30 Oct 2018


Clear communication and discussion around everyone’s responsibilities are essential for a team to perform at its best.

Words: Mark Procter

As we’ve seen already, the question of roles and responsibilities goes to the heart of how a leader gets the best out of people when working in a team. People are not machines who will respond in a predictable way when there is an effort to control them. Rather, they tend to be self-organising and do their best in a given situation with the skills, attitudes and behaviours that they possess.

People will work out what’s best for them within the set of parameters that defines their environment or system of working. Your role as leader, therefore, is to create the framework in which team members have the best possible chance of self-organising and working to the best of their abilities.


Allocating clear roles to individual team members is an essential element of that frame. In terms of your communication with the team, there are two sides to consider here: role clarity and role stability.

Role clarity is the individual being very clear about what their role is, making sure it plays to their strengths and that the necessary training and development has been given to do the job well. Good role clarity helps prevent team members stepping on each other’s toes or leaving gaps in responsibility, all of which can lead to conflict, demotivation and poor performance.

Role stability, or people keeping to the roles they have been given and not straying, is equally important. Role instability is rife in organisations, examples including leaders who micro-manage or take over tasks from their team members, and individuals who think they have more expertise than their colleagues or who like getting involved in things that interest them rather than what they should be doing

To avoid this, you should try to communicate roles with all team members present whenever possible, so that there is a clear understanding throughout the team and no one can claim ignorance or ambiguity. It’s then important to monitor how well those allocated roles are being adhered to, and discuss any issues that arise during regular team meetings.

At the heart of any high-functioning, high-performing team you will find role clarity and stability, and essential to establishing that is effective and open communications between you and the team.