Achieve Success by Effectively Defining Roles, Responsibility, and Authority

Monday, September 3 2012

Every person in an organization must be clear about their role. Specifically, they need to know:

  • To whom they report
  • Their responsibilities and expectations
  • The level of authority required to make decisions

Although this seems obvious and simple, I have observed far too many situations where individuals are not clear about the reporting structure, their responsibilities or authority. Lack of clarity can lead to disaster.

Consider what would happen if an airline pilot was unclear about who does what. The pilot is responsible for the safety of the passengers and the plane. They are expected to undertake all the necessary checks before taking off and they must follow strict procedures while in the air. They are responsible for and have the authority to make a lot of decisions. However, during take-off and landing their authority is limited; and, at these times they must ask for and get permission from the air traffic controllers before taking action. Can you imagine the disasters if every pilot had the authority to take off and land at will? Or perhaps needed to negotiate take-off or landing directly with the other pilots flying in the area?

The foundation for developing a strong team is getting reporting, responsibility and accountability roles right. Consider these four strategies to guide your work:

1. Communication

Good communication ensures that all team members understand and accept the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities that have been designated within the team. This is vitally important as the team members rely on one another to get and give support. This sharing creates a team environment, which is different from a group of people working together.

2. Delegation of authority

As a leader you are responsible for providing the right level of authority for each role. Authority can range from asking before doing, to total independence and control. Once authority and responsibility have been assigned, there is no room for micromanaging the process. Micromanaging undermines authority and kills motivation.

3. Recognition

Give credit to the person(s) delivering the service. Recognizing results builds strong trusting relationships, which are critical for the development of strong teams.

4. Evaluation

It is important to evaluate whether you are effectively leading your team in this work. Ask yourself, “If I were in their shoes how would I feel?”  Another way is to ask your team, either directly or in a survey.

Clear definition of roles, responsibility and authority is the foundation for helping your team achieve greater success. Take the time to do it right.