A Leader’s L.I.N.E.; The 4 Keys of Protecting Your Professional Line in The Sand!

We all have our line (or lines) in the sand we prefer our organization, boss, or employees not to cross. We’ve also been there when those same people have toe-tested past our line or ran up like an Olympic Athlete and pole-vaulted over it! The truth is… Leaders anticipate this is going to happen and it’s more about our response and follow-through rather than our quiet complaining, professional temper tantrums, or consistently switching jobs.

It’s important to preface that pitching in on professional tasks that are “not your job” and working extra hours from time to time to meet metrics, meet deadlines, or to support your team comes with the territory of business and being a leader. However, I’ve experienced three major Line-Crossing that shifted my Personal Leadership and actual Leadership Skills. Early in my former career as a Mental Health Therapist, I was the Connecter Type. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting clients and staff throughout the facility and found myself addressing every concern and fixing every issue; leaving little time for my paperwork. I’d bring my paperwork home to complete in the evening. However, as time passed… and going from having one child to three, this no longer proved to be a viable option. Keep in mind… As leaders or someone who’s great at their job; sometimes we step over our own line and the company, bosses, coworkers, and client/customer simply follow suit… Be Mindful! Therefore, I used the 4 Keys to reset my line in the sand.

Another time, I worked at a Mental Health Agency and they adopted a new policy to help therapist become more efficient… moreso the business to become more profitable. They expected the therapist to use the final ten minutes of their session with clients to type the Progress Note (details of the Session) into the computer while the client was still in the room… Yes, you just read that correctly! This may work in a doctor’s medical office, but not for me and not in a setting in which someone just told me they were sexually assaulted, abused, or any number of the other horrific stories I’ve heard over the years and to simply whip out my laptop and take notes, making no eye-contact, like a robot. Therefore, I used the 4 Keys!

Lastly, During my final stint as a Mental Health Therapist, I was asked to assist a client in cleaning their apartment. As you read that sentence, it may seem so simple. As I wrote it, it sounded simple. The day I heard it… it was and IS not! Without going into detail… If you’ve taught your child on 30 separate occasions  how to clean their room, continuously suggest they clean their room, they don’t, and you venture into their room to clean it… why would they ever clean their room when they know you’ll come and do it for them and with them? Learned Helplessness and/or manipulation was a sever Line-Step for me with 19 years of experience and 3 kids at the time! Therefore, I used the 4 Keys to reset my line in the sand.

It’s important to note; although I used the 4 Keys in each of these events… and many more… the outcomes weren’t all the same. In some instances, the organization made amends, in others I tolerated “The Request” for the greater good of another goal, in some it was time for me to go; as the writing was on the wall… and it’s a leader’s job to read it! So, what are the 4 Keys to Protecting Your Line in The Sand?


This is the first step to assessing if your line in being crossed and here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Is what they’re asking of you make logical sense or does it blatantly go against logic?

What is the Vision and Mission of the organization… and does their request match? Just because we don’t like the ask, doesn’t mean it’s not on par with the vision, mission, and where the company is going.

Is your Vision for yourself professionally and within the organization aligned? This proved to be a hard pill for me to swallow; as I realized it was me that stayed the same but the company had changed. Nearly fresh out of college, I was hired by an Alternative School. It was its second year of existence and I had the honor of working with a great team and helped build it in terms of how the day ran, activities, and who and how we accepted clients/students. Toward the end, I remember attending an Intake Meeting for a client, while he actively said he didn’t want to attend, was being aggressive in the meeting, and later fell asleep on the desk… in the meeting, without a parent present… and the organization accepted the client into the program! My vision was no longer aligned and I had… and YOU HAVE three choices:

  1. Stay, Transition, Comply, and Be Positive!
  2. Stay, Don’t Transition, Rebel, and Be Negative!
  3. Leave and/or Prepare to Leave as you’ve read the writing on the wall; being mindful to leave as an Asset and not a Liability!

Intrusion Rate!

In past Blogs and Videos, I share A Leader’s A.S.K.; How to Ask Like a Leader. Although asking is an imperative skill of leadership… what’s the intrusion rate? A great leader, teammate, or coworker is willing to roll up their sleeves to get dirty doing a job that’s not theirs or a favor for the organization; however, when the intrusion rate of the favors are so high it becomes a part of your normal duties… is your line is being crossed?

You’ve been there… helping a coworker with something and at some point you become frustrated because you know you’re doing their job, or working extra hours during the week to help out, or filling in on weekends when you feel you’ve graduated from that and either want to be home with your family doing anything else or nothing at all! I’ll share more how to address this when we get to the E. However, it’s important to look at the BIG picture first:

  • What’s going on in the organization?
  • Is the person you’re helping working on something “Major” at the moment that will greatly impact the company?
  • Do you have the professional bandwidth to assist, or are you putting your work to the side… getting their job done and not yours?
  • Have you discussed the intrusion rate with your coworker to discuss timeframe issues? (how long will you be assisting with the specific task)
  • Is anyone above you (boss, supervisor, manager) aware of your consistent assistance and its impact on you professionally or personally?
  • Is this the NEW way of your work and NEW professional expectation company-wise through transition?
  • Is it worth a conversation with leaders and professional peers to reprioritize duties as you accept new tasks. Perhaps what you think is the highest priority is… maybe it’s not!
  • Are there any ways to offer flexibility or compensation, financially or timewise, to offset your continued extra effort?

