Defining Team Roles

Defining the roles, understanding the role responsibilities, and agreeing on who will handle that role is an essential first step in any project. Clearly defining employee roles on your team is vital to project efficiency and success. When team members understand their roles, they will be more productive and have a greater sense of buy-in and accomplishment. Role definition is particularly important with “virtual” project teams – working together but not in the same state, country or even continent — where lack of cohesive culture, body language and non-verbal cues to enhance communication are missing.

Team leaders/project managers may want to predetermine each team role and responsibility prior to selecting the team member to fill that position. Or make assignments in the initial team meeting, taking time to assign roles and tasks to each member.

Don’t assume team members understand how to do the role they are assigned. Take time to clearly communicate expectations, boundaries, responsibilities and goals to each team member.  Allowing plenty of time for questions and clarification.

Understanding the boundaries and expectations of a role provides support and accountability for team members in performing their tasks. Pre-defined roles also help to avoid conflicts, misunderstandings, and turf battles between team members and other employees.  In recent research (Feyerherm, A. E. & Rice, C. L.:Emotional Intelligence and Team Performance) team members generally report a greater sense of motivation, job satisfaction, and team cohesiveness when roles are defined.

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