Boundary Boss Review By Erin Randall and Tesse Akpeki
TesseTalks review on TesseReads “Boundary Boss“, written by Terri Cole – The Essential Guide to Talk True, Be Seen, and (Finally) Live Free, with special guest Erin Randall who is all about happy people doing great work. Boundaries really matter. In Boundary Boss, Cole models how people can connect with the appropriateness and benefits of putting boundaries in place and begin to apply this understanding to their individual situations. She gives you exercises and scripts to follow so that you can model it first. You can try it out, in your own sand pitted home before you go take this out for spin in the real world. She gives people the steps to practice, to gain confidence and the reader is able to take that forward. With practice, I can in my own words, learn it and put in place appropriate boundaries that serve me. The mantra is try, fail, forgive, repeat. Cole invites the reader to release the old reaction and choose a response that is in your highest good – the 3 Rs (Recognise, Release – Respond)
Boundary Boss is approachable. Never once did Cole shame or chastise anyone for being wherever they were with regards to boundaries. People recognise themselves and then consider “what do I want to do next with this?” Usefully they begin to repair or at least fix flawed foundations by connecting the dots of the past and moving forward. Helpful questions in a situation are:
“Who does this person remind me of? “
“Where have I felt like this before? “
“How is this behavioural dynamic familiar to me?”
Connecting the dots between current challenges and unresolved conflicts or injuries from the past can help you make more informed choices and decisions.
Generously, by drawing on the work of Brene Brown’s work, Adam Grant and others we are able to see the benefit of the 3Qs for clarity. How can we be clear with what is needed? Brene Brown stresses that clear is kind, unclear is unkind. Clarity about what is needed in that moment or where I’m going makes it so much easier for everyone else.
Consistency is queen. Effective communication is contingent upon you knowing how you feel and learning to be responsive, not reactive.
People who over give or always say yes usually do not have a healthy relationship with no. Anything automatic is a reaction, not a mindful choice. I witness that I said yes to everything. Where’s the destination to what I don’t want to arrive? Where are we at choice and how do we want to be with that choice?
00:00:00 Paula: Welcome to “TesseTalks” with your host, Tesse Akpeki, and co host me, Paula Okonneh, where we share with you top leadership and management strategies. This is a journey of discovery. We are learning and continue to learn that leadership is a personal and professional journey. And so we hope you will walk with us in this adventure. In this episode, “TesseTalks”, Meet “TesseReads”, which is a book club that Tesse hosts. Our theme for today’s conversation is “Boundary Boss”, written by Terri Cole. The strap line for this book is the essential guide to talk true, be seen, and finally, live free. We’ll be doing this episode with Erin Randall. Erin Randall is a veteran organizational, agile and co active coach, serving organizations through sustainable agile change, leadership alignment and supporting high performing teams. For over 10 years, she has partnered with organizations, leaders, executive teams and boards, and other coaches from around the world, including companies such as Roche, Texas A& M University, IBM, Charles Schwab, and many more. She’s all about happy people doing great work. Welcome to “TesseTalks” meets “TesseReads” Erin, glad to have you here.
00:01:33 Erin: Oh well, thank you. I’m very glad to be back. And I love that there’s a new “TesseReads” component.
00:01:39 Tesse: Thank you so much. I love reading and this gives me joy. And, you know, Erin, thank you so much for coming to talk to play with us in the sandpit.
00:01:48 Erin: Yeah.
00:01:48 Tesse: As you look at “Boundary Boss”, as we review Boundary Boss together. I saw this book and I read it and I thought, wow, what a better thing to actually talk about and bring to life. So I’m welcoming your first thought about “Terry Cole’s Boundary Boss, Top of Mind”.
