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Clarifying Roles and Goals

One of the primary tasks of an effective leader is clarifying roles and responsibilities for the team. Being articulate and clear about the who’s, what’s and when’s will make everyone’s job, including yours, much simpler. Clarifying roles and objectives is extremely critical for effective team performance. People cannot follow you if they are not clear on where you are going and what position they play in getting there. If you are a leader of a team, do not expect people to follow you if you do not clarify what you want from them.What is clarifying? It is the clear communication of plans, policies, and role expectations. This coordinates the work of the team, and establishes direction. In an effective team, it is essential for each team member to understand what duties, functions, and activities are required in the job and what results are expected. The most highly competent and motivated team member may fail to achieve a high level of performance if he or she is confused about responsibilities and priorities. Confusion results in sideways energy, and the neglect of the most important responsibilities in favor of lesser priorities.Obviously, the more complex and multifaceted the job, the more difficult it is to decide exactly what needs to be done. When job responsibilities may overlap, role conflict will develop within the work until without clarification. While elaborate rules and systems stifle creativity much of the time, these heavier systems make less clarifying necessary. A great leader finds a way to clarify so well that their trained leaders understands what needs to be accomplished and can do it without much additional direction.Following these guidelines for clarifying your roles and goals can help you develop a satisfied, motivated, and high performing team.

  1. Clearly explain the task. Speak clearly. Describe what needs to be done, say when it should be done, and describe the expected results. Explain any organization rules or standard procedures that must be followed. If the task is ambiguous and the results uncertain to the team member, do not expect he or she will perform it well.

  2. Explain the reason for the task. Make certain the team member knows why the task is necessary and required. Affirm the team member, and let him/her know why they are the person selected for that task. Understanding these elements of the assignment can increase motivation and commitment. It may provide just what is necessary to overcome obstacles in performance. This principle is often missed, unfortunately. To have effective team members, you must show them the value of their contribution to the team and organization. Once a member is part of a team, it is easy to overlook their need for affirmation.

  3. Check for mutual understanding of the task. It doesn’t take make time as a leader or an employee to figure out that often what I thought I said is not what the other person thought they heard. Be alert for signs that the person does not understand your instructions or is reluctant to do what you are asking. For instance, a puzzled expression or slow response should be followed with some questions. For example, “How do you understand what I am expecting? How do you plan to carry it out?”

  4. Give any necessary instructions for the task. Demonstrate and explain. Point out incorrect and correct ways to do it. If the task involves an observable procedure that only takes a short time to complete, and the person lacks experience doing it, demonstrate the procedure. Then, have the person practice it while you observe, provide feedback, and applaud for a job well done. Effective teams are always coached.

  5. Explain priorities for different objectives or responsibilities within the overall task. In our organizations, tasks often involve more than one objective or goal. For example, the objectives may involve both quantity and quality, and when too much time is devoted to one objective the other may suffer. For instance, if so much time is spent on making the quality perfect, the deadline may be missed. There is no simple way to determine priorities, but they should reflect the importance of the task from the whole team and organizational perspective. It is essential to explain how the priorities relate to each other, and provide guidance on maintaining an effective balance.

  6. Set specific goals and deadlines within the most important tasks. Individuals within a task group may be given different goals and deadlines for their part of the project. The goals should be challenging but realistic given the difficulty of the task, the skills of the team member, and the resources available for the work. For a task that needs to be completed by a definite time and date, it is useful to set a specific deadline, not only for the overall task, but for significant steps within the task.

One of the most popular ways to clarify roles is to create a chart know as a RACI chart that defines individual or group Roles and Accountabilities, as well as who needs to be Consulted and Informed. While this is a viable and good process, it can take a long time and much energy to create. It’s also useless without entire team periodic review.If you don’t have a lot of time, and you have to get some clarity to move forward, use these four questions to spark some movement towards clarity.Ask your team members:

  • What are your 2-3 key deliverables, objectives or products you produce for the team?

  • What resources and/or support do you need that you are currently receiving?

  • What resources and/or support do you need that you are not receiving now?

  • What are you getting that you don’t need; what is preventing or getting in your way of doing your job?

Clarifying roles and responsibilities is a sure way to sustain high-performance teamwork, commitment, and motivation. Conducting a periodic team building workshop to re-clarify everyone’s responsibilities will do wonders for your team. You’ll be rejuvenated, too!

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