Mastering Boundaries: Are You the CEO of Your Own Boardroom? with Dana Skaggs


As leaders, are we truly the CEO of our own boardroom, or are we letting external and internal forces dictate our behavior? This profound question formed the crux of a recent conversation with Dana Skaggs who has worked with many leaders in her practice, Dana Skaggs is a licensed psychotherapist known as “The Queen of Boundaries” with 16 years of experience in private practice, specializing in anxiety and trauma work. She serves as a board member for the Intermountain Psychological Association and frequently appears as a guest on ABC-affiliate WJHL Daytime Tri-Cities, where she discusses the emotional aspects of everyday problems.

Dana Skaggs

Dana has contributed to the article “Second Opinions: How You Can Leverage Mindset to Change Behaviour” in the journal “A Plus” from the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants and is a regular contributor to “The Maverick Paradox Magazine.” She also hosts the podcast “Phoenix and Flame,” which is globally ranked in the top 5%, and provides online Boundary courses and coaching.


🔑 Key Themes & Takeaways:

  • Understanding Boundaries: Dana emphasizes that boundaries are crucial for self-management and effective leadership. They help individuals take responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings, and actions while allowing others to do the same. 📏
  • People-Pleasing: Dana discusses the common issue of people-pleasing and how it often leads to unnecessary stress and emotional turmoil. She highlights the importance of recognizing and stepping away from this behavior. 🚫
  • The Boardroom Analogy: Dana introduces the concept of the internal boardroom, where different parts of oneself are acknowledged and managed by the ‘CEO’ part, helping maintain control during challenging interactions. 🏢
  • The Hook Visualization: She provides a visualization technique to avoid getting ‘hooked’ by provocative comments or situations, maintaining emotional composure and focus. 🎣
  • Handling Hard Conversations: Dana shares strategies for approaching difficult conversations with calm and clarity, ensuring they are productive and respectful. 🗣️
  • The Boomerang Effect: She explains the ‘boomerang’ effect of unresolved issues that return as intrusive thoughts and how addressing them directly can prevent emotional outbursts and build trust. 🪃
  • Trust and Boundaries: The conversation ties into Brene Brown’s BRAVING trust framework, emphasizing how boundaries are fundamental to building trust in leadership and teamwork. 🤝

We talk about:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 02:42 Understanding Boundaries at Work
  • 04:05 The Concept of People Pleasing
  • 07:52 Managing Emotional Responses
  • 10:25 The Boardroom Technique
  • 18:53 Practical Steps for Setting Boundaries
  • 21:38 Understanding Emotional Triggers
  • 25:13 The Boomerang Effect
  • 27:35 Building Trust Through Boundaries

#Boundaries #Leadership #Trust #EmotionalIntelligence

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Carolyn: So our conversation today is going to revolve around a topic of boundaries. Now, when I think of the word boundaries, I think of a very divisive nature. You’re on one side, I’m on the other. And it’s a real protective thing. I’m really, really excited to have this conversation with Dana Skaggs because she calls herself the queen of boundaries.

And Dana is a licensed psychotherapist who has been in private practice for Over 16 years specializing in anxiety and trauma work, and I think it’s fair to say there’s a lot of anxiety in our world inside each of us and inside of our teams within organizations. And so I’m really excited to have her on the show.

she takes these. Psychological concepts and make some very tangible and easy for lay people like you and I to understand and to do something with. So let’s see where this conversation goes. And hopefully by the end of it, we’ve got some really cool tools and insights to help us set boundaries that are important to us.

And just as importantly, hold those boundaries through really tough times. Hope you enjoy this conversation.

 All right, Evolve listeners, I am so excited to have this conversation with our next guest, Dana Skaggs. Welcome to Evolve.

Dana: Thank you, Carolyn. It is awesome to be here. I’m so excited.

Carolyn: Well, you know, when I saw somebody referred you to me, a wonderful person who I love, Susan Winchester. And as soon as I saw the heading, the queen of boundaries, it’s like, Oh, we have to have Dana on the show.

Dana: They’re everywhere.

Boundaries are. huge. 

Carolyn: are. Well, they’re everywhere and they’re not everywhere.

Dana: Oh, good point. Yes, they should be, but they’re not.

