Striking A Boundaries Balance

"Yes!" Spaces Part 2

This is the second in a series of articles about a concept I’ve taken from my parenting world into the world of leadership coaching: “Yes!” Spaces -- to create a culture of curiosity, innovation and collaboration.  

See the first article here.

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In the previous article, we looked at what a “Yes!” Space is for babies and toddlers and how they are so brilliantly used to foster and grow independence using a controlled environment. How, “within that well defined space, with limited options available, anything is possible.” 

Let’s drill deeper into what we mean by using boundaries to create room for growth and safe exploration as opposed to strictly defining what people should not be doing.

Setting boundaries well requires striking a balance. If defined too loosely, chaos reigns and leaders can lose control. If defined too tightly, innovation and creativity are stifled and teams lose engagement. Over time, communications breakdown, resentments build and mistrust breeds. 

“Yes!” Spaces for babies and toddlers only work when they are designed - and changed over time - with the specific abilities and temperaments of the child in mind. What might be safe or interesting to one 10-month old might not be so for another. Not surprisingly, the same is true for all the individuals you’re leading.

Boundaries defined too loosely in the case of a “Yes!” Space for a baby or toddler would be overwhelming or worse, dangerous. It might look like way too many choices in terms of toys and objects to interact with, or something to climb on with only a hard surface underneath. In this case, the child would likely either never settle into one thing to do and develop mastery with it or will try something new and get hurt.

Overly defined boundaries, on the other hand, could mean the space is physically too small to move around and explore, there is little or no variety in the objects to look at and toys to engage with, or worse that those items don’t grow in interest and perceived complexity as the child’s skills develop. With any of these scenarios, it’s likely the child would get bored, lose interest, and stop exploring new possibilities.

So what does this all mean in terms of professional leadership? When we are no longer talking about physical boundaries, how to we rightsize our Yes Spaces to create the optimum balance of continual learning and risk taking with safety and controls in place?

Boundaries defined too loosely at work run the leader the risk of two things - no one knowing what to focus on or how to develop mastery or the risk of a virtual exposed electrical outlet. Examples include lack of definition in roles and responsibilities, unclear direction when delegating tasks and lack of personal accountability.

  • Are you giving your teams a clear understanding of the big picture and how their roles and assignments align with the broader strategy?

  • Does everyone know what they are personally responsible for and how they’ll be held accountable?

  • Do you find out about problems after it’s too late to course correct?

 Conversely, overly defined boundaries might take the shape of micromanagement, needlessly complex processes, bureaucracy, and misalignment of work and values. The risks here are more in terms of disengagement, boredom, and lack of risk-taking and ingenuity.

  • Are you telling your teams what to do and how to do it or making them jump through hoops?

  • Are you resolving conflict for other people instead of coaching them to find a resolution?

  • Are you leading from a place of fear and repercussion? 

When leaders create Yes Spaces for their teams and are aware of maintaining the balance between constraint and expansiveness, people can be fully self-expressed within them and we get more of what we want on our teams, including:

  • Cross-functional collaboration

  • Innovation

  • Problem solving

  • Courageous communication

  • Personal accountability

What would be possible for your leadership, your people and your teams if you established clear, well-balanced boundaries?

Contact me today for a “Yes!” Space consultation. 

Next, we’ll look at “Yes!” Spaces as they relate to decision making.

The Case for "Yes!" Spaces

In this series of articles, I’ll describe for you something I’ve taken from my parenting world into the world of leadership coaching: “Yes!” Spaces.


When we had our first child, I started voraciously reading about all things childcare. It turns out there are a lot of different parenting styles with ardent followers. There are books and blogs and social media groups and endless sources of information on how to not screw up your children. Here’s the thing though. Every child is different. And every parent is different. So I chose from all the philosophies and mostly just learned to listen to and trust my intuition. One suggested technique we followed that made a ton of sense to me was creating a “Yes!” Space.

Babies and toddlers hear a lot of "No!" and "Don't touch that!" and "Be careful!" A Yes Space is a carefully crafted area that is safe for babies and small children where everything is a "Yes!" Yes to moving your body freely, yes to experimenting with how you want to hold and use your toys, yes to staring off in wonder without interruption. Yes to falling down on a soft surface and getting back up again. Children then make discoveries about how the world works, how their bodies work, what they can do and how they learn - all on their own. The parent is not (in that moment) actively participating. This is how they build confidence, innovation, resilience, and coping skills. 

In the case of a Yes Space for a baby/toddler, the boundaries are very clear, physical boundaries – a fence, a gate, a playpen. You’re either in or you’re out.

That’s the simple beauty of it. Within that well defined space, with limited options available, anything is possible.

As we get older and independently mobile, a physical Yes Space is clearly no longer practical. Parents have to ask, “How do I make the boundaries clear so my child can continue to thrive?” So that they continue to ask, “what’s possible here?” within the guardrails of a safe construct – which can look like strong values, trusting their gut/inner wisdom, foundational skills and experiences, and involved, interested family, friends and mentors. With age, the experimenting can come with increasingly higher stakes, so how to we ensure a soft landing?.   

Just as with parenting, there are endless books, blogs and theories on workplace leadership. And, just as with parenting, it’s ultimately up to you as the leader to pick from each what works best for you and your own authentic leadership style. I’d suggest this premise of a “Yes!” Space is an element that should carry through into professional leadership.

If you research boundaries, you’ll find a lot of information on “No!” -- having the courage to say no, how to say no with compassion, and how feeling resentment might be a sign that your boundaries are out of alignment. What if we reconsider boundaries as the creation of a Yes Space? How can we create an environment where everyone can be fully self-expressed, independent thinkers who are learning, discovering and building confidence through creativity and persistence -- within their own bounds?

People who are continually asking what’s possible?

 I craft every client session to be a Yes Space. If you had 30-minutes of clear, focused time to question “what’s possible?” what would you tackle? Sign up for a complimentary Power Call today and find out.

Aim High July

Energy Leadership™ Index Assessment: A Mirror That Reflects Your World


The Energy Leadership™ Index (ELI) is a one-of-a-kind assessment that enables people to hold up mirrors to their perceptions, attitudes, behaviors, and overall leadership capabilities - which determine their situation, performance and results. 

The realizations that you'll gain from the ELI assessment and debrief process will change the way you view your world - and therefore the results you are able to produce. 

ELI July Special

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Background: An Attitudinal Assessment
There are two main types of assessments: Personality and Attitudinal. Personality based assessments, such as Myers Briggs and DISC are very valuable tools that pinpoint certain personality types so that people can have more of an understanding about their strengths and weaknesses. By understanding your personality and how it relates to what you do, you can adapt your behavior to "work with what you have," to function effectively.

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Curious? Email me with Questions


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Empathy and Leadership

I recently reconnected with an old friend and colleague, who has been happy with his career but has reached the point where he is looking to level up. He knows he has leadership gaps to fill but isn't sure how to prioritize them or where to start. He asked me, "What would you say is the most important leadership attribute?" Without a moment of hesitation, I answered, "Empathy."