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May 18, 2022 | Your Business, Your Relationships, Your Self

Are you a well-boundaried CEO?

Last December, I was out shopping on Newbury Street in Boston with my mom and my friend Kerilynn for a wedding dress.

I don’t believe any of us imagined I would find the dress that day as I hadn’t really begun the planning process at that point.

I’d only looked at dresses once on Pinterest…
I had no dream wedding journal, no childhood diary…
And I never imagined anything too big for my wedding…

But I was excited nonetheless.

Wedding dress shopping on Newbury Street is a very Boston thing to do, and knowing myself to be a decisive decision maker, I probably should have given myself more credit.

We found five or six dresses for me to try on that day.

I believe we empathic CEOs look for signs or gut responses when we make big decisions in our lives.

Whether it’s an intuitive knowing, a feeling, a felt sense, something.

Knowing myself, I would have imagined that that intuitive hit would have come when I walked out with my dress on and I looked at my mom and friend and ‘just knew.’

Perhaps I did to some degree, but do you know what the wedding stylist said to me during our fitting that made me 100% certain?

Something about the price, the supply chain issues, the uniqueness of the dress, the fit, etc.

No no, none of those things.

The single question that the stylist asked me that made all the difference…

When I walked out with the dress on, she asked my permission to share her personal opinion with me.

Now, perhaps you’re chuckling reading that. Or perhaps it doesn’t quite make sense, but stick with me for a moment.

In my experience, there is nothing I appreciate more than a well-boundaried CEO.

Or wedding dress stylist in this case.

So, what is a well-boundaried CEO?

Generally speaking, a well-boundaried CEO knows how to stay in her own lane and trust you are completely capable and competent to stay in your own lane. This allows for more authentic and direct communication.

In short, it allows for refreshingly transparent relationships.

A well-boundaried CEO is someone who….

doesn’t assume they know what’s best for you, who doesn’t assume they know what you think, and who doesn’t assume they know better than you.

honors both your time and their own, who does what they say they’ll do and acknowledges and owns a breakdown when there is one.

values their word and the agreements that they make and the contracts they sign.

In my experience, there’s more power and integrity partnering and collaborating with this caliber of human.

It’s a sign they’ve done their own personal work to be able to show up in this conscious and considerate way, in service of themselves and the individuals they partner with, collaborate with and are in relationship with.

I was chatting with a girlfriend just the night and I was sharing with her about our upcoming move back home to Boston. I was sharing with her about the endless list of to dos and decisions we need to make over this next month.

Out of the blue, she said, “Cat, here’s my unsolicited opinion about this…”

Even in that example, while she didn’t pause as the wedding stylist did to see if I wanted her opinion, the fact that she acknowledged it was hers gave me the full permission I needed to hear her openly and fully.

And thank god, she did! I received the clarity I needed to make (one of many) big decisions during this transition in my life.

I’m so grateful for surrounding myself with friends and colleagues who are committed to being in conscious relationships.

I’m so grateful for working with clients who are committed to doing this work for themselves.

As a recovering pleaser and an empathic woman, it makes all the difference for me, both in the depth of my relationships, the ownership of my voice and self-expression, and the fulfillment in my work.

Being well-boundaried is an indicator that you are committed to your own growth, it’s an indicator that you’re doing your work to be more self-aware and conscious, and at least for me, it’s an indicator that I can trust you and likely want to work with you!

There’s integrity and power in honoring your boundaries and the boundaries of other people.

There’s deeper relationships and more authenticity accessible in honoring your boundaries and the boundaries of other people.

I have more access to trust, both trusting yourself and others through being well-boundaried.

This is a topic that is really close to my heart.

Boundaries have paved the way for me in attracting ideal clients into my business.

It has deepened my relationships with so many friends and colleagues. And it has given me the self-permission to end relationships with those who didn’t share these values.

It has undoubtedly helped me to take control of my time management. I’ve gained back endless days in my calendar for me, my well-being, and my joy.

And it has helped me become more decisive with making decisions and trusting my intuition. I’ve deepened by ability to speak my truth candidly, directly and more vulnerably.

Here are a couple practices as well as a script to help you become more well-boundaried yourself.

Ask permission to share your personal opinion or feedback with others when it’s about them.

This is a big one and something I try to practice everywhere, all the time. With clients, if I have a reflection or insight, I ask them if I may share or if they’d like to hear it. I’ll also often let them know that I don’t have to be right about what I’m saying, practice being completely unattached to my opinions, and am happy to be disagreed with or whatehaveyou!

In my personal relationships, I practice being an active listener and seek to understand. This is one I personally work hard on! As a lifelong fixer (and highly trained coach), my default is to jump in and resolve or help. Practicing empathic listening and trusting that that’s enough and my partner or friend will let me know what they need from me is so refreshing and has paved the way for deepened relationships in all areas of my life.

Honor your agreements and own the impact when you don’t or can’t.

We make agreements with others all the time, everywhere. Whether we schedule a call using someone’s Acuity link, sign a contract with a service provider, tell our partner when we’ll be home, or even tell our nieces and nephews when we’re free to play with them or hang out.

Being a well-boundaried CEO and conscious human looks like actively working to honor those agreements, and in the process honoring ourselves and the individuals we make those agreements with.

I will be the first person to admit that if someone cancels a call with me that they scheduled last-minute and doesn’t own the breakdown or acknowledge the impact that their breakdown has on me, I quickly realize these are not my people. Mutual respect is one of my highest values in business, and sometimes respecting yourself first creates more space for others to respect you as well.

As I think about becoming a mom, I also imagine this will be important with parenting. Recognizing that when I honor my word and my agreements with the next generation, I model that way of being for the next generation in being more conscious and self-honoring.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a simple script that I find incredibly helpful in relationships and one my clients tend to gain a lot from as well.

Consider that in relationships, we make up a lot of assumptions about the other person. We presume we know what they’re thinking, believing, feeling, and then we operate on top of those assumptions.

It can be hurtful and it can also limit the authenticity in relationships. Practicing this script has been a transformative technique for myself and for my clients.

Next time, you’re feeling uncomfortable in a conversation, triggered, or your nervous system is activated and you jump to fix/solve/respond/help etc, try this:

“I notice I have an assumption that you ____ (could be something you think they’re feeling or needing). Is that true?”

Here’s one I practiced recently.

“I notice I have an assumption that I hurt your feelings. I’m wondering if you need an apology. Is that true?”

This is a simple and refreshing practice that is both vulnerable and deeply respectful to the people you care about.




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Catherine is a Master Certified Coach and bestselling author of Belonging: Overcome Your Inner Critic and Reclaim Your Joy.

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