Set Boundaries for an Empowered Workforce

Setting boundaries to help empower people might sound like a contradiction. When managed correctly, though, well placed boundaries can ensure a strong culture of empowerment for your entire company.

I’ve often said that a river without banks is a large puddle. If you empower people by setting them loose without any direction, they can lose momentum and focus—or, even worse, they can make costly mistakes or put a project at risk. Like the banks of a river, properly set boundaries will channel energy in the right direction so that people can take on more responsibility as they grow and develop.

The key to setting boundaries is to ensure people know the areas where they can be autonomous and responsible rather than focusing on things they are not permitted to do. Boundaries are based on each person’s skill level and are meant to help the person understand how their goals align with the overall vision and goals of the organization. Helping people see how their work fits into the big picture allows them to become peak performers.

It is also important for managers to explain the decision making process in an empowered culture. Some people think being empowered means they get to make all the decisions. They could be disappointed when the manager continues to make strategic decisions and leaves only some operational decisions to them. And they might hesitate to make decisions at all when they realize they will be held accountable for the results—both good and bad.

Yes, empowerment means people have the freedom to act, but it also means they are accountable for results. The right balance is to have managers continue making strategic decisions and get team members involved in making more operational decisions as they become more comfortable with assuming the potential risks involved. As people gradually accept more responsibility for decisions and consequences, managers can pull back on their involvement.

It takes a little time in the beginning for managers to establish boundaries for team members, but this investment has a huge payoff. The worst thing a manager can do is to send people off on their own with no clear direction and then punish them when they make mistakes. Don’t fall into that trap. Establish clear boundaries that will empower people to make decisions, take initiative, act like owners, and stay on track to reach both personal and organizational goals.

Refiring Spiritually: Working for the Common Good

Japanese meditation or zen garden simplicity , calmness and balaIn our new book Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life, Dr. Morton Shaevitz and I talk about four keys. The first key, Refiring Emotionally, is about creating connection; the second key, Refiring Intellectually, refers to lifelong learning; and the third key, Refiring Physically, is about keeping active to improve your mental outlook.

The fourth key is Refiring Spiritually. When I begin to talk about this topic, people often assume it’s going to be about religion. But I’m actually referring to the universal sense of the word spiritual as the opposite of material things. Refiring Spiritually is about getting in touch with something important outside of yourself—looking outward instead of inward. I believe when people have an opportunity to focus outside themselves, they will work toward a higher purpose. After all, it’s hard to become stale, bored, or dissatisfied with your work or your life when you are doing something that serves the greater good.

As the Chief Spiritual Officer of our company, I leave a morning message every day to praise and inspire people. I want everyone in our company to hear when someone has accomplished a big goal or when someone needs a little help with achieving something personally or professionally. Leaders who provide opportunities for giving and spiritual growth help people understand that it’s not all about them.

For example, we have a self-organized team called Blanchard for Others that donates time and funds to help other charities in the community. In another program we call Blanchard Gives Back, every year we set aside a percentage of our profits and allow each of our people to designate a portion to go to a charity of their choice. We also encourage employees to take up to 40 paid hours a year to donate their time to charitable organizations. Do our people feel good about the difference they are making in the world? You bet they do.

In our book, Morton and I share a code of conduct that I think can help you find ways for your people to grow spiritually, too. Encourage your people to think about these statements from the perspective of their own working environment:

  • Be aware—See the big picture
  • Be forgiving—Give up being right
  • Be grateful—Count your blessings
  • Be accepting—Realize you’re not in total control
  • Be humble—Realize you’re not the center of the universe

It’s amazing what people can do when they work toward something bigger than themselves. Encouraging people to focus on the greater good works in our company—and I think it can work in yours as well.

RefireTo learn more about Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life, visit the book homepage where you can download a free chapter.

Refiring Physically: Keep Moving!

an athletic pair of legs on pavement during sunrise or sunset -Are you ready to learn about the next key from my new book, Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life, coauthored with Morton Shaevitz? As a reminder, the first key, Refiring Emotionally, is about creating a work environment where people can be engaged. The second key, Refiring Intellectually, suggests the need for lifelong learning. Now let’s consider the third key—Refiring Physically.

Numerous articles have been published about the positive link between physical exercise and improved mental outlook and job performance. Smart companies realize that employees who exercise are more productive and engaged. Many HR departments offer wellness programs such as exercise facilities in the building, discounts to a gym, or a hosted yoga class or walking club. And it never hurts to get creative—encourage people who sit at a desk all day to get up every thirty minutes to walk or stretch to get their blood pumping. Hold meetings where everyone stands up. Walk down the hall or to the next building to talk to someone instead of e-mailing them. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Exercise doesn’t have to be a carefully planned, timed activity—it can be anything that gets you up and moving, even for a few minutes.