00:02:06 Erin: “Top of mind” was my favorite aspect of this was that she gave people modeling throughout the book, to be able to pick up what she was talking about and begin to apply it. And she didn’t do this in a way where she just kind of dropped it on everyone and just said, okay, go do that. No it was kind of this gentle feed in. But the last part of the book, the very last part is she gives you exercises and like scripts to go follow so that you can model it first. You can try it out in your own sandpitted home before you go take this out for spin in the real world. And that, to be honest, to my thinking, is the key to so many things, to give people the steps to practice, to gain confidence and then to be able to take that forward. So that was my favorite part. The second part that I really liked about this was that it was approachable. And never once did she shame or chastise anyone for being wherever they were with regards to boundaries. Just kind of, you know, the old saying we use with teams, you know, you start where you are and go from there. You know, letting people recognize themselves and then like, okay, what do I want to do next with this? So that’s my thoughts, and now I want to know what you guys, you all thought too.
00:03:19 Tesse: Paula, you go, you can speak.
00:03:22 Paula: So, I’m just wondering what kind of boundaries stood out for you in this book?
00:03:26 Erin: I’m going to answer that a little, not type of boundary, but I really liked that she reflected back, you would go back, you know, dig things out from Wago, and understand where that boundary or lack thereof was in your childhood, so you could go back and begin to repair or at least fix those foundations, so that then you could move forward with it without it cropping back up at some later time in the life. Does that make sense?
00:03:50 Tesse: Yes, it does.
00:03:54 Erin: And that was to me was invaluable, because to be able to stand here, be able to look back and go, oh now I see where that came from and why it comes out and how it’s showing up in me now. What do I need to do now in order to move forward with, you know, a healthy relationship with that person or those boundaries and the like?
00:04:12 Tesse: You know Erin, I’m laughing because as I read this book, I thought probably I would have had a husband and been married if I had this book. Because the kind of characters in the book with the bad relationships, the toxic relationships, that was me. You know it’s like, yeah.
00:04:29 Erin: Yeah. What was it like seeing yourself right there?
00:04:32 Tesse: Because she had a sense of humor, I actually was able to laugh at myself. So when I think about practices, because one of the things that came to my mind, and it was what practices, what useful practices you advocated which were resonating, and the practice of going into my basement.
00:04:51 Erin: Yeah, the “Zen Den”, as she calls it.
00:04:53 Tesse: Absolutely, or the “Zen Den”. That to me was a practice, and how to do it. So she actually has questions about how to go into the basement. So you’re going to the basement with compassion.
00:05:05 Erin: Yeah.
00:05:05 Tesse: And when I went into the basement, I actually found bits of me that I could laugh at.
00:05:11 Erin: Or laugh with.
00:05:12 Tesse: And that my 21 or 22 year old.
00:05:14 Erin: Laugh with.
00:05:15 Paula: Yeah.
00:05:15 Tesse: Absolutely. Absolutely. My 22, 23 year old self, I could talk to that and with compassion and say, okay at my age now in my basement, let me see how I can be in the basement and actually lift into another space of me, another version of me. So I found that practice extremely helpful.
00:05:35 Erin: You know that Zen Den, that reflective aspect, you know we all need that space where it’s safe for us. But you go and you stand in those different perspectives of what do I need to learn from this? I think that was a question, Paula, you had brought forward, you know earlier when, you know what do I need to learn from this? What do I need to take forward? There was also, I saw myself in many aspects of this book though, too, where the over giver, you know from where am I giving this? And making myself sit down with that. Because, you know much of my work is oriented around being of service, being of need or being useful to a person, or to a system, or to a practice. But I also need to pay really close attention of from where am I offering this? why am I doing that? And to be like, why are you? And that’s, yeah, those of you, you know who only hear this, you’re not seeing me blush a little bit at the moment, but.
00:06:32 Tesse: Wow. You know, it’s really interesting when you say from where am I operating? So the source, what the source is. But for me, and this really surprised me about me, I made a note in my journal saying, Tesse you didn’t know this about yourself. So the heading was get to know yourself, because I didn’t realize how much clarity meant to me until I read this book. And I didn’t realize how stressed out I get when I’m not clear, when I don’t know what is expected of me, when I don’t know what my role is, when I don’t know how to put one step in front of the other and how far I can go, when I don’t know how I’ve overstepped somebody else’s boundary.
