role clarity

Role Clarity: Why Role Setting Should Always Precede Goal Setting

Growth has many wonderful consequences – more opportunity, more reach, more influence, more volume, and more! The truth is, there are also more challenges with a rapidly growing enterprise. The systems, methods, processes and even the structure of a simpler day can falter under growth. These are good problems to have, but they are problems nonetheless. Sometimes people lose role clarity.

Our organization is fortunate to experience growth during this season. We have enjoyed the benefits I described above, and we are learning to respond to the challenges. In a recent meeting, I was confronted by an employee who was thinking about one of the unintended challenges of growth.

Having moved several times within the organization over the last few years, he was looking for something he could sink his teeth into. As we talked, it was clear he was seeking role clarity. My advice was straightforward:

Own Your Role Clarity

This may seem totally legit to you, but my growing sense is that role clarity remains elusive; and many team members wait for their supervisor/manager/leader to provide the needed fix.

If you believe greater role clarity would help you perform at a higher level, go after it! The process is simple:

Identify Your Key Roles

What are you paid to do? Make the list short – if you can boil your primary responsibilities down to a list of three to five roles, you are on the right track. As an example, one of my roles is to create. Create what? Well, in my case, content and resources for leaders. However, the fact that you had to ask is the reason you need to move to the second step in the process.

Write a Paragraph Explaining Each Role

Your comments should clarify and illuminate the role. This will eliminate confusion at the concept level (or at least start a conversation that should lead to clarity). Words don’t have meaning, people do. The few sentences you’ll create will establish the meaning you attributed to your words and your role.

Send Your Draft to Your Leader

Ask your leader to give you feedback. Over the years, this has been a very valuable step in the process for my teams and me. I always ask the team member to create the first draft. This allows me to know what they think about their role, their current concept of boundaries and expectations. I offer my input and then we create the second, and often final, draft.

Reach Agreement

This can be the most freeing part of the process. Even if you and your leader disagree, you can leave the conversation with the assurance your role is clear. You may not like the outcome of the dialogue; that’s another post for another day. The goal of this entire activity is alignment and clarity. You should find it as you, together, create the final draft of your role document.

Note: If you are fortunate to maintain a team and/or supervisor for more than a year, I would suggest an annual review of your role document. This will be productive – you’ll either affirm or adjust. Either way, it’s a win-win.

Create Your Plan and Calendar Accordingly

There’s not much more to say at this point. If you and your leader agree on your role, the next logical step is to agree on the goals, strategies, and tactics you will employ to fulfill your role. Once you have agreement here, the ball is clearly in your court. It’s then time to do the work!

A single page, agreed upon between you and your leader, can be the cornerstone for your success. Without it, you will fly blind, and you’ll likely not participate in the benefits of growth.

Mark Miller

Mark Miller is the best-selling author of six books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs.

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