"........When Change is the Challenge."
Securing the Boundaries"
Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.
"The founder of my firm is driving me crazy again," complained Ellen, the managing partner in an expanding professional services firm. "One day he insists 'We have to run this place like a business!' and the next day he wants to minutely supervise small decisions. We are a business, we have a professional practice manager whom I supervise, and things are going very smoothly."
Ellen is one of six partners. She is senior to everyone except the two founding partners, and all the partners have agreed that she is best qualified for management. The firm is profitable and well respected, and one of Ellen's major responsibilities is hiring new professional staff members. Mel, one of the founders, prefers to concentrate on marketing activities - except when he decides that he needs to be in control of everything. Then he doesn't seem to understand that he is causing problems.
"You have been through this before with Mel," I reminded Ellen. "I know, but I hate having to have the same conversation with him over and over again. He is a very intelligent man and I feel like I am treating him like a child. Why does he remember for months at a time, and then drift into acting this way again?" Ellen sounded frustrated.
"Drift implies that he does a little bit of over-controlling behavior, and you don't do anything about it at first. Is that what happens?" I asked. "Yes. It seems so picky to complain every time he gets out of line. I just wait until I get really frustrated and then tell him again that he has to stop. He does understand that the firm has gotten too big for him to be involved in every decision. We usually set new guidelines, and he sticks to them for a while."
I asked Ellen what she thought she needed to do differently this time to break the pattern. She decided that during this conversation with Mel, she would add an agreement to start calling his inappropriate behavior to his attention as soon as she noticed it, instead of waiting until it got bad enough. They agreed that she would simply tell him "it's happening again" and that he would back off and not press for further control. The plan seems to be working.
Coaching tip: Boundary violations like this one will recur and increase unless they are stopped firmly (and politely) whenever they happen.
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Jonathan B. Weiss, Ph.D. and Laurie Weiss, Ph.D. have
helped thousands of people make significant changes in their
lives. Working together at Empowerment Systems for 29 of
their 40 years of marriage, they maintain a coaching,
consulting, and psychotherapy practice in Littleton,
· Colorado · 80120
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to create satisfying and fulfilling