Role clarity in two steps

How do you know that you are performing your role to the best of your ability?

The first step is to have a 100% role clarity. That is, you are certain that what you are focusing your time and energy on, is what you should be focused on.

To ensure that you have role clarity, follow the two steps below.

Step one

With your manager, agree on the answer to the question, “What are my key responsibilities?”

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Most full-time employees have between four to six key responsibilities. If you have more than six responsibilities, it is worth checking if your role has become too big for one person. Unfortunately, roles that are too big for one person usually rise to the surface when someone leaves and are then replaced by two or three people!

When you confirm your key responsibilities with your manager, you must also confirm how each of those responsibilities will be measured. Both quantitative and qualitative measures are fine, and a single responsibility may have more than one measure. These measures answer the question, “How are you performing in your role?

While most people have clear responsibilities set out in their position description, they do not have clear, agreed measures that indicate how the person is performing in their role. If you are not clear about how your performance will be measured, then the probability that you will be spending time on aspects of your role that either isn’t important or don’t actually contribute to your performance will be high.

Is it okay to have a qualitative performance measure that reflects that you and your manager agree that you are on track, or not?

The answer is a resounding, “Yes

While it is best to have quantitative measures, sometimes they aren’t easy to identify. In these circumstances, you may simply agree with your manager to maintain communication about this responsibility and the two of you will regularly meet and agree on your performance, specific to that responsibility.

The outcome of this step is that you will have a clear list of key responsibilities, as well as a clear list of measures for each of those responsibilities. Should the “goalposts move” simply assess your performance up until that date against your agreed criteria, clarify your changed or new responsibilities, identify and clarify your measures for your new set of responsibilities and get on with performing your role. If you work in an annual performance review system, then all you have to do is take the agreed assessment of your performance up until the date your role changed and add it to the assessment of the performance of your role for the rest of the year. This is a lot easier to do than most people believe.

Step two

The majority of people I have worked with have never performed this step prior to me working with them. I encourage you to take the time to be different and to help yourself stand out from the crowd.

In order for you to successfully achieve the agreed performance measures for your key responsibilities, who are the specific people with whom you need to work with so you can be successful in your role? The first person on your list will be your manager, then any colleagues with whom you work (these are often the people in your team). Next, identify people in other departments upon whom you rely on for their support if you are to be successful in your role. Keep in mind that anyone who receives the output of your work, so they can do their work, is a customer of yours. These people need to be on your list too. Finally, are they any suppliers and or customers with whom you have direct contact?

As a guide, the average number of people named on this list is 18. Please note, this is an average, so your number may be lower or higher. No matter how many people are on your list, each of these people requires your direct input so that your relationship is as effective as possible. Ineffective relationships with key people that matter to the performance of your role will have a negative impact on your performance.

To complete this step, you must identify how you are nurturing each of these relationships. Literally write down one action that you are already doing, or could do to nurture that relationship. If you get stuck, and can’t think of an action, here’s a simple, yet highly effective one to implement when you are communicating with them. Listen. Period. Each time you make contact with them, make sure that you listen to what they say. You don’t have to agree with them, but you must ensure that they get the message that you understood what they said. At the very least, I promise you that listening will not damage your relationship with them.

Once role clarity is established, you ought to have a conversation with your manager about how you are performing, including how you are going with nurturing the relationships associated with your role. These conversations should occur at least eight times per year.

Role clarity is easy to say but is lacking for far too many people. Follow the two steps above and your role clarity will be significantly improved.

If you are leading people and have direct reports, then I encourage you to complete these two steps with each of your reports. The clarity you will gain will benefit both of you!


Gary Ryan helps talented professionals, their teams and organisations, move Beyond Being Good®

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