Clarifying roles and objectives is very critical for effective teams. If you are a leader of a team, do not expect people to follow you if you do not clarify what you want from them. Clarifying is the communication of plans, policies, and role expectations. The purpose of clarifying behavior is to guide and coordinate work activity and make sure people know what to do and how to do it.
In an effective team, it is essential for each subordinate to understand what duties, functions, and activities are required in the job and what results are expected. Even a subordinate who is highly competent and motivated may fail to achieve a high level of performance if confused about responsibilities and priorities. Such confusion results in misdirected effort and neglect of important responsibilities in favor of less important ones.
The more complex and multifaceted the job, the more difficult it is to determine what needs to be done. Clarifying behavior is likely to be more important when there is substantial role ambiguity or role conflict for members of the work unit. Less clarifying is necessary if the organization has elaborate rules and regulations dictating how the work should be done and subordinates understand them, or if subordinates are highly trained professionals who have the expertise to do their jobs without much direction from superiors.
The following guidelines indicate how leaders can effectively assign tasks to subordinates and clarify subordinate roles and responsibilities. They help you build an effective team that guarantees high performance.
Guidelines for Clarifying Roles and Objectives for Effective Teams
1) Clearly explain the task
When assigning tasks, use clear language that is easy to understand. If more than one task is involved, explain one task at a time to avoid confusion. Describe what needs to be done, say when it should be done, and describe the expected results. Explain any organization rules or standard procedures that must be followed by anyone who does that type of task. It goes without saying, if the task is ambiguous to the team member, do not expect he or she will perform it well. Even worse, expect error.
2) Explain the reason for the task
Unless it is obvious already or there is no time for it, explain why the task is necessary and important, and why you have selected the person to be responsible for it. Understanding the purpose of an assignment can increase task commitment and facilitate subordinate initiative in overcoming obstacles. This principle is usually missed, unfortunately. To have effective team members, you must show them the value of their contribution to the team and organization.
3) Check for understanding of the task
It is not enough to communicate and explain the task to the team member. Be alert for indications that the person does not understand your instructions or is reluctant to do what is asked (e.g., a puzzled expression or hesitant response). For a complex task that the person has not done previously, it is useful to probe for understanding. For example, ask how the person expects to carry out the task.
4) Provide any necessary instructions in how to do the task
If the person needs instruction in how to do a task, demonstrate and explain the procedures one step at a time using simple, clear language. Point out both correct and incorrect procedures, and explain the cues that indicate whether a procedure has been done correctly. If the task involves an observable procedure that only takes a short time to complete, and the person lacks experience doing it, demonstrate the procedure. Then, have the person practice it while you observe and provide feedback. To have an effective team, you need to coach its members.
5) Explain priorities for different objectives or responsibilities
Tasks often involve more than one type of objective, and there may be trade-offs among the objectives. For example, the objectives may involve both quantity and quality of the work, and when too much time is devoted to one objective the other may suffer. There is no simple way to determine priorities, but they should reflect the importance of the task for the manager’s unit and the organization. It is essential to explain the relative priorities of different objectives and provide guidance on how to achieve an effective balance among them.
6) Set specific goals and deadlines for important tasks
Clear, specific performance goals are often useful to guide efforts and increase task motivation. The goals may involve the performance of individual subordinates or the overall performance of a team or work unit. The goals should be challenging but realistic given the difficulty of the task, subordinate skills, and available resources needed for the work. For a task that needs to be completed by a definite time and date, it is useful to set a specific deadline for the overall task, and sometimes for each important step.
So these were the 6 guidelines of clarifying roles and objectives for effective teams. Apply them and notice the impact. What do you think? Do you agree? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.
Reference: Leadership in Organizations, Gary Yukl, 8th edition, 2013, Pearson Education
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