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Published on 1st February 2023

Boundaries are beautiful


One syllable, two letters – yet saying ‘no’ to a request, an opportunity or just a social meet up can feel so gut wrenching.

I committed to myself heading into 2023 that it would be a year of ‘boundaries’, and as January comes to a close, it’s time to share my reflections on what has felt like totally new territory.

My first mission was to gain collective agreement in a Steering Group meeting around pausing a project. We had worked hard to achieve almost all of the milestones on the plan, however the level of risk and the delivery timeline felt unachievable. Having the courage to speak out and share thoughts on a revised project timeline was not an easy concept to embrace. As someone who has powered through to deliver every task and action, it felt extremely odd to be leading the room to pause something….

After several meetings to discuss, we collectively settled on the outcome I was hoping for – to re-scope the project with a lens of ‘our people first’, and focus on team stability as priority. Success right? Confession – I drove home feeling unsettled and landed in a heap at my kitchen table. My family couldn’t understand my reaction- surely it’s a positive outcome to have persuaded a room around to my desired proposal?

Despite the discomfort, I was not deterred, and have continued to keep my 2023 focus on boundaries. As I get more comfortable with the concept, I’m learning that the benefits are significant – I have more energy, and my team are noticing. Things I’ve said no to so far this year– launching into a project that needed a different approach, a teams message at 11.36pm and a weekend away with a partner company that collided with my husband’s weekend off work.

Was it easy? No. Will I continue to have boundaries? Yes. Despite the discomfort I feel proud to have put myself and my teams first – to be my best self and to lead as authentically as possible. I’ve recognised that self-care is key, and as a leader I’m proud to set that example every day.

Boundaries are beautiful.

WUN Advocate Heidi Knapton, Head of Operations South Staffs and Cambridge Water.