How to Define Job Roles without Squashing Teamwork and Creativity
5 min read
February 1, 2016
Last updated: March 13, 2020
As a leader, a big part of your job is in setting goals, pulling out motivation, pushing your team forward, inspiring them to be creative. Overseeing progress, in other words. Another big part of your job, however, is in setting and enforcing limits. This often feels like a bad-guy role; nobody likes being the one who has to say No all the time.
But limits, such as clearly defined job roles, actually bring more creative freedom for your team. By defining job roles for each team member, you'll help your team work together better and feel secure enough to come up with innovative, inspiring solutions and creative work.
Present Job Roles as Protections, Not Limits
Start by introducing job roles to your team as beneficial protections for them, not as limits being assigned arbitrarily. To convince your team that job roles are beneficial, go over these points:
Everybody has a lot to do, and no one can do it all. Job roles keep you from feeling responsible for everything, and keep you from being overwhelmed with tasks that shouldn't really be yours to do.
Job roles keep others from taking on the tasks or projects that do belong to you; you can feel secure knowing that you can plan for work, prepare, put effort and time in and not have it unintentionally undone by another team member.
You shouldn't be held responsible for something you didn't do; without clear job roles, however, it's often hard to trace a decision or idea back to the starting point. Job roles protect you from being drawn into issues that aren't yours or receiving blame you don't deserve.
It's easier to focus and accomplish when you know exactly what's expected of you. It's also easier to communicate when you know exactly who is in charge of each area or task. Job roles help eliminate confusion and redundancy, so everyone can work more productively and have to deal with fewer unwanted distractions.
Make Job Roles Fitting to Each Position
There's no need to reinvent the wheel when defining the responsibilities for each role in your team. Let each person's designated position in the company set the responsibilities and tasks for their particular role.
Generally speaking, folks have been educated and prepared for the job position they hold; they'll be more secure in what they're doing if you make their role fit the skills and experience they have.
But Stay Flexible and Open
Defining job roles doesn't mean that each person's responsibilities are set in stone, however. Let your team know that you're willing to talk about changes, and reassign tasks and projects, if it seems fitting. If someone has a particular talent or passion for a task, reassign it; just be sure to talk it over with the original "task holder" and get their enthusiastic agreement, first.
If a senior-level person or the rightful task owner wants to hold on to the task, you should let them; some people may feel threatened by having tasks reassigned, as if they are expendable or unneeded. In that case, just let the task holder know they have help willing and ready, with your blessing; when the schedule gets packed, they might be more willing to share responsibilities with the new and eager team member.
The purpose of job roles is to create a productive work environment; each team member know's what is expected of them. No one is unfairly overwhelmed with responsibilities. The security of focus and limited options tends to lead to more openness, not less, and more confidence to do great creative work.