Are you clear on your Role in your organisation?

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Being clear about your role and what’s expected of you is key to playing your part in your organisation and getting stuff done effectively. It’s also a big part of feeling satisfied and engaged by your work. The question is, are you clear on it? Role Clarity is a tool that can help.

You’ve probably realised that your job description is not the best representation of your role and what you do. You’re likely to be doing extra things that don’t fit the official version, and there may be ways you get things done that fall outside the ‘usual’ procedures.

The truth is that organisations don’t work in straight lines. Processes often have to be subverted in order to achieve the desired outcome – in addition, you might have a whole range of assumptions about what actually is the desired outcome.

That may not have been clearly expressed at the outset either.

Role Clarity is an exercise that helps you reflect on what it is you actually do to get things done. It’s a way for you to clarify in your own mind what you do and challenge your assumptions about what you believe is expected of you.

Often you’ll need to get further clarification from your peers and managers.

This goes back to the Three Questions:

  • What’s expected of me?
  • How am I doing?
  • Where am I heading?

If you can answer these questions, you’ll have some clarity around the unwritten social contract between you, your coworkers, and the organisation. And you can work to get you where you need to be.

Role Clarity takes this further.

How it Works

Role Clarity is an exercise that invites you to articulate all of the aspects of your role.

It starts with a very simple practice: write down what you do on a big piece of paper. Everything that you do.

For each of the activities ask yourself:

  • Why do I do it?
  • How am I doing it?
  • How is that contributing?
  • What assumptions am I making?
  • What boundaries are defining my actions?

If you are clearer on what your role as you do it is, you can better answer:

  • What is the purpose of my role?
  • What is the outcome I’m trying to achieve?
  • Is this the best way of achieving that?
  • What should be part of my role and what shouldn’t be?
  • What are my peers expecting of me?
  • What’s my manager expecting of me?
  • Do I need to redefine my role in any way?
  • What should I start or stop doing?

Then you can have a conversation about what is really expected.

It’s best if you do this exercise with someone else, or your peers.

It starts with a very simple practice: write down what you do on a big piece of paper. Everything that you do.

Four Steps to Role Clarity

  1. Firstly make a list of all the different things that you do – not just with reference to your job description, because usually, that doesn’t cover everything.
  2. Then ask each other questions about what you believe is expected of you.
  3. Can you identify all the assumptions you are making? Where might you be going beyond your remit, and why? What is the motivation for that? What is the extra work you’re doing and is it something that should be being done by someone else?
  4. If you’re doing this in a group, first work on it on your own, and then come back together to show each other what you’ve done – that way everyone gets an understanding and an overview of everyone else’s role.

The idea is to get shared clarity on what you’re all doing.

Download a free Role Clarity worksheet here

What You Can Learn

What you may find is that other people didn’t realise you’re doing certain tasks. Especially if they think it’s their job! They may ask, “Why are you doing that?”

Then you can get into a conversation about why you’re doing those things, and what assumptions you’re making about what you’re here to do.

Usually the answer is because you think somebody has to step in and do it, otherwise, the system will break. That’s great because that says something about what you understand your role to be.

And if that is indeed what’s needed, what else could you be doing?

Or it might prompt you to think about how you can stop propping the system up and actually fix that thing.

You might recognise you are unconsciously making assumptions about what you’re here to do. Shedding light on that may indicate that, yes, it is your job to keep things going. It’s not in your job description, but making sure all the holes are patched up is needed.

Sometimes what you realise is that certain functions aren’t really your job, or indeed, you’re doing the wrong job. Maybe you think you’re there to police the work of other people, maybe you’ve become a micro-manager.

That’s not your job.

Why This Tool is Good for Managers

The Role Clarity exercise starts a really rich conversation.

It asks you to question the functions you’re performing. It lets your peers look at them too, when you do it as a group or team, starting a clarifying conversation. It helps you to think about the boundaries, and about your behaviours. Then you have an opportunity to reflect and reframe your assumptions, perhaps reconsidering where the bounds of your authority should be.

Then if appropriate you can negotiate with your peers and your managers about what you’re actually doing.

Maybe in this process you’ll identify a whole bunch of stuff you shouldn’t really be doing – you can either delegate it down, negotiate it away, or just stop doing it.

This is a personal journey that requires sustained thought and reflection over time.

And of course things change, so it’s a good idea to review your role on an annual basis.

Doing the Role Clarity exercise, and interrogating what actually is the purpose of your role, and are you doing it, can be really really helpful.

More reading

Have a look at the blog on Power + Systems to see how your default responses may be programmed by the system.

If you need some help with working on this – get in touch, at Then Somehow we help you build emotional literacy, increase empathy, and help you see the world differently, giving you practical tools to shift the stuff that’s stuck.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help your leadership team perform better, get in touch here.

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