Carolyn: Now Dina I know you’re a psychotherapist and I thought it would be really helpful to have you come on the show and talk about boundaries at work. obviously you see it from the perspective of having clients in your office every day. So maybe what are some of the big themes that you think are important for leaders to know about when it comes to boundaries and the impact they have on us at work?

Dana: Wow. There’s so many aspects of it. And I. Being a psychotherapist, it’s such a privilege because I get to hear, I get to hear people that are coming in from the executive side of things. I get the managers. I get to hear the directs. I get to hear what’s going on between everybody. So 1 of the.

Issues that we have to discuss right from the beginning when I’m talking to A client a patient of mine is we have to figure out how much of what they’re saying Belongs to them and how much of what they’re saying belongs to someone else We just have to start there with the basics and now I can extrapolate out from there because We are dead in the water if we are spending our time and I would say wasting our time If we’re dealing with something in the water Grinding about something that is does not belong to us

Carolyn: Oh, Are we dealing with a lot of stuff that doesn’t belong to us?

Dana: It’s 

Carolyn: what would be an example of that?

Dana: Oh, gosh, one quick example is when we get wrapped up in what I’ll call people pleasing. Okay. So, to be quite frank, other people have a right to their opinion. Other people have a right to their feelings. And we are not in charge of managing or controlling their feelings. What we are in charge of is communicating our thoughts and feelings in a respectful way.

Because other people are not charged with reading our minds. They cannot read our minds, and so if we have something that is an issue to us for whatever the case may be, our job, because what we are responsible for is our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions. Those belong to us, that’s what we have responsibility over, and we get to change those things.

That’s where our agency lies. But so if we’re going to go talk to somebody and have a hard conversation, that’s Right? And we call it hard because we’re anticipating some kind of aversive response back.

Carolyn: Right.

Dana: Well, the thing of it is, we’re not in charge of that. We’re not in charge, number one, of how they hear us.

Their perception of us. We cannot control that. Neither can we control what their response back is going to be. Now not to say that it’s comfortable. Okay, let’s be perfectly real and blunt about this. When we’re having one of these what we’ll call the hard conversation, which gets easier once you understand about boundaries.

But once you’re having one of those conversations, yes, it will be uncomfortable if somebody comes flying back at you with a lot of anger. But when you understand that anger belongs to them, It’s not yours. It’s not yours to manage. It’s not your job to try to get them to feel Any kind of way that is their job So when we’re spending so much time trying to get the other person we do we do a little tap dance, right?

trying to get the other person to Act a certain kind of way to get them to feel some kind of way That’s expending so much of our energy On something that it doesn’t belong to us If instead we can pull our energy into our own yard and be responsible for our own actions and be respectful and be kind, be direct when we speak to someone, that’s what does belong to us.

Leave the other stuff. To the other person.

Carolyn: Dana. I wish I’d met you 25 years ago. were you? So we are going to talk more about boundaries. Cause what I’m hearing you say is boundaries are really key so that we can own our own stuff and allow other people to own their own stuff. Just I’m not going to carry somebody like 15 other people’s suitcases through the airport cause it’s too heavy.


Dana: Exactly.

Carolyn: Why is it so damn hard for people like me, and there’s many of us out there, who don’t realize the people pleasing doesn’t have to happen? Is there like a simple answer you can give us to that? 

Dana: Yes, and no. It’s simple to answer, not so simple to do. you can do this and I take my clients through this all the time, but it’s about practice, like anything. So we have to, instead of avoiding something, we lean into it. I was telling somebody yesterday, I said, what we avoid, we feed.

Carolyn: Right.

Dana: And so if we’re avoiding something, we’re actually feeding that part, which doesn’t need to be fed. And so the reason that people have difficulty with this is we’re so wrapped up in what the other person is going to feel. We don’t want them to be, don’t, I don’t want them to be mad at me. Okay. What if they are? What if they do respond with anger? See, when you’re practicing healthy boundaries, you don’t personalize that. You don’t make their anger about you. It’s not about you. Even if they’re looking at you, even if they’re talking to you, even if they’re talking about you, if they’re excessively angry and they have lost control of their emotions, they’re not communicating to you in a respectful way, right?

They’ve lost it. They’re coming back with all this heat and this inappropriateness and this borderline abuse and sometimes not borderline.

Carolyn: Yep.

Dana: First of all, that has nothing to do with us. It’s uncomfortable. Yes, it is. Let’s be blunt about that. Sometimes our heart is pounding. We start sweating a little more when we’re around someone like that.

