Thursday, March 8, 2012

Building a Fence

Continuing our conversation about boundaries from Tuesday;


I thought I would write that one more time!

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of the importance of boundaries and how they are instrumental in the success of our businesses, now it's time to get to work.

Before we dive in with unbridled enthusiasm, here's the rub. I can promise you, guarantee even, no matter how clear, specific, brilliant, amazing, and just plain awesome your boundaries are, they are going to be tested. Like I said in Tuesday's post, it is our job to push up against boundaries to assess safety. I like to think of this as a good thing. No need to worry about failing, you will! The good news is that it is never to late to create and repair boundaries. Just because one was crossed, doesn't mean the next will be too. So if failure is inevitable, why bother, you might ask? Because clarity is going to help you in the moment when your boundaries are being tested. It is essential for us to have something in writing that we ourselves can reference and review so when a client or employee is wanting more than we can give, we can say to ourselves, here it is in my contract that I offer THIS and not THAT. Think of your contracts and guidelines as silent appropriate boundary cheerleaders keeping you on track . Definitely the geekiest cheerleaders around, but effective just the same!

I wish I could say there is a standard formula for implementing boundaries into your business strategies. The truth is, and I think this is a good thing, is that each of us has a different comfort level when it comes to boundaries. It is essential to think long and hard about where you draw the line. For example, some might be comfortable working with a more demanding client and charging by the hour, while others would like to avoid the challenge altogether. Know your comfort level and where you stand first.

If this seems daunting, a good way to start is to think about your most challenging client or employee.
  • What have they asked for that goes above and beyond what you are willing to give?
  • When did their requests cross the line for you?
  • How were their expectations different from yours?

Once you have given some thought to where you stand, it is time to review your business policies, contracts and work agreements. Look for areas that can be made more specific. I'm going to use availability as an example here. It is something we all struggle with, especially now, with having access to voicemail, email, text, and social media every minute of everyday. Just how available are you? For example, do your clients have the expectation that they will hear from you about their concerns immediately? Even at 2 am on a Saturday night? While it probably doesn't say that you are available to address their concerns 24/7 (and in the preservation of sanity, you should never be), this might very well be an expectation. In my private practice I had an area of my patient agreement and treatment contract that clearly spelled out my availability. This sounds unusual for a psychotherapist,as emergencies do arise often, but I use it an example to illustrate that even in situations that seems boundless, it is possible to build a fence. I let patients know that I checked my voicemail twice daily. At the beginning and end of of my business hours. Weekends were not business hours and voicemail was checked once on Saturday and once on Sunday. Patients can expect me to return messages within 3 hours during the business day and 24 hours otherwise. Now, of course this did not mean that patients never tested this. All the time! But having it in writing gave me something to reference with them, when they expected otherwise.

Now let's talk language for a minute. We spend so much time focusing on the branding of our business, and rightly so , it's essential, but when creating contracts, agreements and guidelines, leave the flowery, interesting and creative writing at the curb. Be clear, concise, and straightforward. Spell out what you will provide in the simplest language you can. This takes work, but it will make your job easier when you need to reference an agreement or contract with a client. Get feedback from a business consultant or colleague to make sure your have presented your services in the clearest possible way. Remember, creating boundaries is not about telling your clients what you won't do, that happens when you do not create clear boundaries, it's about letting your clients know what they can expect and extending them the courtesy of a boundary when they expect more.

What areas of your business need some clarity? What areas of your client agreement will you be working on first?

Let me know your thoughts and as always leave your comments below.



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