The Coach's Corner

Where do you draw the line?

Establishing boundaries anywhere in life requires an effort to develop that which is important to you, express it clearly and then enforce those parameters. This actually happened in Washington this past week when President Biden announced he’d received new commitments by Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft and other companies leading AI technology development to meet a set of safeguards brokered by the White House.

Today’s news headline reflects what led up to setting these boundaries. The insight I’m appreciating is from a client who shared how difficult it was to draw the line as a leader. And that hits on today’s tool, the Eisenhower Matrix, to decide if an issue is urgent/important/needs to be delegated/needs to be deleted. There’s connection here.

HEADLINE – Where do you draw the line?

Last Friday, President Biden met with the leaders of seven US companies – with the goal of getting commitments that they will ensure their AI products are safe before they release them. They emerged from the meeting with voluntary assurances – calling for third-party oversight of how the next generation of AI systems work. While it wasn’t clear who’s going to be holding the companies or the technology accountable, the president insisted this is a great move on their parts.

“Social media has shown us the harm that powerful technology can do without the right safeguards in place. These commitments are a promising step, but we have a lot more work to do together.”

In a statement, the White House said that the four tech giants, along with ChatGPT-maker OpenAI and startups Anthropic and Inflections have committed to security testing to be carried out in part by independent experts that will guard against biosecurity and cybersecurity.

The White House push is a preemptive way to address the AI risks, before a more long-term effort to get Congress to pass laws regulating the technology.

Read the full story here on pbs.org

INSIGHT – Why it’s so hard to set boundaries

“In the past six months,” ‘Rita’ explained, “my team has been finding ways to avoid and ignore my direction as it relates to the timeliness of their reports, their monthly quotas and how they hold their meetings.” As senior director in a major telecommunications organization, she is responsible for the output of her team. For years Rita helped her team by using her results to favorably impact the members of the team. She realized she was allowing folks to call last-minute meetings, change things up on initiatives or cancel without any repercussion. And then she wound up holding the bag.

Now, with new responsibilities, she decided to have a re-set with her team. But first, she knew she had to have a re-set with herself. Instead of repeatedly responding to their urgent requests, she wanted to be strategic in her decisions.

I was losing sleep, working through the weekends, finding myself getting sick and getting increasingly frustrated. And then it hit me, I was doing this to myself. I had stopped standing up for myself, for the expectations we had all agreed upon and was feeling like it was my fault. The re-set had to begin with me.

Waiting until the beginning of the following week, the ‘stronger’ Rita called a meeting. She shared how excited she was for what the team was going to be working on in the next few months, and how there was a new way to track their work/benchmarks/deliverables. She owned where she had taken over too much, and now was releasing it to the individuals on her team to achieve and benefit from their work. In the past weeks, the team has had its ups and downs wondering if this new Rita would slip into her old behaviors. When that didn’t happen, the consistency she displayed empowered her team to improve their numbers and champion this new project, on their own.

TOOL – The Eisenhower Matrix

There’s a grid I see in my mind’s eye every time I’m faced with having to delegate a task or put out an urgent fire.

It looks like this, thanks to the brilliant work shared on todoist.com

The Eisenhower Matrix offers you space to consider what to do with an incoming request. When Rita acknowledged that she was doing the work in the ‘delegate it’ quadrant, she saw that the work was actually someone else’s priority. By changing up how she handled that situation, she found that the boundaries she implemented for herself to complete her tasks allowed others to do the same.


My takeaway?

“Boundaries sound so F-I-R-M,” some people tell me.

And I smile. Because of boundaries, sometimes firm/sometimes flexible, I am able to block out my calendar, make sure I connect with family and friends, complete tasks and eliminate needless meetings that can be handled with good note taking by someone else.

I appreciate how Joe Sanok, in the Harvard Business Review, describes the shift when you attempt to set boundaries:

After setting these boundaries, ask: “Did I feel more or less productive at work? Am I more or less refreshed in my role as a partner, a friend, or a parent?” You can always return to your old ways, but frequently, people discover the tasks or mindsets that no longer serve them.

Establishing such parameters appears to be at the heart of the pledge agreed to by the tech leaders and the White House – to focus on the safety risks of AI.

Where do you draw lines for yourself, at work and at home? I’d love to learn from you in the comments section.

Thanks for reading!

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