00:07:11 Erin: Yeah.
00:07:12 Tesse: And rather than finding out and being clear, what I do is I over please and I overreach and it makes things worse. So for me, the three C’s that she advocates in the book stood out about what brings about clarity and very, very simple practices to be clear. You know I didn’t realize until I read it.
00:07:31 Erin: So there’s that Brene Brown quote, and I love that Brene or that, Terri looks at Brene Brown’s work and also Adam Grant’s work as well as several others. You hear a reference that throughout. But Brene has that, you know, clear is kind, unclear is unkind, and I’ve taken that with countless systems at that point. But it also, it’s helped me be a better practitioner, a better person. You know Cole was talking about that too, that clarity aspect. So when I’m clear, not with only with myself, but what is needed in that moment or where I’m going with this makes it so much easier for everyone else too. And when people, most people want to do what is needed in any situation. All right, if we are clear about what we need and why, okay, well, yeah, I can meet that or I can’t meet that. But we’ve lost, I think, sometimes our ability to be clear just because we get caught up in the moment or there’s so much noise in a system, it’s almost cacophony that how do we be clear with what is needed. And like you said, boil it down to those three Qs for clarity and like that really helps people to give that formula so that they can be clear and to practice that on a consistent basis. Yeah. I think she says consistency is queen.
00:08:43 Tesse: Absolutely
00:08:43 Erin: And I love that she made it feminine, not masculine.
00:08:46 Tesse: Yes. I love it’s queen. And for me, that the bit I think that sometimes why we’re not clear is because of time pressure. I’m being rushed. You know, I had a client and I’m working on Saturday. I don’t usually work on Saturday. I had an in person thing on Saturday, and the people were, first, they didn’t get to me in time in terms of what they needed. And then when they got to me and they want to do everything by email, and they wanted me to show up on Saturday for a facilitated session which they pegged, I do in person for one hour. And we’re talking about how to build trust. But guess what? I’d read this book, and I got back to them and kept pushing. I pushed, and my pushing was a request asking for what I needed. And I wasn’t giving up. And then I asked for a meeting, which they didn’t really want to give me a Zoom meeting or a teams meeting or anything because there was no time and I insisted on it. And what I did, which was different from what I would have done before with the client was I was nice, I was polite and I was firm. And I got that meeting. I got the meeting. And luckily for me, the person and I, we hadn’t met before ever even on Zoom, we gelled and it was so beautiful. And the meeting was, and I was very precise. I said, we need at least 45 minutes and this is what we’re going to be doing. And I sent a load of questions ahead and we had a 45 minute meeting, and to cut a long story short, I asked for more time and I got 90 minutes rather than an hour. But I said, if we got an hour, this would be the version. This is what I can do. Can’t do that. So reading this book gave me more confidence to be firm and clear about what my needs were to do a good job for them. And then it gave me language, so I actually said, I want to do a good job for you, and I would love you to help me do that. I got that language from the book. So we got the 90 minutes and I went and I did it. And they were like, this is fabulous. Now, why I’m giving you that is that I would have done a good job in the past, I’m sure, but I think I did a better job because I read about boundaries.
00:10:57 Erin: You’re clear. And it sounds like you were advocating not only for yourself, but what you wanted to deliver.
00:11:03 Tesse: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. Paula, is there any question that comes to your mind? And that lovely word advocate has come up from, you know, from Erin.
00:11:13 Paula: I work a lot with young people and I, like a lot of these principles now, principles that, my sister says don’t say older generation. So we more mature the generation can share with the millennials, you know, knowing that boundaries really matter. It’s not done because of, you know, we want to prevent them from discovering themselves, but more because it gives them a better idea on how the world works. And as you mentioned, the three Cs. Clarity is very, very important. In order to even move ahead in the world, you need to know where you’re even going right? So.
00:11:50 Erin: You have a direction, your odds of getting there are much better.