Let’s be honest. But that’s a somatic response. It’s we kind of get kicked into fight or flight a little bit. When we understand that’s what’s happening, we allow our body to do what it needs to do. Some adrenaline has been dumped into our system. Our heart rate starts beating a little faster to kind of get that dispersed through our body because it doesn’t know if we’re going to have to fight or run.

When we understand that’s what’s going on, we just allow our body to do what it needs to do. We don’t make a big deal about that. We accept it. We don’t think we have to act some kind of way because our heart’s pounding or we’re getting a little sweaty. That’s okay. If someone’s angry with us, okay.

And they’re yelling at me. Okay. And they don’t like me. I don’t think they like me. They’re mad at me.

Carolyn: Right.

Dana: Okay. And

Carolyn: I love where you’re going. It’s just, it’s sort of pausing and sort of being in it versus moving ahead to, Oh my gosh, I’m not going to get the promotion or I’m going to get fired. I’m going to get a shitty performance review or going back to, I mean, either consciously or unconsciously. I remember when somebody treated me like this when I was young.

Dana: so let me toss something in here that I use with myself and with my clients that is really helpful in these situations for the very reason that you brought up, because we do have different parts of ourselves. We have that part of ourself that’s thinking, Oh my gosh, I’m not going to get that promotion.

I’m not going to get the raise. What am I, how do I manage the situation? And there’s another part of us that possibly is triggered from being treated or talked that way in the past, talked to that way, being treated inappropriately, being treated abusively in the past. Maybe a part of us that hasn’t been really healed all the way and it’s being triggered.

So there’s something, it’s based on internal family systems, which I love. But my personal version of this, how I explain it to people is I call it the boardroom.

Carolyn: Okay.

Dana: So if you imagine a boardroom and you are the CEO, because at the front of the table, that’s where the CEO sits, right? And then down the sides of the boardroom table, you have the different departments that are coming in, that are giving a report about their department.

Carolyn: Yep.

Dana: Well, without going into all the details that I would do if I were in, therapy or something like that, basically in a nutshell. We acknowledge that we have all of these different parts of ourself and they are in the boardroom So when this is going on when we’re standing there and we’re explaining something to someone and they’re reacting with all this anger And we can stand there in the moment.

We can feel our body I suggest to people take just take a few seconds and that’s all it needs and especially the more you do this The better you get at it Imagine the boardroom you’re in the ceo chair, or you should be


Dana: That’s another

Carolyn: That’s a whole other topic. Yeah.

Dana: whole other topic. I can have stories about that, but let’s assume you’re in the CEO chair where you’re supposed to be.

So you take that moment and you look down your boardroom and you think, okay who’s being activated right now? And you see those parts of yourself and you go, how do I manage these parts of myself so that I can be in control so that I can stay calm so that I can still stay in charge of my own behavior?

Because what people do is they get this inside out instead of being in charge and in taking ownership over their own behavior and feelings and thoughts. They’re instead trying to control the other person.

Carolyn: my gosh.

Dana: getting it inside out, you see. And so that’s just, Pointless! That’s going to get you nowhere.

Carolyn: Seriously, Dana, where were you 25 years ago for 

Dana: Yes. Ha.

Carolyn: So, so here’s what I’m hearing. when we are in our own CEO spot, CEOs do not run companies on their own. They have a team. And what I’m hearing you say is that we have our own team inside of us. We have these different parts and it’s okay that we have, we need these different parts of us. So, so often I’m yes. And I’ll be speaking of myself here. I think, Oh gosh, what a lose. Like I tell this part of me that doesn’t like conflict, that it’s a loser, it’s doing it wrong. And for those of you can’t see Dana’s head, it’s like going back and forth. No, that’s really powerful, Dana.

It’s like welcoming this part and saying, thank you for acknowledging this. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

And now that we have that information, like you said, just literally take a few seconds, figure out who’s saying it and then what, do we do with it?

Dana: Okay, so I love the part that you’re emphasizing is that these are all parts of us. And the more you practice the boardroom, the more parts you will recognize that are in there. And it’s just fabulous. I do it to myself all the time. It’s just amazing. It’s a very private thing that you have total control over.

No one else has. You can be sitting anywhere and be in the boardroom. Nobody knows, right? But you acknowledge these different parts and you accept each part because each part, especially the traumatized parts, are stuck in their own time bubble and they think they’re helping you.