Not Bitten!

I watch a lot of Zombie Movies and as a leader, it’s imperative to act like you’re not bitten! Stick with me here… this will make sense shortly! In the movies, there are two types of zombies. Someone gets bitten, they turn into the undead, and run around like track stars biting anyone within earshot; turning them into a zombie. The other type is the slow-walking, leg-dragging, super-strong zombie that wants to eat the brains of anyone within arms distance.

I’ve found this can mimic some… not all… but some leaders and employees! Some are flying about at mock speed, complaining, negative, and dead to the mission and vision of the organization and team; turning everyone they come in to contact with into zombies. While others are droning about, complaining about Mondays, and dragging themselves to Friday; infecting company culture at a slower rate. In most Zombie Movies, there’s one person or a group of people that ARE NOT infected. They maneuver through the movie and the zombies to stay alive and find the cure… That’s YOU! Be sure to not get bitten, maneuver professionally, and find the cure that best impacts you, your team, customers/clients, and POSITIVELY share it with others to best enhance not only your Leadership & Work/Life Harmony… but also that of those around you!


Once your professional line has been crossed and you’ve deemed it’s not logical, and the intrusion rate is increasing… the favors and extras are no longer a favor… and they’ve become expectations. Saying nothing is not an option, but HOW you choose to say something is Leadership! Let’s explore two examples; one as a leader within an organization or employee to a boss…  and one from coworker to coworker.

When speaking with a Higher-Up:

Hopefully, your supervisor is having your scheduled 1-on-1 Meetings with you or you’re requesting them; as this would be a great time to discuss the issue and your feelings won’t be a surprise to them. Whether it’s in your 1-on-1, in a meeting you requested, or at the end of your virtual meeting… Be sure it’s between you and your boss. Team Meetings are not the place to discuss this issue and can breed defensiveness and blame.

The conversation may sound something like, “My workload is going well and pretty heavy at times. I’ve been happy to pitch in and assist with  ________. I’d like to know if this is going to be a regular thing or if it’s my new responsibility as it’s been occurring more and more frequently.  If so, I’d like to speak to you about an idea that can keep me most impactful to the team or best reprioritize my duties to adjust to the new way. It’d be great to hear what you like about it or anything you’d fine-tune ___ share idea____.”. Feel free to make this your own.

You may hear from your superior they had no idea you were doing so much, or another person’s job, or that “The Request” was impacting you so much. You may hear they care, but this is the new way and everyone… including you… are expected to be on board. Either way, you’re going to find out a lot about your boss, the culture of your company, the new direction and expectation, and what your next move needs to be!

When speaking with a Coworker:

What about when it’s your coworker? The stakes are high here and it’s going to be uncomfortable! When you choose this route, it may sound something like, “Hi ____, I wanted to let to know I’ve enjoyed helping out with _____. My workload is increasing and I’m afraid I may not have the time to assist like I have in the past. I’d be happy to show/teach you how to _____ or we can come up with a better way to get it done or I’m up to discuss it in our next team meeting. Please let me know what work best and I’d be happy to be as much help as I can.”. Feel free to make this your own.

This can be said in person or via email… NO CC’ing anyone, Lol! However, emails don’t lie and may work to protect you in the future. If you want to take this a step further for extra protection… You can speak with your boss first about the Intrusion Rate of your coworker, share your plan to have a conversation or email regarding the issue, and ask your boss what they like about your plan or anything they’d fine-tune, if your boss hears nothing from you about it… everything went great! If they hear back from you or your coworker comes storming in their office… your boss isn’t blind-sided and can take it from there. You’ve worked to protect your boss and professionally address a Line-Step, and now they can protect you, the team, the organization, and address the issue!

You now know how to protect your line in the sand! Enjoy your evolution, your Leadership, and your Work/Life Harmony!

“A great leader, teammate, or coworker is willing to roll up their sleeves to get dirty doing a job that’s not theirs or a favor for the organization; however, when the intrusion rate of the favors are so high it becomes a part of your normal duties… your line is being crossed. Saying nothing is not an option, but choosing HOW you say something is Leadership… Be Mindful!”  – Andre Young

Written by: Andre Young


Ready to enhance Leadership & Work/Life Harmony for your leaders, employees, and teams… making it easier for your leaders to lead and easier for your employees to follow! Click www.youevolvingnow.com to start customizing a high-energy, interactive, and culture-impacting Training or Speaking Engagement with Andre Young that provides common sense and easy-to-implement concepts today!

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