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16 JULY 2009
Pushing boundaries

by Paul Bridle: Leadership Methodologist, International Researcher, Author, Inspirational Professional Speaker, Consultant and Facilitator.

Have you ever noticed how children are constantly pushing boundaries and checking how far they can push things? It is a natural thing to do as they endeavour to discover what works and why. As we get older, we may disguise it a bit better, but the truth is, people will still test the boundaries. Maybe we see if we can take a shortcut in how we do things or we challenge what someone says. It may take various forms, but the truth is, it is human nature to want to push the boundaries at some level.

The same applies in business. There are procedures, processes and standards we apply to ensure that the business stays on course and continues to improve. However, human nature being what it is, people will start to take short cuts or ease off on the rules or requirements. People will also challenge the rules to see if they apply in various circumstances or if they still apply under different leadership etc.

The important point for leaders to understand is that it is human nature for people to act like this and not to get annoyed and upset by this behaviour. It is also the leaders role to remind people what the rules are and what they stand for. This is not in a confrontational manner, but rather to remind people what is expected and how they need to behave. People will generally respond to this well if done in an inclusive manner and not in a dictatorial manner. People want to know how they are doing and where they stand.

However, there is another aspect of this that we need to remember in our role as leaders. Having our rules and procedures challenged is a good thing. When they are challenged, it makes us think about them and gives us the opportunity to ask ourselves if these rules or procedures still apply?

Many rules, processes and procedures were very valid when they were first designed but circumstances have overtaken them and now they are not the most effective way of doing things. So as leaders we need to welcome the challenges that give us the opportunity to re-consider the value of what we are doing and either expose it as no longer the best way, or strengthen it.

The questions this month are aimed at two levels. The first group are:

  • Are you clear on the rules that you are firm on? These are ones we don’t compromise on. They are basis of integrity and ethics. We do not compromise on these rules because they are part of defining what we stand for and who we are.
  • How good are you at setting them and defining them.
  • How good are you at this and can you sustain it?

The second group of questions are:

  • How good are you at challenging, and allowing challenges, that are good for the business? In other words, what is the culture in your business and what is your mindset when challenges take place?
  • Do you embrace the challenges as something that can benefit the business or do you use answers like, “That is not the way we do things around here” and get defensive?
  • Do you allow and welcome the challenges that make sure what we have processes in our business that are good for us and will help us achieve higher levels of performance?

There is a time to defend and then a time to be open to challenges. I hope this has helped you consider how you are doing, especially at a time when business is under pressure and the market is so competitive.


Bridle Research and Development Limited
Paul Bridle is an Information Contextualizer and Leadership Methodologist. For over two decades he has researched effective organisations and the people that lead them. Visit our InfoCentre or website.

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