team knows they can deflect any questions they get about our boundaries to me.

Here are some ways I set boundaries:

  • part of the process: I know, I LOVE process (done well) BUT I've found that if I add specifications in process docs to set boundaries it cuts down extra work or work that doesn't apply to my team. For example:
    • creating a GitHub Issue Template asking what their expectations are for the issue's solution
    • a guideline doc for requesting work from my team that shows the current roadmap and task list to manage expectations of delivery time
    • a doc that details the lifecycle of our projects to point to whenever someone asks us to do more than we do or do it faster than possible (these types of docs are great to avoid repeating yourself)
  • calendar blocks: I've seen a lot of teams block off sections of time or even specific days so team members can have focus time. This is a minimal lift change but can be hard to stick to, especially with mixed-timezone teams. Sometimes it's good to keep it flexible but don't make it publicly known that it's flexible ;)
  • being the DM to your teams DMs: Yes, I am saying to be a Dungeon Master for your team's direct messages. In my experience, this is the number one place people poo poo all over other people's boundaries. Here's a post all about that.
  • and I repeat: Set boundaries, post what they are in slack channel descriptions, Notion team pages, say them in meetings again and again, maybe even make it part of your team mantra (you have one of those, right?). It's ok to be slightly annoying to other people if it helps your team set healthy boundaries.

When creating boundaries you can be flexible in the sense that they can be adapted to your team and responsibilities. For instance, if a team's purpose is to be responsive they won't have a boundary set to stick to a static roadmap but they can set a boundary of only 2 "on fire" projects at once.

What shouldn't be flexible is the actual boundary you create. As I've learned with my toddlers as soon as they find a breach in the boundary they push even further and before you know it, it's lollipops for dinner. Supposedly, that's not healthy.

Good luck with your boundary setting.

"Now you can bounce with me, wit me, wit me, wit me." - Jay-Z

22 June 2022