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Right Role .. Wrong Person

As we grow our business, it’s really easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget to look at people — not roles.

We know that we’ll need finance and accounting, marketing, sales, operations, and more. But, in our rush to make “stuff happen” (generally revenue), it’s easy to fill the role and not fill the “person.”

A “job role” is just a description of what a person does. As an example, as a CEO, my job role was making major decisions, managing the overall operations of the company and resources, and acting as the main point of contact with the founding board.

As the “person” in the role, I had first to unravel the list of things that the CEO did and then apply that list to who I am. Was I the right guy? Did I have the desire and commitment to developing the right skills? Was I willing to do the work to succeed?

In short, I needed to have a complete understanding of the role and the willingness to develop the skills to deliver results — the two critical characteristics in that equation: clarity and the will.

Before you put a “butt in the chair,” take the time to have as much clarity about the role as possible. Here are a few things to think about:

  1. Jot down three reasons why this role is essential to your business.
  2. Then ask, do I really need this role now?
  3. Is this a new role; or an expansion of a current role?
  4. What tasks do you want this individual to perform?
  5. Detail the essential requirements and qualifications (skills and personality by the way).
  6. Define how you will measure success in the role.
  7. Determine who this individual will report to.
  8. Verify your assumptions by talking to your team or a business coach.
  9. Ask should I hire or contract the individual?
  10. How fast do I need that person to be efficient?

“Never hire someone who knows less than you do about what he’s hired to do.” — Malcolm Forbes

How do you determine willingness? You have to be clear with that person, share your expectations about cultural fit, and ask:

  • Do they have the desire to learn?
  • Can they tell you what they’ve done in the past to master a skill?
  • How have they been measured in previous roles?
  • How’d that make them feel?
  • Are they willing to try and fail and try again?

How they answer these questions will give you the framework for exploring their experiences and determining fit.

Chances are you have folks in an unclear role. That happens. Don’t get too wrapped up around the axel. Just do something about it. If you don’t, your business suffers. They suffer. Your clients suffer.

To clarify a role, openly communicate with your team and test your thinking. If you feel like your team members need clarity in their role, they likely feel the same.

Take action. Set up a time to talk and ask them to tell you their description of the role. Listen to them. Then, be candid and focus on aligning their expectations with yours. If this is the first conversation, make sure they know this is not punitive. You’re not there to assign blame. You’re there to help them succeed.

If this is not the first conversation, use candor to reset their thinking on the role and seek agreement. Always remember the intent of the conversation is to help that individual succeed.

For more insights on culture, roles, people, and growth, please drop me a note at doland@dolandwhite.com. Or, visit the website at www.dolandwhite.com and schedule a 20-minute free call. You can also download my FREE checklist from the site.

Hi, I’m Doland White, a consultant, speaker, and experienced business leader and prior CEO.