So when we get triggered, that part of us is rushing up and trying to push us out of the CEO chair because it thinks it’s helping us.

It thinks, Oh, my gosh, this horrible thing is getting ready to happen all over again, and I’ve got to take over. Right? So instead, as a CEO, you can feel that part of you. You can feel that part being upset and you can do any number of things. You yourself can look at that part and go, honey, I understand why you’re upset.

I hear you. I see you. I understand why you’re upset, but you’re going to have to trust me for a moment. Just give me a few moments here to show you that what you think is getting ready to happen is not actually happening. Can you give me just a few moments to show you because these traumatized parts respond to experience.

Carolyn: right,

Dana: They do not respond to logic. If you try to talk to them logically, it’s just if I were to start spouting Russian, So unless you secretly know Russian, you would not know what I was saying. So that’s one of the mistakes that people make is they try to get logical with the emotional parts of their mind.

And emotional parts of our mind don’t speak logic.

Carolyn: right, 

Dana: And so it doesn’t work. but they do respond to experience. Thank you.

And they also respond to visual image. So what we can also do in that moment we can get a feel for that part of us that’s upset that’s trying to take over the boardroom and make us behave in a very irrational way when we’re sitting there talking to a potential manager someone who’s lost control of their emotions that we’re getting screamed at And we’re wanting to like behave in a very defensive way.

We’re wanting to personalize that. And we’re dangerously close to reacting in a very irrational, emotional way at work. Right. Which generally doesn’t respond well and doesn’t work well overall. So instead, we find that we take just a few seconds. We find that part of us in the boardroom and we find out what does that part of us need to feel Now, once you do this a lot you will have a response ready because you’ll know what that part of you needs.

Does that part of you need a verbal response to say it’s okay? I’ve got this under control. Just have a seat. Does this part of you and this is kind of interesting, but I sometimes imagine, especially if it’s a much younger part. You have to be responsive to that because a younger part is not going to be comforted by something that would help someone who’s 45 years old.

It doesn’t work like that. You have to be developmentally attuned. So sometimes I would imagine the secretary comes rolling into the boardroom with a tray full of warm cookies and hot chocolate with marshmallows bouncing on the top. And I’ll say, okay, just have a seat, have some cookies, have some hot chocolate, just get a coloring book, just sit down there, just relax for a few minutes and just trust me to be in control.

Carolyn: right,

Dana: And so that part of me sometimes will look at me like, are you sure? And I’m like, just trust me, just drink your hot chocolate, eat your cookies, I got it. And then so that, that part of you is able, you’re able to calm it down enough to interact with this individual who has lost control of his or her emotions so that you don’t lose control of yours.

Carolyn: So boundaries are really what I’m hearing or I’m guessing inferring is that. When we are clear on our boundaries and we honor our boundaries, we are being the CEO of our boardroom and we are acknowledging all the different roles around the boardroom and we’ve learned how to accept them and work with them.

Dana: Yes, and that is part of taking control of your own, what I call your own yard, your thoughts, feelings, and actions, and being responsible and owning your own thoughts, feelings, and actions. So you’re not going to get out of control with your behavior, and you’re also acknowledging that whoever you’re talking to, that person’s emotions are belong to them, and they might be screaming at you, but when you’re practicing healthy boundaries, You’re doing a couple of things here.

You’re knowing, you’re acknowledging that they’re screaming, although it’s uncomfortable, that belongs to them. That is not your action. Those are not your feelings. That’s theirs to manage, and clearly, they’re not doing it well.

Okay, but that’s in their yard. That’s on the other side of the fence. That’s not yours.

So, we don’t have to take, make that about us, and because of that, we’re able to go into our boardroom to those younger selves that are getting triggered by the screaming, Or getting triggered by the disrespect, and we’re able to calm the own parts of ourselves so that we can in turn take ownership over our own behavior.

Carolyn: Yeah. And I mean, this plays out in workplaces all the time, not because people, I don’t believe people are assholes on purpose. I think there’s just a lot of stuff that contributes. I mean, Hey, our world is a lot of things happening that are creating very deep emotions. And rightly so What advice, or where can we go now with this conversation, Dana, to help the listeners do something very concrete that helps them with their boundaries?

Maybe some small baby steps.