00:11:52 Paula: Much better. Much better. And so, you know, I point out to a lot of them that, you know, these days, I mean, I try and make it as visual as possible. So you see like we have a GPS, think about getting to a place if you don’t have a GPS as opposed to when you do have the GPS. At least you’ll know before you set off on your journey with the GPS, where you’re going to go to whatever hazards are ahead of you depending on, you know the software, as opposed to, you know, you’re just told to get there. So, yeah.
00:12:20 Erin: So I wrote this, I underlined this, this is on page 69, “but effective communication is contingent upon you knowing how you feel and learning to be responsive, not reactive”. So Tesse, that example you just gave of this, you know, Saturday facilitation and the like, you weren’t reactive you were responsive. I’m also going to lean into that word advocated again a bit there, but you were really clear about what you wanted and why, and that, that made all of the difference.
00:12:50 Tesse: Thank you for that, because what would have happened before that some shame would have got in? you know, I would have been saying, oh Tesse, you are being too, you know, prima donna and whatever. And I would have had that like voice saying, you know, I probably would have done the same thing, but I would have had a heaviness about it, because I’m not coming to it with the emotion that was positive. I’ll be coming to it with a negative connotation, a negative emotion, not emotion because emotions are not negative, but I’d been coming with it with shame rather than actually, let’s make a safe place for everyone to have a productive time together.
00:13:26 Erin: You know, the other time I felt really seen by the author here was when she was talking about, you know, people who overgive or always say yes. I was like, oh, that would be me. You know, earlier we were talking about how things all link together, or you kind of intertwine and interweave. And I was about a year and a half ago, I was doing the Strozzi embodied leadership work, that deep somatic work, and it was really surprising to me to learn that my default response to requests was to say yes. And it’s like, what me? No, that’s not me. I mean, I have a healthy relationship with no. But then we did this exercise, I was like, oh look, there it is. And I was reading this I’m like, overgiving, you know. Overgiving is the evil stepmother of the NTS. I’m like, oh, that, that totally is me. And I was like, okay, Erin, you need to really step back a little bit. You know, anything automatic is a reaction, not a mindful choice. I was like, yeah, that’s it. That’s it. And so, you know, that overgiving, you know, she points out is dysfunctional as well. And how do I change my relationship with that? For me, the most, the biggest aspect of that change was just witnessing that I said yes to everything. Okay, so now just take a moment deep breath, you know, it’s like Paula was just pointing out a moment ago, where’s the destination to what I don’t want to arrive? Okay, is this act going to move me in that direction or not? Okay, you know, or she points out in here, you don’t have to respond right away. Take a day, take a few breaths, do something, so that I’m not so grabbed by the response and then learn, okay, is this something that I really want or do I need to let this go? Yeah. I was like overgiving. I’m like, oh, oh, look, there I am.
00:15:15 Paula: Yeah. And you know, Erin, you said, and that’s something I’ve been practicing for a while, not responding immediately. Knowing that, you know, nothing is that important. There’s some things, really and truly, you sleep over and it’s amazing how 24 hours later you have so much more clarity, so much more peace as to whether to say yes or no.
00:15:38 Erin: And there is a lot of peace, like you said, a lot of clarity in that, do I want to say yes or do I want to say no? And recognizing that we have the choice. We’re on that. And I think that’s what she’s talking about with boundaries as a whole. I mean, where are we at choice and how do we want to be with that choice? But going back to, you know, one of the things I most admired about this book was the very last section where she was giving steps to role model and to play this out. I found that work with my own clients, whether they be individuals or big systems, that practice of how to respond has been invaluable. Everyone needs that chance to have the muscle memory to hear themselves say, oh, that didn’t quite come out the way that I want it. Okay. Or to have that place where you can do that work. And she really hit the nail on the head with that last section, just giving people a script. I mean, no one else needs to know that it’s a script. But you practice it and then you can make the words your own, you know, learn it first and then go make it your own.
00:16:35 Paula: I love that. Nobody else needs to know it’s a script, you know, no one else will know, no one else will know.
