Define Roles and Responsibilities with Clarity

Posted by Kristin Arnold on March 7, 2023

define roles and responsibilities

As your team comes together, it is important to define the roles and responsibilities beyond the sharing of team roles.  Most people want to know where they belong on the team — why they are there and what is expected of them.  Take the time to clarify their roles.

Ask team members to share their:

Expectations.  Ask what they expect from the team and how they might be able to contribute to the team’s success.

Job Description.  Let team members describe, in their own words, what their job is, the work that they do, how they do it, who they work with, and what they are responsible for.

Action Items.  Clarify action items and responsibilities.  Ensure team members have a clear understanding of what the task is, and what the team expects them to do.  Agree on how the members will let the team know the task is accomplished.

Definition of a Good Team Player.  Clarify the definition of a good team player.  For example, he or she contributes meaningfully to the team, shares knowledge and expertise, participates in all meetings and discussions, and carries out assignments between meetings.

Balance Task and Maintenance Behaviors.  Less tangible, but just as important, are the team’s interaction skills.  We all think we are great team players, committed to getting the job done with others.  An effective team demonstrates a wide range of task and maintenance behaviors:

Task behaviors enable the team to work on a specific task.

Some task behaviors include:

  • Initiating.  State the purpose or objective.  Offer opinions and ideas.  Offer facts, examples or relevant information.  Suggest a procedure or method for the team to follow.  Suggest resource people to contact.
  • Asking.   Ask others for their opinions and ideas.  Validate others’ ideas.  Ask others to clarify their opinions and ideas.  Bring in others who may not speak.  Poll the team for a consensus.
  • Clarifying.  Clarify or explain reasons.  Provide concise examples and illustrations.  Point out relationships between facts and opinions.  Pull ideas and suggestions together.
  • Refocusing.  Refocus the team when joking, personal stories, or irrelevant talk goes on too long.  Refocus the team by redefining goals, problems, or outcomes when things become hazy or confusing.
  • Summarizing.  Summarize progress or discussions.  Summarize alternatives and issues facing the team. Celebrate small successes.

Maintenance behaviors ensure the team is working well together.

Some maintenance behaviors include:

  • Encouraging.  Accept, praise, and agree with the contribution of others.
  • Harmonizing.  Smooth out differences and relieve tension between team members.
  • Reconciling.  Search for common elements in conflicts.  Get others to explain differences of opinion.  Admit they could be wrong.  Offer a compromise.
  • Compromising.  Constructively manage areas of disagreement.  Aim to resolve conflicts by admitting an error, enforcing ground rules, or meeting others halfway.
  • Gatekeeping.  Manage airtime ensuring all participate and no one dominates.
  • Observing.  Observe group process and team dynamics.  Provide feedback to the group to reinforce strengths and evaluate possible areas for improvement.

These task and maintenance roles can both help and hinder discussion.  It’s important to have a balance of all of these behaviors for effective teamwork.

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Team Leader Tips to Set Your Team Up For Success

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.

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