Dana: Okay, so a few things, I can bring up a couple of images that are helpful. One of them is, I call it the hook. It’s when we’re talking to someone, and whether they’re doing it on purpose or whether they’re not, Either way, sometimes people will say things that are designed or accidentally they’re there and they are triggering us.

They are words or phrases or topics that are upsetting to us.

Carolyn: What might be an example at work that I might hear at work?

Dana: okay, so let’s say there’s been a project that you worked on in the past that dinged for it. And you tried your best, but it didn’t turn out well, and some, somebody, some people were said some things about it, and you kind of got your feelings got hurt a little bit, right?

And so it’s a sore topic. Well, let’s say you have someone who’s competing with you for a promotion, and let’s say, hypothetically, this person comes up, and you’re getting ready to go into a meeting, and you have to, you got to be on it. You’ve got to, you’ve got to have all your thrusters 100%, right? Well, this person comes up and they deliberately start to mention that old project while you’re standing outside the door, getting ready to go into the meeting.

And they’re like hey, Carolyn, remember that? Old project that you did last year, or you tried to do. Yeah, that should have gone over better. Shouldn’t it have? I’m sure if I had done that, that would have gone much better. Or if you’d been smarter, or maybe more, you know, more educated or wiser, you know, they should just given that to somebody else.

Don’t you think?

Okay, so clearly they’re trying to get you in a position where you’re kind of messed up in your head and you’re not going to go into that meeting and be all, you know, so. if that happens, and sometimes it does, then imagine a large metal meat hook, like you might see in a meat packing plant, dangling in front of you. When they’re saying these key words and phrases and topics that are designed to upset you, and again, sometimes this happens accidentally, but sometimes it’s on purpose.

Imagine that all those phrases and words and topics that you’re sensitive to is like a hook. I want you to imagine that hook dangling in front of you, but do not get on it.

Because if you jump on the hook, what that means is you start defending yourself.

You Start saying, no, you’re wrong. I did the best I could. You know, I did the best I could. I don’t appreciate your tone right now. And then we get all emotional about it. We get very defensive. When we do that, we have jumped on the hook and they are in control.

Of our emotions right there

Carolyn: And I guess jumping on the hook could also be not saying anything and sort of going internally too, right? Is that also jumping on the hook?

Dana: any, anything that you’re like, yes, if you’re shutting down, if you’re allowing what they’re saying to you, any kind of way to, to divert you from what you want to be doing, you want to be able to walk into this room and really do your very best to be on your a game, anything that you’re going to allow this other person to do to, you know, knock you sideways from that is like jumping on the hook.

And they’re controlling you at that point. So I would suggest instead, to know what’s happening, to imagine that hook in your mind, imagine it dangling in front of you, and just look at them and say something kind of vague well, I’m sorry you feel that way I hope you have a nice day.

Or I hope the rest of your day goes well,

and then just don’t even acknowledge, do not try to defend yourself, don’t try to engage in any kind of way, just be pleasant and be vague. And you can do this in the workplace, you can do this at home, where you’re acknowledging that hook, but see, if you don’t know that it’s there, It’s a hook.

You’re going to want to jump on that and convince them that you’re right and they’re wrong. You’re going to try to defend yourself and then you’re going to get all up in your emotions and you’re going to derail because the higher our emotions go, it’s like inversely proportionate to our ability to focus and be logical and rational.

So we don’t want to let that happen right before we’re getting ready to go into a very important meeting.

Carolyn: right. I mean, so practical. Like, as you said, like, visualizing it, because at first I thought you were going to say, Oh have the hook come in and either take you out. So you can tell my old pattern, or have the hook come in and take them out, which is really just a different way of expressing my old pattern, which is to run.

And then I thought, well, maybe the hook comes in and takes the words out. But what I’m hearing you say is you just need to know the hook is there and you have agency and choice not to hop on the hook.

Dana: Yes, we’re not running away from anything. We’re acknowledging what’s going on. And once you know what’s going on, you see, I love the word agency, you, then you have that agency to make that decision. You know, I see the hook there. I know what’s going to happen if I jump on the hook. I could choose to get defensive and try to prove my point, but then that’s not going to go well.

Carolyn: Right.

Dana: And so you’re like, okay, you stand there, you acknowledge what’s going on, you accept it and you just well, I’m sorry you feel that way. I hope the rest of your day goes well.

Carolyn: Yeah. And 

Dana: you just look away. That’s

person is allowed to have whatever feelings about you that they want.