00:16:40 Erin: But you know, it’s like when I teach people how to ask better questions or more open questions or transformational. You know, I’m always counseling or, you know, my instruction is make these questions small, make them pithy. You know, it’s going over to Cole’s work around clarity, you know, clear. I want to make that right there small bite sized chunks pithy. Because if people are trying to remember what you were saying or where you were on something, they get lost. All right. Just like we’re talking about here with these scripts and the like, you’ve got these small pieces that you’ve, you know, formulas that you can apply. Bingo. You’re right there. I wonder, so you practice this, you took this out on the, you know, for a test drive, Tesse, how will this work help you with boundaries going forward beyond what you’ve already done?
00:17:24 Tesse: And in so many different ways and you know, the basement stuff is big, and the clarity is also big. But what I love about this book is about how it actually helps to link boundaries or lack of them to a life story and a life history. And so by itself, I’m linking it with other things. You know, I’m reading other things. And at the moment I’m having therapy for myself. I’m actually in therapy, but it helps me to understand where the guilt and shame that I feel a lot comes from. And sometimes my lack of boundaries or having boundaries that are so porous is because of sometimes low self esteem, low self worth. And so this is a life’s journey, and her content, which comes from a place of kindness, is going to help me for the next piece, the next piece of the jigsaw.
00:18:20 Erin: So by having this work now as part of your tool belt or your tool chest and the like, does it help you to rewrite your life story?
00:18:29 Tesse: Definitely. Definitely. Well, what’s happened, I’ve actually asked Paula to work with me on this, is that some of the “TesseTalks” going forward will be about the experiments I’m doing, and what is coming out of the experiments. And Paula has kindly said yes to me, and because I feel that if I’m having this journey and it’s a struggle, and if the struggle is met with different kind of interventions, if it’s working for me and making me feel more at peace and calmer and kinder to myself, then there are other people who would learn from that journey as well.
00:19:12 Erin: But what I took from that is a remarkably generous act, where if you’re doing this live experimentation, but doing it in a way that not only do you just tell your story, you also others can benefit from the listening and the experimentation as well.
00:19:28 Tesse: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.
00:19:31 Erin: It’s really brave thing to do too. No, I mean that in all sincerity. You know, you’re kind of up there in that high wire act going, okay, I’m going to do this. I’m going to do it in a way that I think I mentioned the words before we press the record button about, try, fail, forgive, repeat. You’re literally doing that up there. And you know, your failures might be successes or it might be something that’s like, that was sort of good, but here’s what I would do differently next time. Or that didn’t work at all, so here’s what I need to let go. But forgiving yourself for that and not hiding back, you know, in shame or blame or anything like that. Yeah. And then doing it again.
00:20:09 Tesse: Yeah, in some kind of strange way, I think it’s a legacy to my late brother, Tony, as well, because he would love that. He would love the honesty and the vulnerability and the giving back, but also an invitation because at the end of the experiment, which is my life, I’m going to make an invitation with Paul as my accountability buddy and to people to come and play, you know, come and share and stuff. And the psychological safety that we create, hopefully will help people to see, you know, we are a work in progress all of our lives, all of us. We’ll never reach perfection, perfection does not exist. And I love Brené Brown’s book, which talks about the perfect of imperfect, you know, and I love her book. And it really is, we’re all a work in progress. Paula, what are your thoughts on any of this?
00:20:58 Paula: I believe in well, now I do believe in being vulnerable, for years, and I guess it’s cultural as well as generational. In fact, within the last 10 to 15 years I think being vulnerable has become, just like mental health has become okay. It’s okay not to be okay. And it’s amazing how restorative that can be, you know. When there’s nothing to hide, there’s nothing to hide, you know. And you can be yourself. You can be raw. You can be you. Because, you know, when you are you, there’s no one else, no one else can be you. So there’s a freedom that comes in that. And I believe that freedom is healthy. I know I do a podcast primarily for women from the Caribbean and Africa, because that’s my heritage. And there’s something that we speak about quite often, and that’s in both of those cultures, you’re not encouraged to be vulnerable. You know, it’s like, you don’t wash your dirty linen in public, but more and more we’re learning that there’s some healthy, the outcome for sometimes. Maybe if we rephrase it and call it a different name, not “Dirty Linen”, but just talk about bringing up the truth or being vulnerable.
