There is one fundamental truth that has served me (and my clients) immensely. It is this:
Setting boundaries with clients teaches people how to treat you.
So, what does that mean?
It means that it’s up to you to allow or not allow certain treatment. It also means that you have to get clear about how you want to be treated. It means that you have to take responsibility for writing your own Owner’s Manual, and hold yourself accountable for living by it.
In other words?
Stop blaming your clients (or anyone!) for not knowing your rules! Especially if you never enforce them yourself!
Here are five steps for setting boundaries with your clients.
1 – Get Clear About What’s Not Working with your clients.
This is an easy place to start. Write down what’s NOT working with your clients or your team or even with YOU. You’ll probably have some obvious starting points. Here are a few examples:
– Clients calling at all hours of the night.
– Not adding on the extra hours for all the time I’m answering client emails.
– Flying coach when I travel.
– Wasting time listening to team or clients gossip or complain.
2 – Turn Each Item Into a Business Standard.
Go through each item and turn it around. Make it a new standard. Create a “company policy.”
When you first got started in your business, it may have been fine to answer a few calls after hours. Hey, no big deal. You only had one or two clients. And you were excited to have them!
The problem is that, as you grew, you forgot to go back and create some standards or boundaries with demanding clients. And you can no longer handle the chaos.
So, if you don’t want clients to call you at midnight, then what time do you stop taking calls? If you don’t want to fly coach, then can you make it a company standard that you always fly first class?
3 – Share with your clients.
Share your new standards with your clients or team. Make sure you do this from a centered, proactive place. Not when you’re in a highly charged situation.
One reason people stink at setting boundaries with clients is that they wait until they’re triggered. At that point, you’re not setting boundaries. You’re probably blaming them and making yourself the victim.
4 – Enforce your boundaries and business standards.
We are often the biggest problems in our own businesses.
It’s not our clients. It’s not our team. It’s us.
So, this means that you have to be the one to stick by your boundaries, policies, and standards. And this is where it gets tricky. It’s SO easy to let one thing slip and then end up back in your old habits again!
It’s helpful to post a list of your new policies or standards by your desk as a reminder!
Also, remember that you must include yourself in your equation. If you’ve told your clients that you don’t take business calls on weekends, then don’t make business calls on weekends.
5 – Be On the Lookout.
From now on, be on the lookout for symptoms of your own lack of boundaries.
And remember: Where there is stress, there is a lack of a standard.
Whenever something overwhelms you, or a client situation drains you or smacks you out of the blue, it’s not a bad thing. It’s simply a chance to ask, “Where is there a lack of a standard? How do I need to deal with this in my policies and procedures?”
In other words, you’re always going to be in discovery mode. This is exciting!
BONUS TIP: Get a Mentor
This article might not be popular among your clients or friends who would prefer that you aren’t so clear. That’s because we’re taught to “be nice” more than we are taught to “be big.”
So, you must find people who can model this behavior for you, who encourage you to succeed, and who offer a different perspective on happiness than just “be nice.” Surround yourself with people who hold you accountable to your intentions and goals. Get a coach. Be in a Mastermind. Get support as you Uplevel!
What d’ya think? Are you good at setting boundaries with clients? Got any great lessons to share? Share your thoughts below…