They don’t have to like you.

Carolyn: So tangible, Dana, just so tangible. So you see lots of different people come through your door. What is, what’s a common boundary challenge that really good leaders face? 

Dana: Conversation. Sometimes people. They veer away from what they define as the hard conversation. This is common in the workplace. These. Conversations, sometimes they need to happen, but people, they steer away from them, and they determine that they’re hard. They define them as hard, like I said before, because of the, how the other person is going to respond. Now, let me give you another example of what I call a boomerang issue, which goes right into this hard conversation. So if something is bothering us. And we don’t want to talk about it. Let’s be honest, right? We don’t want to have the conversation. We don’t want to talk about it. We wish it would just go away.

Carolyn: So maybe like a performance, somebody’s not working to the level that the organization needs them to be. That would be an example of want that to go away.

Dana: Want it to go away, right? So we fling it out and we hope it goes away like some big stick we flung out into the forest, right? Except then we’re driving home after work. We’ve got our hands on the steering wheel and there that thought is back into our head in the form of an intrusive thought. It came back.

We thought we flung it out like a stick, but in fact, it wasn’t a stick. It was a boomerang and it came back and it has now landed essentially in your yard. The problem that people have is that they accumulate these boomerangs. They let these boomerangs come back until they have 10 of them in their grass in their yard. Okay, in this visual image that I’m using because we are responsible for our yard. Then one more thing happens. And what they do is they gather up, they stomp out into the front yard. They jerk up every one of those 20 boomerangs, they cram them into their Gatling gun, and then they go boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.

And they shoot all 20 of those boomerangs into their neighbor’s face all at one time. This is not a wise choice because at that point we have lost control of our own behavior. We are not communicating in a healthy way. We have become overly emotional. We’re very upset. We’re not saying anything that is solution focused.

And we’re attacking the other person with things that have happened possibly over years. And we’re hitting them with them all at the same time. And I have been on the other side of that before, and that is very unpleasant.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Dana: And it causes distrust to happen.

Carolyn: And I’m going to guess too the boom, The person that’s firing off those boomerangs doesn’t even realize it because they’re coming from a place of emotion, not a place of logic. And so they kind of leave a path of destruction behind them unknowingly.

Dana: Yes, they’re overwhelmed and they haven’t known how to have the hard conversations. And why boundaries helps with these hard conversations is that we totally challenged the word hard. Because if we’re just acknowledging, we’re only responsible for our communication. For example, if you have one boomerang sitting in your yard, You know, you wanted to bring up something with someone and you know, it’s not going to be pleasant.

Let’s be honest. And so, but you pick up one boomerang and you walk across your yard and you’re leaning against the fence line and you engage your neighbor and you say, hey, the other day we had a conversation about such and such and I don’t think it really went very well or you made a comment that was disturbing to me or I overheard you make a comment to somebody else that bothered me.

Can we talk about this?

Carolyn: Right. Right.

Dana: about this and see, we’re calm because we’re just talking. We just have one little boomerang here so we can be calm about it. We can be solution focused. We can engage the other person. We can be respectful and kind. And because we’re doing all of that, you see, the other person is much more likely to respond.

Very, they’re very receptive to what we’re saying, because we’re not attacking them.

And so it turns out usually to be a very productive conversation that can change whole dynamics of offices. That’s why when you’re doing healthy boundaries, these hard conversations they’re not really hard.

They’re a bit uncomfortable. They might, you know, they might be a little uncomfortable, sure, but that’s okay. And once you engage the other person, see, you build trust. And now they trust you. That if there’s something that comes up that you’re upset about, they trust you. To come to them directly and say, Hey, can we talk about this?

They don’t have to think that you’re going to talk about them behind their back, that they’re going to hear about it at the water fountain, or that it’s going to be built up into something huge. And they’re going to be slapped with 65 things all at once. So then it develops this trust in environment, this trust atmosphere in the office.

And that is just a wonderful thing that boundaries creates with that.

Carolyn: so you know what, what’s coming to mind, Dana, as you were saying, that is in the dare to lead research by Brene Brown she has an acronym called braving trust. And I guess you, you’ve heard it. Well, you’ve heard of Brene, I know. 


Carolyn: And so this acronym has represents different elements of trust.

