Establishing Boundaries Within Your Choir


Teaching in any setting is a very personal interaction between two or more people, so how do you manage the boundaries between a business relationship and friendship?  This can be even more evident when leading a choir as you strive to build a relationship with each member while also establishing ground rules to keep your personal time personal.  This month, the Canadian Choir Leader Network (CCLN) focuses on setting the boundaries which can sometimes become blurred by the very nature of your choir business.

Establish your availability

Let members know from the get-go when you will be available.  “Publish” your operating times and ensure everyone is aware that you’ll only be available during certain times.  With the Arts being such a fluid business, it’s easy for members to overestimate your availability and assume you are on call 24/7.  Although this may be the case while you are establishing yourself, it can become invasive to your personal time, which in turn can lead to burnout, so be careful not to overextend yourself.

Keep personal and work contact details separate.

We all know how easy it is to set up a separate work email but have you thought about having a separate phone line for work?  Several companies offer this service via free or paid apps. For a few $$$, you can have an entirely separately line and number linked to your own phone via an app such as ‘Linked Phone’ or ‘Grasshopper’.  The beauty of using one of these platforms is that you can keep anything choir related entirely separate from your personal life.  Record business messages, add lines for other team members, choose the hours you want to receive calls and keep your customer texts all in one place. Then, when you need to switch off, you can turn off notifications without turning off your personal communication.

Keeping social media social

Don’t allow work contact through your own personal social media accounts; try keeping a standard response in your notes that you can copy and paste if members contact you to discuss choir related topics – something along the lines of “it looks like you want to discuss something choir related, please copy and paste your message to our email, where we will be able to respond in a timely manner”

Appear available without always being on-call

It’s important to be open and available for your members because you want them to feel unique and valued.  However, it can become all-consuming, leaving you no downtime or time to rejuvenate between rehearsals, especially if you run multiple choirs across multiple locations.  Set aside time before and/or after rehearsal to ‘chat’ and ask people to email any specific requests so that you can answer during your usual business hours

Finding members, you can work with

We’ve talked before about finding one or two ‘helpers’ at rehearsal.  These members, who you already know you can trust, can become the perfect buffer between you and your members. Have them establish themselves as the “go-to” person during rehearsal, freeing you up to concentrate on the music.  Of Course, you still want to be available for your members, but there’s a big difference between them needing you in a professional capacity and just wanting to chat about what they had for dinner that evening – this should be reserved for social events or the time you have set aside before or after rehearsal.

Learn to say no

Once you establish your boundaries, exercise your ability to say no.  For example, if you like to exercise during the day, turn off all notifications and go exercise – generally, there’s nothing that can’t wait an hour or two. If you prioritize your own personal well-being, you will perform better when needed.  Saying no is a skill, and although it needs to be done without offending, it can enforce your boundaries and make everyone aware you do have a life outside of choir.

Take Time off

Taking a break from your responsibilities, especially if you are self-employed, is an integral part of setting boundaries. Your schedule will likely be busy, so plan ahead for vacation time and take mental health days when you need them.  Ensure your members know you are on vacation or taking a personal day so that they think twice about how and when they communicate with you. And when you do take time off, really take time off – turn off your phone, turn off your laptop and be present in the moment – you can always set aside an hour or two a day to answer emails and catch up, but if your phone is constantly pinging or buzzing, you won’t be able to rest and really rejuvenate.

Establishing boundaries is all about communication.  Communicate the hours you are prepared to work, define how you want your members to communicate with you.  Make sure everyone knows when you are on vacation and communicate what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to your personal time.  There will always be those members who overstep the boundaries but be firm and stick to your guns – you can be open and approachable without having your personal time trampled over.

We’d love to hear how you manage (or struggle to manage) your own boundaries in the comments below.

Did you enjoy our blog? Check out our other blogs on all choir related topics

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