Are Your Team Members Clear About Their Roles?

businessman showing Know your role words underneath his shirt over white backgroundLast week my wife and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. She is my rock, my inspiration, and my behind-the-scenes co-founder.

Over the years we have assumed certain roles and responsibilities. That’s especially true when we travel. We recently returned from a family trip to Universal Studios, Orlando. My wife took care of airline, hotel, and theme park ticketing. I took care of getting the house ready, securing the rental car, and coordinating our family visits.

Sometimes we aren’t exactly clear about these type of roles and responsibilities and it can cause a few fireworks. I’ve noticed the same thing happens in new and mature startups.

It’s pretty important for startup teams to get clarity on roles and even revisit the topic on a regular basis. One of my favorite Harvard Business Review articles on the subject [“The Biggest Mistake You (Probably) Make with Teams”] summarized some research on the topic. Here is what it said: “collaboration improves when the roles of individual team members are clearly defined and well understood.”

If it’s so important for you, your co-founder, and your team members to be clear about roles and responsibilities, why do many startup teams miss this?

To be sure, many of the Founding CEO guests on my podcast have credited much of their team’s success to absolute role clarity. Yet, recently a CEO told me one of his direct reports is unclear about his responsibilities. I asked the direct report myself and he agreed. Things just morphed over time, they both suggested.

If you find that your team members are in need or some clarity about roles and responsibilities, here are some tips that you may want to consider:

  • Invite your team members to take an inventory of what they perceive to be their individual roles and responsibilities.
  • Invite them to share their lists with each member of the team and have these other team members add or subtract what they thought.
  • Invite the team members to brief the team on another team member’s list of responsibilities and facilitate a dialogue about the findings.
  • Ask team members if their responsibilities are consistent with their current interests and passions.
  • Facilitate a dialogue around the types of technologies that could relieve the team of some duties and responsibilities.
  • Consider creating a shared spreadsheet or database of all the responsibilities and ensure there is a name next to each one.

It might be a good idea to visit the idea of team responsibilities at least once a year.

Are you, your co-founder, and team members clear about your roles?

2 thoughts on “Are Your Team Members Clear About Their Roles?

  1. Interesting post! I would imagine it depends where you are in your life stage of the organization. A small (less than 25) people everyone should wear multiple hats (as you have capital limitations), when you hit (25-50ish) the multiple roles should reduce to dual roles and then when you across a certain threshold roles should be clearly defined.

    1. Hi Amit. I very much agree with you. I think’s its a transition that occurs over time. The challenge for us Founding CEOs is to recognize when we need to start making these shifts as the company grows. Congrats on all your success with Moblize. 🙂

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