I’m going to come back to B. If you’re listening, you probably guess what B is going to stand for, but you know, R is reliability, A is accountability, V is vault, I is integrity, N is nonjudgment, and G is generosity. And what I find when I do this work with clients and workshops and one on one, all of those elements people connect to, and they can give examples of how Behaviors aligned in each of those elements, build or break trust.

But what I find fascinating is so few people understand and see, and myself included until I understood the word, understood the research that boundaries, which is the B in braving. is the missing link that so many people are looking for when it comes to braving trust, building trust in our workplaces.

And you’ve just so beautifully, I think tied all of that in together made boundaries feel not like the word, like when I think of the word boundary, I used to think, draw the line. You’re there. I’m there. I think we have some real big misconceptions about what this word means.

Dana: Yes, I actually, I was in a conversation earlier today where I was discussing when we set effective healthy boundaries that ensures that we can have a relationship with people, because what happens is that when we don’t have effective healthy boundaries, then we have this sensation of being sucked under the bus.

And we, can only stay in that so long, and then when we can’t stay in it, then we ghost people. we won’t talk to them, we won’t look at them we, don’t want to be in the same room with them, because being around them makes us feel like we’re being sucked under the tire. But it’s just when you set effective healthy boundaries, that ensures that we can continue to interact with people, even if they’re dysfunctional, because we’re not owning their dysfunction.

Their dysfunction belongs to them, but if they’re treating us in a dysfunctional way, then we have the responsibility and the right to say, hey, can we talk about, can we talk about this? And then they know that in terms of you, they’re not going to behave in this kind of way. They might get away with it with other people and they might do what I call the dysfunction dance.

But you’re saying, Hey, I appreciate you, but I’m not going to do the dysfunction dance with you. If you want to be in a relationship with me and I really would like to be in a relationship with you, I want to work with you. I think you’re super, you’re smart you’re bright, you have all this ability.

This is how I want to work with you. And when you know how boundaries work, you go into it and you’re proactive. Instead of saying, I’m not going to do this. I’m not going to do this. No, no, no, No. You say. This is what I am going to do. I am going to talk this way. I am going to come to you if something goes sideways.

I am going to be open if you want to come to me and say something because I’m not going to make it about me. I’m going to be a good listener to you because if you have a problem and you come to me with it, I can calmly listen to you because I’m not personalizing and I’m not making it about me. So I’m giving you a space where you can come and tell me what’s going on and you can feel comfortable doing that.

And so we’re going to create this wonderful space with one another. So you’re saying what you are going to do and how wonderful it’s going to be because you have healthy boundaries in place. 

Carolyn: it’s so easy and yet it’s so not because in my perspective, we don’t realize we’re the CEO in our boardroom. Dana, I could talk to you for hours. I mean, I wish I had met you 25 years ago, maybe even 30 years ago. And maybe even we have you another episode and we can dig into some scenarios to really help people build this skillset.


you’ve made it so tangible. And it seems so much more accessible than anyone I’ve ever heard talk about boundaries. So thank you so much.

Dana: This is fun. It’s my passion. I love it.

Carolyn: Well, Queen of Boundaries. It’s good. It’s a good title for you. Dina, two things before we end this conversation. Where can the listeners find out more about your work and maybe connect with you?

Dana: Awesome, they can just go to danaskags. com if they want to take a free assessment. If they want to find out, you know, how am I with boundaries, then I’ve got a totally free assessment. They can take that just if they get a score and they get some feedback on that kind of stuff. There’s a lot of input on there there’s a coaching availability.

There’s a, an eight week group course. There’s all kinds of stuff that’s available. It’s really nice.

Carolyn: Beautiful. And that’s done in a coaching perspective, right? Not necessarily to be a client of yours. so we’ll make sure we have all those links in the show notes. Can we ask you three questions before we go ask all the guests?

Dana: You sure can.

Carolyn: All right, so these are three elements of evolved leadership, which is a big part of my book there.

So first one is an anecdote, anything you want to share that really helped elevate your level of self awareness.

Dana: So, I’ve thought about this, and there will be time, possibly, in some future a podcast or time together. One of the reasons why I am very good at what I do is because of being raised in a scenario with a mother that had several mental illnesses, and I had to learn how to boundaries as a safety factor.

I had to keep myself safe. And so what happened is that along the way I had to have self awareness and I had to have other awareness a lot from the jump. 

Carolyn: Right. 

Dana: so this is something that has been, and it’s part of my psyche. From the very beginning, I would like to say that later on something big and profound happened.

