What if every team in your organization had a job description? What if every team had clarity about the team’s purpose, and how that purpose was different from other teams and individuals in the organization?
In today’s world, it’s common for most positions in organizations to have a written job description. The job description provides focus, clarifies expectations, delineates qualifications for job candidates, and outlines the criteria for performance evaluation.
But what about teams?
When a team’s purpose is clearly defined and understood, it makes a remarkable difference. And while a clear purpose is incredibly important for team, it is rarely achieved.
In our study of 145 leadership teams, Warren Bird and I discovered and reported in Teams That Thrive that while many leadership team members find their team’s work compelling and consequential, they were largely unsure what that purpose was. They had never clearly delineated their team’s purpose, instead often equating it with the organization’s mission or an extension of team members’ personal job descriptions.
However, teams with a clearly written purpose are more likely to excel in their team work. We call this purpose a 5C Purpose – the team’s mission is clear, compelling, challenging, calling oriented, and consequential.
One simple way to develop a 5C purpose is to establish a “job description” for your team, which outlines your team’s focus, responsibilities, duties, and qualifications. We noted five outstanding benefits for teams with written job descriptions…
1. You’ll connect your team’s work to greater purpose
Too often in the busyness of day-to-day meetings and detail-doing, teams and their members forget why they are doing whatever it is they are doing.
A team job description reminds the team – and others in the organization – of the particularly important work that the team does in support of the organizational mission. [My recent TEDx talk “The Myth of Meaningful Work” further explains how individuals and teams can focus on the good they are doing.]
2. You’ll know what to focus on and what to leave alone
We often see teams get unnecessarily captivated by stuff that’s screaming at them (the urgent) or bogged down hashing through the unimportant while failing to create time to talk about what’s most essential for team success.
Creating a job description for your team enables to you highlight what’s most important and what’s not.
3. You’ll know what you’re getting paid to do
…and you’ll know what’s above and below your pay grade. I say that somewhat facetiously, because great servant-leaders rarely consider anything “below” their pay grade.
But let’s face it – teams cannot – and should not – do everything. And if they try to, they’ll get bogged down.
Another common failure of senior leadership teams is thinking that they do all of the “leading” of the organization. Of course they don’t do all the leading. Other individuals and teams certainly provide leadership in various areas.
So clarity around a team’s specific purpose enables the team members to know what they’re responsible for and helps them understand and value the responsibilities of other teams and individuals. This clarity helps teams avoid stepping on toes or trying to do too much.
4. You’ll clarify team membership qualifications and requirements
If your team is like many of the teams we studied, you’ve been tempted to determine your team’s membership by drawing a circle around a certain part of the organizational chart or by simply grabbing everyone who offices in close proximity. But there’s a better way.
The best teams identify the particular mix of skills, strengths, and perspectives they need to be most successful, and then leverage difference among their team members to build a great team.
Capturing the qualifications of suitable team members puts your team in a much better position to make the challenging decisions of who should serve on your team and who shouldn’t.
5. You’ll have a framework to measure your team’s performance
Once you’ve identified your team’s purpose and responsibilities, you have a picture of what team success looks like. So you can evaluate the team’s success in accomplishing that purpose and key tasks. Just like an individual’s job description should, the team job description becomes the basis for regular and periodic performance evaluation.
So go ahead – give it a try. Your new team job description just might be the tool that can enable your team – and the rest of the teams in your organization – to thrive!
For more about how to develop outstanding teams, including exercises and tools to help your team, visit www.TeamsThatThriveBook.com.