Personal Foundation: Extending Boundaries

by Kevin MacDonald
This article is the fourth part of a ten part series that is designed to guide you in building a foundation that will support you in your professional and personal goals. If you have been following the series you will know that we have already covered three issues. If we can stop losing energy to unresolved issues, if we can truly operate authentically when we have restored integrity and we have the confidence, personal power and attractiveness that comes with getting our needs met we have really begun to set the foundation for a strong career and life.

The next step is to establish or extend boundaries.

Boundaries are imaginary lines we establish around ourselves to protect us from the unhealthy or damaging behavior of others. I touched on this concept briefly in the discussion about needs. In any sizable population of people there will be a number of individuals whose behavior can be unhealthy or damaging. In my time as a Club Manager and my years as a Coach working with Clubs I found that Clubs are not an exception to this rule. If you manage a Club where there are no members or staff members who have displayed these kind of behaviors, please contact me. I would love to talk to you. The reality is that you will have to deal with them and some protection is needed or it is easy to become resentful, defensive and less effective.

A great metaphor for this concept is the fenced-in back yard of a personal residence. This boundary is, in most cases, a subtle message about how you expect people to behave. Some might have a sign on it that says “Keep Out” but most don’t. When I speak to people that do have a fence around their yard I ask them how often they have looked out and seen someone in their yard that didn’t belong there. The answer has always been “never”. I ask them what they would do if someone that didn’t belong was in the back yard. I hear answers like, “I would ask them what they are doing, ask them to leave or call the police”. The point is that when we set up a boundary there are fewer people who violate our space or our well-being. If the boundary is set and violated then a consequence follows. If the boundary isn’t set in the first place then people may not know what is acceptable.

I have worked with people in the club business who have set boundaries around the kind of language they are willing to tolerate, disrespectful behavior, criticism that is not constructive, raised voices, bullying, dishonesty, barging into an office or a conversation….you get the idea! Can you think of an issue that could be solved or improved if a boundary were to be set?

When healthy boundaries are set fear diminishes significantly. Trust is rarely an issue and most people will respect them. The frequency of dealing with unhealthy or damaging behavior will be lower.

When boundaries are not present or are weak we tend to attract needy, disrespectful people into our lives. We have to expend so much energy dealing with them. That is energy that is not going toward the appropriate goals. If you have ever felt that you are spending more time trying to keep your job than you are doing your job you may know what I am talking about.

I will give you a couple of examples of boundaries that I have set professionally and personally. When I was a club manager I had a few occasions where people thought they could get what they wanted by issuing an ultimatum. I am sure you know what I am talking about. If you don’t do what I want you to do I will do this to you. It happened a couple of times although never twice with the same person. I would tell them that out of principle I would never agree to an ultimatum. Even if I agreed with what the person was asking me to do I wouldn’t do it if it was presented that way. I was very clear and soon didn’t receive ultimatums.

A personal example occurred when I was starting my coaching practice. My wife and I had lost our jobs on the same day and during the first six months of my business money was often an issue. My wife was concerned about money and rightly so. Often the time when money would be discussed was when we were just about to go to sleep. My reaction would be that solution generating and action taking part of my brain would turn on and I would be awake for hours. I wouldn’t get the sleep I needed to operate the next day it would affect my ability to solve the problem. I set a boundary that although my wife and I needed to be able to talk about money that it couldn’t be at bed time. She respected that boundary and my energies could then be focused on solving the problem.

I think it is important to realize that the setting of the boundaries or the enforcement of the boundaries doesn’t have to be emotional. It can be very matter of fact. We have to realize that we can’t control the behavior of other people but we can control how we react to the behavior. “If you are going to use that kind of language or continue to gossip about other people I will have to leave.” If it continues then leave.

If you have an area where you think you need to set some boundaries but are not sure if you know how or are not sure you have the courage to set them, please take advantage of my coaching services that are provided as a benefit of your membership in CMAA.

Kevin MacDonald is the coach for CMAA. Sign up for a coaching session or sign up for the Club Managers Coaching Newsletter at
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