I would rather say that, but I thought about that question and my answer more is that it’s something that was just like woven into me as a child. and growing up because of having to provide a safe space for myself in dealing with a mother who had quite a few significant psychiatric issues going on.

Carolyn: And that’s huge awareness. Just want to acknowledge that Dana. Yeah. Wow. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. Second element is around self regulation. And so I’m always curious to ask people techniques or cues or routines that help you and your body somatically find a bit more regulation.

Dana: I do meditation, journaling, and devotions every morning. I get up about 45 minutes early so that before I leave for work in the morning, I sit by myself. In the room and I journal out which feels to me sort of like Just vomiting out whatever is in my mind. Whatever is in my heart with no judgment And it’s just a very safe place and I it kind of helps me to kind of parse out What exactly is going on in my life?

What am I feeling? What am I thinking? And to put it in the journal and then have time for reflection. And my faith life is very strong. And so that my spirituality is very important to me. And so reaching out and having that connection as well as something that can ground me and calm me down in a way that nothing else can.

Carolyn: And that devotion, the devotion piece of that routine is sort of what grounds you in that purpose, that sort of bigger meaning.

Dana: Yes. Yes.

Yeah. Because that, like you said, it’s it’s higher than higher than me. So it’s a turning over. It’s a surrendering, but there’s also, there has to be trust. Because I trust that when I surrender that over, that I can trust that whatever’s going to happen is what’s supposed to happen. And that I’m going to be filled with whatever I need to do what has been set before me to do.

And I believe that to my soul. To the core of my being that I can step out and do what has been set before me to do, because in myself, can I do it by myself? No, and talking about leadership and maybe some other time we can talk about being a maverick leader and this type of thing, they have to step out and do and they want to, but you have to have that belief that if you do step out that you’re going to have what you need.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Dana: way out there That can you do it by yourself? I can i’m just talking about myself. Can I do it all by myself with what I have? No But with what’s given to me and in my life of faith and I believe in god and that he’s going to give me what I need To do what has been set before me to do gives me calmness and peace

Carolyn: And I have found that Connection with something bigger can take the form of some various things, right? And so, you know, for you it’s one path. I really want to reiterate to people. It doesn’t have to be the one path, but there is this bigger essence of being part of something bigger, which leads me to my third question.

Music to me is this path to something bigger, right? This path to sort of feeling part of something bigger than ourselves. And so I like to ask all of our guests, what is the song or genre of music that does that for you? That makes you feel connected to something bigger than yourself.

Dana: I really like listening to jazz

music because a lot of, not all of it, but a lot of jazz has no words. And so it creates a very calm space for my mind and my thoughts and my feelings to just be and exist without competition from words, from lyrics, from things, from maybe a song that would pull me back to a memory or something, which sometimes that’s fine.

But sometimes I just want that space and the jazz music is so soothing and it just gives my cognitive Mind that space to be in my heart to just be what it needs to be in acceptance without competition with lyrics and words

Carolyn: Dana, I’m so grateful that you came on the show. Thank you so much. We are going to do a part two, if that’s okay with you. I’ve already got the topic written down. Maverick leadership.

Dana: This has been great Carolyn, thank you so much

Carolyn: All right. Thanks very much.

 Okay. So the only thing that I can see right now after this conversation with Dana is my boardroom table. And here’s my big aha. I have tried to live so much of my personal and professional life without anybody being in my boardroom, thinking that it was just that big, strong person at the front of the table to run the business, to run me.

And what I’ve learned from Dana is we need all of those people. Just like we can’t run a business with one person. We need the voices of different leaders, different departments. We need them all to contribute. We need all these pieces of us to contribute to how we move through the world. we benefit from acknowledging them, hearing them, but not letting them tell the CEO what to do.

I hope that you have gained as much as I have from this conversation with Dana. We’re definitely going to have her back on for a second episode. We’re going to talk about Maverick leadership because I think some of the concepts here can really help us learn how to be a leader in such chaotic times, such times where there’s so much uncertainty.

It’s hard. It’s hard when we’ve got these different pieces of us that if you’re like me, you haven’t really done a very good job at listening or even acknowledging them. As always, thank you so much for tuning in. You can find more about me and my work at carolynswera. com. And if you want to drop me a line, Thanks so much for being here. We’ll see you soon.

EVOLVE Podcast Episodes


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