Being Authorised In Your Role

Do you want to set your staff up for success?  An important strategy is ensuring that they are clear about their roles, responsibilities, delegations and accountabilities.

Whilst this may seem obvious, its something most managers don’t pay enough attention to.

Many managers rely on position descriptions to convey this information. While position descriptions are a starting point, the truth is that each person needs to discover what their role really means and how they can best occupy it.   Bruce Reed likens this journey to that of an actor who given a script must determine how to interpret the role.

Engaging in an active enquiry into how we see the role and how those around us view it, not only speeds up this process but ensures alignment between individual and organisational expectations.  It creates a solid foundation from which managers and employees can operate.

Lately, here at CLE, we’ve been supporting managers to open a dialogue with their staff to explore their role-in-reality, as opposed to what’s written on paper.  These conversations traverse the subtleties and grey areas so that a robust and shared understanding of the role, responsibilities, practices and potential challenges is achieved.

Why is that important?  Take for example one organisation in which staff were rediscovering their roles following an organisational merger.   While management believed that little had changed, employees had a different view.  Those staff who had worked in the larger organisation felt more at home, many of their processes and systems were being carried forward into the future.  For them it was business as usual.  Staff from the smaller organisation, in contrast, experienced greater uncertainty and anxiety.  They not only sought more information, orientation and support from their managers, they needed a chance to discuss their initial impressions and to clarify expectations.  Though highly skilled practitioners with a lot to offer, they needed a green light, before they felt free to display leadership and exercise initiative.

Before their structured role conversations, employees had done their best but reported they were caught in a waiting game, unable to instigate meaningful change in their respective domains.  Managers engaged in the process report strengthened supervisory relationships, while employees advised that they now felt ‘authorised’ in their roles.  Initiating role conversations mobilised the capacity of an enthusiastic and capable group of employees, ready to contribute to the new organisation.

Structured role conversations help to ensure that all layers of the organisation are working at an appropriate level. Leaders who haven’t delegated operational responsibilities can be encouraged to do so.  This typically involves a conversation about how leaders empower, mentor and supervise their own direct reports.  That’s right – how they lead.  Similarly, managers who have reverted to doing the work themselves rather than addressing performance problems or systemic issues, can be supported to rethink situations from a genuine management perspective.  When undetected and therefore unaddressed role creep is costly for organisations. Structured role conversations allow you to detect and address it early. This is relieving for all tiers of the organisation especially those staff who struggle in the absence of appropriate management and leadership.

Has it been a while since you discussed the expectations you and your staff hold of each other in your respective roles.  If so, perhaps its time to revisit that conversation.


How well do you understand your role?

How well do you understand what others expect of you in your role?

What is needed for you to feel authorised to take up all aspects of your role?

What else might contribute to your sense of empowerment in the workplace?

I’d love to hear your thoughts….

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