Until recently, it hasn’t been cool for Australians to celebrate Halloween. I don’t know when the switch happened, but when I was growing up, if you’d knock on someone’s door on the 31st October asking for sweets, the best you could hope for was a stick of liquorice, a hotel kit toothbrush, or a tin of baked beans.

At some point since then, Halloween has become a thing.  And WOW, do my kids go MAD for it! They scare the wits out each other, eat as much sugar as they can swindle, and run around the neighbourhood trying (mostly succeeding) to shake me off their tails.

It’s not until the sore tummies, headaches, and sugar induced sleep terrors kick in that they realise boundaries are in place for a reason – to protect them from themselves and each other.

Boundaries create safety.
Boundaries define;
What is and isn’t benchmark.
What is and isn’t rewarded.
What is and isn’t safe.

In workplaces, boundaries that are well communicated, role modelled by leaders and reinforced within teams, create an environment of trust and respect in which every team member is empowered to perform their work to the fullest extent of their capabilities.

Boundaries are created and expressed in number of ways in organisations:

  • Mission & vision statements – create the boundary around what the business exists to do (and not do)
  • Strategic plans – create the boundary around what constitutes successful growth and change (and what doesn’t)
  • Job descriptions and Key Performance Indicators – create the boundary around where one role ends, and another begins.
  • Key Performance Indicators – create the boundary around what an acceptable standard of performance is (and isn’t)
  • Corporate Values – create the boundary around behaviours that foster a positive, productive workplace culture (and those that don’t)
  • Employee contracts, policies & procedures – create boundaries around what employees can expect from their employers (and what they can’t).

There is no freedom without boundaries – because without them we are flying blind, uncertain of our role, our function, where we fit in or where we add value. We need to know where our boundaries are in order to assume ownership and be empowered to act.

Not setting boundaries is about as successful as letting children behave as if every day is Halloween. It creates chaos.

So what do we do when someone has clearly crossed a boundary? Most of the time, good leaders recognise these as learning opportunities. They re-establish expectations (make the boundary clear), give them feedback on where they missed it, and use coaching help them learn, grow and improve from the experience (or LGI as we used to say at Swisse Wellness).

When people repeat preventable mistakes despite coaching and feedback, demonstrate dangerous, disrespectful, harmful, or sloppy behavior, they are putting themselves or others at risk. In these cases – punishments like suspension, removing benefits, bonus or career progression opportunities, or even firing is an appropriate response that reinforces safety and trust in teams.

With that in mind – I hope that tonight – my sweet, loving little men will know when to stop chewing their loot and save some for later. I trust they’ve LGI’d from last year, and if not, I’ll be here to helpfully remind them where their boundaries are. Either that or ban video games for a year. Ahhh the power of being a parent….mwa ha haaaaaa!

Happy Halloween Peeps!

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