Role clarity in teams

We’ve been very privileged to work with some really successful teams in sport. We’ve worked with them in the most pressurised of sporting environments at world championships and Olympic Games. More importantly, we’ve seen them hold their nerve and deliver world-beating performances at these critical occasions.

The lessons we’ve learned from these teams have some useful take away messages that apply in any high performing context, so we thought we’d share them with you to provide some food for thought to see how some of the simple ideas can apply to your teams with a view to helping improve performance.

Reading time: 5 minutes

Lesson #3 - The Critical Importance of Roles in High Performing Teams

In Lesson 3 it’s time to change tack slightly and focus on something that we’ve seen taken for granted too many times, both in sport and business. This is common sense stuff, not commonly applied, so see how much of the following relates to you and your team.

This lesson is certainly short and sweet, but is potentially significant for ironing out inefficiencies and subtle reasons for the whole not being greater than the sum of the parts in a team.

Whilst working with teams, it’s become clear to us that there are some simple but important questions that can be asked which help to ensure that key elements of team roles are being controlled. Consider the extent to which everyone on your team/s can provide absolutely clear answers.

Question 1

Are you absolutely clear how the success of your role is critical to the overall success of the team/business?

Question 2

Are you absolutely clear how the success of your role impacts directly on the quality and effectiveness of performance of other people in the team?

Question 3

Are you absolutely clear about the things that you should NOT be doing in your role?

Question 4

Do you have the same level of confidence to deliver ALL elements of your role? If not, what steps can you take to improve your confidence?

Question 5

Looking through your diary entries, are ALL of the activities associated with the different elements of your role receiving equally prioritised amounts of time?

To most people, the questions are very simple, but quite often the answers are not so clear cut. We find a great deal of the time there are a number of assumptions made about roles (either by the person carrying out the role or the person overseeing the role) that do not match up. Challenging these assumptions is critical to overall team success and ensuring that these assumptions do not lead to underperformance and lack of alignment within a team is critical. 

The assumptions that the questions challenge:

  1. You understand your job title, therefore you understand your role and how it is required to be carried out for the specific philosophies and goals of this company.
  2. Everyone understands their own role sufficiently, so everyone will take a helicopter view to see how all of the roles fit together to leave us with an integrated number of roles to deliver great collective performance.
  3. We don’t need to tell people what they shouldn’t do because it’s clear from their job description what they SHOULD be doing.
  4. Once in the role, confidence shouldn’t be an issue because you should have all the confidence you need by being given the role in the first place.
  5. Individuals make appropriate time for the different elements of their roles so that proactive and reactive elements are carried out with equal quality.

If you can ensure that the assumptions are avoided in the first place and also that answers to the questions can be provided with absolute clarity, chances are that the team will be in a strong position to start exploiting different roles and their interplay, rather than having many separate roles that don’t actually blend together effectively to result in the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.