Leading effective teams


Tip 5: Document roles and responsibilities.
• Account for all tasks.
• Clarify individual roles and responsibilities.
• Determine role boundaries for each team member.
• Tip 6: Develop operating guidelines.
• Establish ground rules.
• Design team meetings.
• Determine the team’s decision-making process.
• Develop a communication plan.
• Tip 7: Follow a plan.
• Focus on milestones and deliverables.
• Maintain a process for making and tracking
A building requires a structure containing all of its critical components.
This is also the case with teams.
The second session for effective team leadership is providing structure to
support the team’s activities. It creates boundaries and mechanisms that
allow the team to operate smoothly and accomplish its goals. To satisfy
the essential requirements for structure:
Tip #5: Document roles and responsibilities.
Tip #6: Develop operating guidelines.
Tip #7: Follow a plan
TIP 5: Document Roles and Responsibilities
What is the difference between a role and a responsibility? The term role
refers to a general area of responsibility. The word responsibility, in
organizational context, means specific tasks for which a team member takes
Avoid handing out assignments that are indicative of hierarchical methods.
Rather, lead the team in identifying the critical areas of responsibility and in
deciding who has lead responsibility for a given area or task. Be sure to:
  • Account for all tasks.
    Clarify individual roles and responsibilities.
    Determine role boundaries for each team member
Account for All Tasks
After your team understands the
results it needs to achieve, identify
and organize tasks for accomplishing
those results. This creates a clear
picture of what needs to be done.
Involve the team in accounting for tasks and developing your plan. This can
be done effectively in a process called wall mapping. By allowing the team to
identify the tasks (rather than doing it yourself), you improve the accuracy
and completeness of the list, as well as increase the team’s commitment to
the plan.
Wall Mapping
Wall Mapping is a simple team approach to planning. This activity is
extremely important, as it identifies the critical elements of the plan you
should follow. It also confirms whether or not you have the right people on
the team and shows where roadblocks and risks may arise
To identify the tasks required to achieve the desired results, follow these
1. Put a large piece of butcher paper on the wall.
2. Write each major goal on an index card. Tape the cards on the
paper at the far left, equally spaced, one under the other.
3. Write the desired result on an index card at the far right, and place
it halfway down the paper.
4. Draw a line from each index card to the result card. Mark off the
time frames with vertical lines.
5. On colored sticky notes, brainstorm all the tasks that must be done
to accomplish each goal and group them along the goal line in the
approximate order they should be done. Some may need to be done
simultaneously, so they would go together.
6. Look at the total picture of tasks. Sequence them so you and the
team can recognize and account for all the interdependencies.
7.Transfer the tasks to a Gantt chart to determine time frames and
Clarify Individual Roles and Responsibilities
What starts out as black and white in
description, can quickly turn into a gray
area as the team progresses. This gray
area has the potential of causing much
conflict and confusion, so it is important to
reiterate and redefine roles and
boundaries as needed during the team’s
development and work.
What happens if individual roles and responsibilities are not
clarified? There will be overlap, redundancy, and gaps. Misunderstandings
will also arise, draining personal energy and stalling productivity. Remember
that your team members have a right and a need to clearly know for what
they are accountable and what they need to accomplish.
Determine Role Boundaries for Each Team Member
Many of the conflicts that teams experience
appear to be personality conflicts, but are, in
fact, related to overlaps in responsibilities.
Overlaps often are simply turf issues that
result when each person feels a keen sense
of ownership for his or her area of
responsibility. Sometimes these conflicts can
result from differences of approach.
Conflicts often occur when people are surprised to find that someone else is
working on what they thought was their responsibility, using a very different
approach and wasting someone’s time. Whatever the cause, clearly defined
responsibilities can prevent later conflicts and can aid in resolution of those that
do occur.
An Approach to Avoiding Holes and Overlaps
If you have had the team identify and discuss the roles and responsibilities
required for its task, you have developed the basis for eliminating holes and
Here is a set of basic steps to make sure you avoid both overlaps and holes:
1. Capture on flipchart paper all the roles and responsibilities identified by the
team as necessary for completing its task.
2. Have each team member state what he or she will contribute to the team’s
success. Have the other team members challenge or even add to the individual
3. Map these inputs to the initial list of necessary roles and responsibilities.
4. For a role/responsibility not covered by one of the current team members, have
the team develop an appropriate plan of action.
5. For a role/responsibility covered by more than one team member, have the
team discuss and decide who should take primary responsibility.
6. If any current team member is left without a significant role/responsibility,
privately discuss with that person whether he or she should discontinue
participation on the team. (This may be an emotionally charged issue, so you, the
team leader, may need to decide this for the team.