Team Roles and Responsibilities – Let Them Own It!

Contributed by Kristen McAlister

Most business owners see their company as unique. Whether it is the industry, the product, the culture or the business challenges. Though I can often be swayed in the first two categories, it is rare that someone can convince me that their business challenges are unique. If you have ever felt alone and frustrated with the way your business is operating, read on, you’re not alone…

Cerius recently worked with a family owned manufacturing business. One of the biggest challenges was the thought that their issues were unique and would be very difficult (likely impossible) to fix. I feel as though I’m about to offer up a rhetorical question – how many business do you know that have at least three (if not all) of the following issues:

  1. Communication issues
  2. Best practices are not documented (aka. no policies & procedures)
  3. Little or no cross training. Only one person knows how to do each job (not including the owner)
  4. Not sure if you have the right people in the right positions
  5. You have a few people who are hard workers but don’t seem to be stepping up the way you would expect
  6. As owner/CEO of the company you feel as though you need to follow up on things you shouldn’t otherwise they may not get done (or get done properly)

It is easy to feel distracted or buried by these concerns. In the back of your mind you keep thinking:

  • My business is doing well but can it handle any more growth?
  • Everyone is over loaded but they wouldn’t be if we were more efficient.
  • Why do I need to get involved in so many of the day-to-day tasks?
  • Why doesn’t everything get done on time?

There is no easy quick fix but a few fundamentals can make a world of difference to you and your employees.

  1. Team Roles and Responsibilities

I have never had a set of employee interviews or a project post-mortem/recap that didn’t come down to this as one of the largest contributing factors to the problems. Each employee should be clear on (ie. documented & reviewed): what their responsibilities are, who they are accountable to, what their role is in the company, how their strengths contribute to that role and a plan for any additional training needed. Given them ownership of their list. They are ‘responsible’ and they ‘own’ it. It is amazing to see what happens when you give someone the gift of ‘ownership’.

Don’t assume they already know. I sat in on a conversation recently when the owner realized that she had been referring to someone as her “Office Manager” and never actually offered her the position or let her know what it involved.

With all of the effort and fanfare that goes into putting these together and having the discussions with each employee, the last thing you want is for them to end up buried on a server somewhere. The more these are referred to, acted on and brought into discussions, the more they will be kept updated and valued. For example, you want to start an employee acknowledgement program. You task someone with the initiative, they do a great job, get promoted or leave the company, now what? If this was added to the roles & responsibilities at the start of the initiative, it will then be tracked and monitored. The roles & responsibilities can be used when discussing support or training needs, accomplishments, re-assignment or transitioning of responsibilities, etc. It also officially gives the individual ownership of this initiative.

Tip: I suggest keeping a master list in one document for easy reference in addition to the individual lists given to employees. Yes, that means maintaining information in two places which I normally recommend against but it is justified in this case.

Now that the foundation is in place, other initiatives will take less time and effort while providing great value to all. For example:

Cross Training/SOP – identify the key areas of your company that should have at least two people who know how to do it, ie. manufacturing, accounting, customer service, etc. Before training, the person responsible for that particular job should write up a basic “how to” outline. The trainee uses this, makes notes and adds to it. The document is updated and now you have both a back-up training and documented SOP.

The first efforts are the hardest. You’re using a whole new muscle and most aren’t use to it. Once you get the first efforts in place and everyone gets comfortable with the process it starts to become second nature, they take ownership and wonderful things happen!

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