Through the years as our company has grown, our headquarters has spread out little by little until we now occupy several small office buildings on our street. A few years ago we created a natural walking path that goes around the buildings. I’ve noticed that our “Blanchard Trail” gets quite a bit of use. Some people walk in exercise clothes so I know they are working out, but others wear work clothes and are just taking advantage of a nice way to get reenergized. Some have told me they even hold one-on-one meetings while walking on the path. A short walk in the fresh air can give anyone a new perspective and help them be more effective on the job. The health benefits are an added value.

It’s easy to help employees understand the link between a healthy body and a healthy mind. Share this code of conduct that Morton and I created as a handy reminder:

  • Be healthy—Honor and strengthen your body
  • Be an exerciser—Move your body
  • Be a smart eater—Eat less and enjoy more
  • Be energetic—Play hard and rest well
  • Stay flexible—Stretch every day
  • Learn balance—Practice standing on one foot, then the other

So get up and move! And spend time to keep your employees healthy. It’s an investment in the vitality of your entire organization.



To learn more about Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life, visit the book homepage where you can download a free chapter.

Don’t Get Stuck in a Rut. Refire at Work!

I’m so excited about tStuck In The Mudhe release of my latest book written with my friend Morton Shaevitz, Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life. When Morton and I started this book, we focused on the fact that people who embrace life with gusto enjoy better health, more happiness, and greater fulfillment.

Then we realized the same principles can be applied at work. When people see their workplace as a space to enhance relationships, stimulate their mind, revitalize physically, and grow spiritually, it brings passion to their work. Most senior leaders are aware of the statistics about disengaged employees in the workplace and how important it is to create opportunities for meaningful connection at work. I know many of you are reading this right now and saying to yourself, “Oh, great, one more thing I need to do at work to help my employees love their job.” Let me be clear that the full responsibility isn’t on you—but you can play a part by utilizing the four keys to refiring.

The first key is Refiring Emotionally. Everyone needs emotional nourishment. Our research shows that people who have friends at work are happier, more loyal, and more productive. As a leader you can help people make emotional connections by encouraging teamwork, offering workshops or retreats, and holding celebrations. Everything from acknowledging birthdays and work anniversaries to companywide parties can support emotional refiring. Creating an emotionally connected culture not only gives people a morale boost, it also increases innovation and collaboration.

Morton and I defined the code of conduct for refiring emotionally to remind you how simple it can be to make a difference.

Be playful—Laugh and kid

Be friendly—Smile and be happy

Be joyful—Embrace the moment

Be loving—Approach and welcome others

Be spontaneous—Get out of your comfort zone

Be enthusiastic—Give it your all

I’m not saying you have to turn your work environment into a playground, but adding a little humor, warmth, and caring interaction will enhance emotional health and improve relationships. Just try one or two of the items on the list and I’m sure you’ll start to see a positive difference in yourself—and in your engaged workforce.


What Great Leaders Know and Do: Results through People

I’m excited to sharePortrait Of Joyful Business Team the fourth element of the SERVE model from the first book I wrote with Mark Miller, The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do. But I can’t start without a quick review of the first three elements.

The S in the SERVE model stands for See the Future and points out the importance of having a compelling vision for the future. The first E in the model stands for Engage and Develop Others and focuses on hiring the right people for the right roles and investing in their development. The R stands for Reinvent Continuously and refers to personal reinvention, systems and processes reinvention, and structural reinvention.

The V in the SERVE model stands for Value Results and Relationships. For many years, leaders thought they had to choose between people and results, but in fact both elements are critical for long-term success. It’s not an either/or proposition—it’s a both/and approach. Leaders who focus only on results will lose their people—but leaders also can’t run a company as if it were a social club. People have to be held accountable for achieving goals. Successful leaders are able to create an environment where morale is high and people work diligently to achieve results. Leaders must set high expectations while maintaining respectful relationships that will inspire optimal performance.

Think about a time when you had a great leader. I’ll bet that leader challenged you to perform at a high level, but also provided support to help you reach your goals. Leaders who set clear goals with their people, listen to their needs, provide authentic feedback and coaching, and celebrate successes along the way will reap the benefits of working with a consistently high performing team.

The typical ups and downs of our economy require leaders to stay aware of business results, but smart leaders realize those results are achieved by people. I’ve always said that if you take care of your customers and create a motivating work environment for your people, profits and financial strength are the applause you’ll get for a job well done.

As you can see, great leaders must balance both critical elements—results and relationships. Measure your ability to do this by asking yourself these questions:

  • How much emphasis do I place on getting results?
  • How many of my people would say I make a significant investment in helping them succeed?
  • How have I expressed appreciation for a job well done in the past thirty days?

Answer honestly, and remember: mastering the art of leadership is a journey. There will always be room for improvement, so enjoy the trip.