00:22:15 Erin: Or reflecting.
00:22:16 Paula: Or reflecting.
00:22:17 Erin: You know, reflecting. Yes.
00:22:19 Paula: Yeah. We don’t just help ourselves, but we help the generations to come. So yeah.
00:22:24 Erin: I’m always horribly sad that Tony’s legacy has to be lived without him here to witness it in person. But I hope that he would also find some joy in knowing that this is how he impacted a system that he may not have ever thought of. And that’s an incredibly generous gift, but also one that I wish didn’t have to be given.
00:22:45 Tesse: Yeah. Yeah. That’s so lovely to hear. That is so lovely to hear because it would have given him joy. Paula knew Tony and he’d be happy with other people being happy. He’d be joyful with other people being joyful. And if him losing his life led to that, you know, he would have said, at least my life was not in vain.
00:23:06 Paula: Yes, I was about to say that Tesse, that I’ve also learned more and more that, you know, when we can’t change things, we can create change by the things that have, that we can’t change. Sounds complex.
00:23:21 Erin: As he’s done just that, I mean, she’s created change in ways that you may not have ever envisioned or dreamed about doing. And you’re like, okay, let me step into that. But that’s also look at you in a different way, you know, modeling boundaries that need to shift according to situation and to be there, but to know where they are too. And how do you want to be with them in that moment?
00:23:41 Tesse: That’s lovely, Erin. And talking about boundary bosses, one of the people who have taught me a lot about boundaries and holding boundaries is Paula. You know, Paula is just a lovely teacher and a loving person. And Paula, you know, what you do about, you know, being clear and firm and your honesty when things are not you know on point and how you give feedback, that’s taught me a lot about boundaries. You know you’re very good at it. Would you agree?
00:24:15 Erin: No, but I wish more people had that skill around giving feedback or being like clear with a no. Paula I mean congratulations. That’s the beauty of getting to this and being able to model and mentor that for people coming forward. You know, and Cole gave that example in her book around the clearest no she ever got was from her friend Elizabeth. You know, she’d asked Elizabeth if she wanted to go to Guatemala with her, and Elizabeth was like, nope, me and humidity or heat have a bad deal. Count me out. And I’m like, okay. But what I love is that was a clear, funny no. But you weren’t left like, oh I wonder if she really means something else by that. Like, nope.
00:24:50 Paula: You are so right. Well, thank you Tesse. As I say, I learn every day. I’ve learned so much from you Tesse, so much. I mean, we’ve been doing this show for what, about two years? Two years right? November makes two years.
00:25:05 Tesse: 2020. We started in 2020.
00:25:07 Paula: You see, it’s been such a joy that I have lost track of time.
00:25:11 Erin: Yeah. Well, then it’s almost three years.
00:25:13 Tesse: Yeah.
00:25:14 Erin: Yeah. A week shy of three years.
00:25:15 Paula: Yep.
00:25:16 Erin: That’s pretty incredible.
00:25:17 Paula: And I know we’ve learned from each other. I think we compliment each other. So.
00:25:22 Erin: You do very much. There’s a nice balance.
00:25:24 Paula: Yeah. Yeah. Wow. And so to our listeners, hasn’t this just been amazing? We thank you so much for tuning in. And we ask that you head over to “Apple Podcasts”, “Google Podcasts”, “Spotify”, or anywhere where you listen to podcasts and click subscribe. If you like what you just heard, well, who wouldn’t? We ask you to write us a raving review. And if you’d like to be on this show, we ask that you head over to our website, “tesseakpeki.com/tessetalks” to apply. Thank you, Erin. Thank you, Tesse. This was different, but good.
00:26:05 Tesse: You know, I want to thank all of you. You’re brilliant.
00:26:08 Erin: Yeah, no, I love that we discussed something together. I mean, I really do. I wish we did more of this, humanity wise. What are you reading? What’s there for you? Yeah.
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