Understanding Other’s Limits – Leadership is a Choice #26


Jessica Soroky continues her series Leadership is a Choice.


We all have our own limits, limits to the amount of confront we can handle, to the amount of pain we can withstand, and to what lengths we can push our muscles.

We also have a limit of how much transparency we are comfortable with.

I never used to consider other people’s limits. It didn’t cross my mind when someone reacted negatively to my transparency or confront it was because I had reached and probably crossed his or her limit.

At work my job is to push boundaries, to challenge how things are done, and help guide teams toward improvement. I never understood why a company would hire me with that understanding then get upset with me or end a contract when I did exactly that.

Yes, they asked me to come in and challenge things. Yes, they asked me to help improve their processes. Yes, they asked me to focus on continuous improvement, BUT they have a limit.

The problem wasn’t that I did something “wrong”; I was unaware of their boundary until I had gone past it. Looking back at these experiences it is clear that they were unaware of it as well.

Last week I wrote about experiencing my own limit of confront. It was and is a new level of awareness of what I am going through. It was the first time I could wrap my head around why I panic; it is my response to reaching a limit.  

How can I expect anyone to understand and see my limits when this was the first time I have ever seen them?

Well, s**t. I was expecting others to be so self-aware of their limits that they would just nicely tell me, “Hey you’re about to step on one”.  What an interesting expectation when it is clear not many of us (including myself) really have a clear picture of where our limits are.

When a boss, a contract controller, or an authoritative power reaches their limit they become uncomfortable and maybe even threatened. What do we do when we are uncomfortable or threatened?

I cannot speak for the entire human race, but I know I try to get rid of it as soon as possible. I resist it and I push back.

Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like something a boss, co-worker, or client has done?

I can’t change them. What I can change is my own awareness of limits. Instead of getting upset or blaming them when I start to get these responses, my intention is to pardon them. They are human and this is a limit for them.

It isn’t right and it isn’t wrong. It simply is true.

So I have a choice here (as always). I can choose to continue on with what I am doing and ignore the signs of their limits and accept whatever consequences I cause myself. Or I can choose to work within their comfort level. I can be a coach and work with them to move the limits out a little further.

I began to wonder how difficult it would be to identify other people’s boundaries. Luckily for me I was starting a new job that offered ample opportunity to look and practice.

Conversation after conversation was dedicated to bringing me up to speed on the organization, its culture, and what they wanted to accomplish with my assistance.

Maybe it was because I was searching, or maybe it was simply because I was open to the idea, but it seemed like signs of other’s limits were everywhere. It was in each person’s body language when a particular subject came up. Even more clearly it was in their words. At certain points I heard what they were saying as clearly as, “Jess, I am not comfortable practicing that part of the framework. If you go there I will be really uncomfortable.”

I couldn’t believe I had missed all these signs before.

I was hearing them for the first time and to my surprise it didn’t eliminate my judgment of them. I didn’t all of sudden agree with them with perfect ease. What I did was ask myself a different question, “Do I want to attempt to change their opinion and risk crossing their limit, or can I work with what they want to do and still stay true to me?”

The answer was the same each time I asked myself this question. For the first time (pretty much ever) I was willing to let go of some of the aspects of the framework while still being true to me. I no longer held the methodology to the highest of importance. I wanted the challenge of coaching their ability to confront more than I wanted Scrum to be perfect. I saw this as a great opportunity to practice being the coach I want to be.

If you have never worked in an agile environment with me then you may not know how big of a deal it was for me to put something above methodology. The minute I did I was able to push my own boundaries further and align more to who I want to be.

Looking for the limits of others has become an amazing tool to understanding where my limits are. I choose to utilize these limits as an opportunity for coaching.

Do you know your limits?


photo by  Alexander Hafemann


Jessica Soroky, CSM

IMG_3285Jessica is a Certified Scrum Master with over three years of practice in agile delivery and seven years of team leadership. She is also the youngest participant in The Leadership Gift™ Program and its growing worldwide community of leaders and coaches. After five years of non-profit development through Nellie’s Catwalk for Kids, Jessica continues her leadership journey in state government, not-for-profit, and private sector leadership studies.


For Businesses Partnerwerks provides a unique, proven model that ignites cultures of self-direction and ownership.

Posted in Responsibility on 09/14/2015 01:23 am
double line