Setting Boundaries In Our Work and Families

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Our photo shows just one way we bring the message of Personal Accountability and the QBQ! to clients. A zoom training session like this is a timely option.

While chatting from my home office in Denver, Colorado with a fine team based in Virginia, I was asked this question:

“John, how do I use QBQ! to practice personal accountability while not going so far that I do people’s work for them?”

Surely, a terrific question and one that in one form or another, we’ve heard for a long time. People want to take more ownership but are not always certain when to …

… stop. ?

Here’s a quote from the QBQ! book on this subject:

For most of us, defining boundaries—where my accountability ends and another’s begins— is a lifelong process. I suggest asking the QBQ “How can I set good boundaries?” But account­able people are committed first and foremost to excelling in their own job and performing their own work the best they can.

With 7 kids and 11 1/2 grandchildren (#12 coming soon!), my wife, Karen, and I have been working hard to know when to “lean in” and when to stay out of various situations. It’s so easy when you care a lot — or in a family, love a lot — to want to take on other people’s problems. Whether they’re emotional, financial, or relational, it’s super easy to get involved where you shouldn’t.


Yes, we want to help people in these times; compassion, care, and concern are still important. Yet, as we say in the QBQ! book quote above, learning to set boundaries is truly a lifelong thing and these COVID-19 days will pass.

Now, along with asking the QBQ (accountable question) proposed above, there is another question Karen and I often use. It’s simple yet powerful

Is this mine to own?

This succinct question works because pausing our minds, hands, and feet before we run off to “save the day” gives us each the incredible opportunity to ponder the danger of going too far. I know if I don’t do this, I just might plunge ahead into waters where I don’t belong.

In the end, some people and personalities will always struggle to know when to step in and when to step back. Are you one of those — or have you mastered this ongoing life challenge? If you need to grow in this arena, is that growth needed more in the workplace or your home life?

Share your thoughts!

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6 Responses

  1. Thank you John for this message today. I am someone who has always struggled with boundaries. I found my self in a friendship which was more than overstepping boundaries in my life and as I tried to pull back, it eases totally pushed her to a place of telling me I was no longer filling her cup and I didn’t deserve her friendship. For someone who is a “people pleaser” this was crushing not to mention a 12 year friendship.
    So my question to you, is how to balance having boundaries while still being attentive and giving to others. How do you manage this?
    While I think the expectations of that friend and friendship were way over the top for anyone, I still am working to better understand what I could’ve done better to help the relationship for both of us. Because I realize the success or demise of any relationship takes 2!
    Thank you for you constant source of teaching accountability and optimism!

    Miranda Abouzia

    1. Miranda, thanks for sharing! Possibly the cornerstone of setting boundaries is 1. Do what you feel is right and then 2. Be good with what you did.

      Healthy people don’t believe they’re always right, but they also know life is messy and when they decide on an action to take, they work hard to not negatively self-talk and “beat themselves up” for what they have done.

      The QBQ! book can help in this arena where we teach The Ultimate QBQ: “How can I let go?”

  2. Dear John,
    This was an exceptionally well-timed message! I am definitely a work in progress. I love your question “is this mine to own?” which is now stuck on multi-coloured post-its around my desk!

    One of my strengths is Responsibility which plays out in a QBQ! “what can I do to take this forward?” way but I am aware that it is not always perceived that way. I am learning to let others “do their job” and allow them to learn and grow, i.e. “go slow to go fast” in the short term but allow others to learn and grow for the future.

    And, to Miranda, you sound like an awesome friend! I am still learning to be kinder to myself, to let some things go and “to choose people who choose me”, i.e. my tribe who let me be me.

    Thank you and good luck for grand-baby #12, Miller family!

  3. Hi John,
    I love this book. I used it with my managers and team members. I was in restaurant management for 15 years. At year 13, I became a multi-unit manager of 8 stores. We did a ‘get to know me’ the very first day. From that came their overall request, “Please let us manage our stores”.
    I found that each of them needed more assistance than they thought. I felt my job was to take away their obstacles. In the beginning, I took on obstacles that they could and should do. It transitioned me into doing more of their job. That took me longer to get out of then get into.
    I defined the obstacles that were mine and theirs, using “Is this mine?” I also found there was more push back and conflict. I had to get better at dealing with conflict and persuasion.
    Do you have some resources or suggestions for getting better at both of these?
    Thank you for your thoughts and insights!

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