By Michael Gunther
I learned early in life the importance of setting clear roles and responsibilities for work groups. Looking back, I’m amazed that our house full of 17 children was always clean and organized, since in my own household today (with only two of us) we struggle to maintain order. Of course, I have to attribute this early experience to my parents who were ingenuous in their organizational skills.
My First Roles & Responsibilities
We called it the “Job Board,” the chart on the kitchen wall that clearly defined the roles and responsibilities assigned to each one of us. Some of the roles were based on skills, some on experience – creating an ideal team environment.
Across the top of the Job Board were the chores that needed to be done; down the left were the list of the family members. The chores each person was responsible for were identified with a star or a mark next to their name. The color of the star or mark indicated whether that chore was to be completed daily or weekly. Some of the more tedious assignments (like dishes) rotated between two or three people, so no one person was stuck doing them day in and day out.
Because each person’s tasks were assigned for a full year, we quickly learned to negotiate or swap tasks in order to avoid certain responsibilities on the major holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. Of course everyone wanted his or her birthday off as well – this is when I really learned the art of negotiation, but that’s another story! Each year as the older siblings moved off to college or the younger siblings developed more skills, my parents would adjust the Job Board accordingly, changing the team dynamic and allowing each of us to adapt to new roles and responsibilities.
The Job Board for Businesses
It is all too common in business today that employee roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined; most leaders rarely, if ever, take the time to analyze the roles of their team members. This leaves employees who want to have a positive impact on their business feeling uncertain about how to make it happen, and business owners continuing to take on tasks that could easily be delegated to their employees if each person’s roles and responsibilities were clearly defined.
Without this clarity, an organization’s foundation will begin to crack – and things will fall through.
Your Team’s Roles & Responsibilities
The Job Board is more than just a happy memory for me; it set a precedent and taught me that developing roles and responsibilities in an organization contribute to its success. I’d like to pass on the following three important strategies that I learned from watching my parents run a successful family.
Set clear roles and responsibilities. Make the time to ensure every employee in your organization understands their role as a team member – and what their role means for the future of the organization.
Evaluate employee roles annually, at a minimum. As team dynamics and industry change, so should employee roles. For example, last year at Collaboration, we didn’t have a role for social media; today we have two people who hold various responsibilities in managing our social media projects.
Develop team growth plans. As a leader, you should always be analyzing your own tasks and role to determine whether someone else on you team should be performing them – allowing you to change your functions as well.
The Bottom Line
Take some time to develop a “Job Board” for your team. Clearly identify their capabilities, and then identify tasks or roles that they can own. Be sure to include some of the tasks on your own plate. Create an action plan to train your staff on their new roles, and prepare yourself to let go of the roles you are transferring. Speaking of, I have to run… and update Collaboration’s Job Board!