It is common to experience slow or even no decision making at all across a company or team. This has only been amplified by being remote and not being able to have quick discussions to enable decision making. Whilst decisions don’t always have to be made fast, they do need to be made at some point or it can come with considerable costs, not only in lost profits, but also wasted time, talent, and resources.

As a leader it is your role to uncover and unblock concerns that could have wide implications for your company, this includes self-reflection to ensure you are part of the solution as well. Remember to lead with empathy as change can be difficult, recognize behaviors you want to see repeated, and continue to be a guiding help.

There is a multitude of reasons why decisions are not being made or can be stalled, including:

  • Lack of trust
  • The tendency to avoid conflict
  • No accountability
  • Underdeveloped soft skills ie; empathy, active listening, feedback (giving and receiving)
  • Lack of communication
  • Lack of clarity

Of course, there could be more reasons and often they are intertwined, however, in this help article we are going to focus on communication, specifically around team roles and responsibilities. By ensuring you and your team members have agreed on roles and responsibilities you allow for more ownership and accountability (decision making) in order to get things done. It will also help aid your personal development conversations to be able to reflect on achievements and set growth goals.

How to set roles and responsibilities

Follow this 7 step process to get started. Remote or in-person this is all about collaboration so make sure you have enough materials to write with and a space to work together.

Tip: For groups bigger than 8 we recommend breaking this into two smaller 1-hour sessions.

Step 1: Prepare (10 mins)

Create a table with the following columns:

Role, Responsibilities (what others think), Responsibilities (what I think), Unassigned

Here is a free template to download and get you started.

Share and communicate clearly with the team why you are doing this exercise and what to expect.

Example text: Team, in the coming week we are going to work together on team roles and responsibilities. The goal is to help us get closer to achieving our team/ company mission by making sure we are all clear on what is expected of us and moving together in the same direction. Here is the document we will be working on.

Step 2: Identify roles (5 mins)

Begin the session by defining roles. Each team member should add their role to the ‘Role’ column (eg: team lead, content writer, accountant, etc) in the shared document.

If there are multiple people in the same role, only include the role once. However if one person has multiple roles make sure to add all different roles (eg: Project manager and digital marketer).

Step 3: Identify teammates' responsibilities (15 mins)

For each role (not their own) team members should write down their understanding of the role's top responsibilities. This should go in the ‘what others think’ column.

If there are any responsibilities that don't fall clearly within a role, add them to the section for unassigned responsibilities.

Step 4: Identify individual responsibilities (5 mins)

Now ask each person to think of the top (usually 3-5) things they’re responsible for in their own role. Rank them in order of importance and place them in the ‘What I think’ column.

Step 5: Discuss role responsibilities (20 mins)

Next it is time for the person in the role to describe their “What I think” notes. This can include describing how the tasks are prioritized in their role. Each person in the room then presents their ideas in the “What others think” column. The group can discuss differences in ideas and prioritization.

The role owner then reviews the differences and either accepts or declines additional responsibilities. If responsibilities overlap, define a primary owner, as well as contributors or back-up owners.

Move responsibilities that are not accepted or do not have an owner to the unowned section at the bottom of the table.

Step 6: Review unowned responsibilities (15 mins)

Review the unowned items as a group. See if they should be a part of an existing role/s. Discuss as a group why they might or might not fit in specific roles.

If they are not part of a role, this could mean that a new role is needed or that a role needs to be redefined. Make sure to identify an individual who is responsible for finding an owner of these tasks and a date to follow up.

Step 7: Summarize and identify next steps (5 mins)

As you wrap up, summarize the roles and responsibilities to confirm that the team agrees.

Identify individual people to own them and then document the specific roles, responsibilities, and deadlines everyone has agreed on. Set a time to check back in on any necessary follow-ups. We recommend that you add these skills to the Impraise competency library which you can then use to track and measure progress. You can do this in partnership with your HR lead.

Creating these roles and responsibilities is the first step to clarity and accountability. Now it’s time to make sure these are continuously lived by and understood by everyone, supporting each other where needed and ensuring that there is buy-in from all stakeholders.

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