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How to Misfire and Mess Things Up When Assigning Teamwork Roles

Roles and responsibilities. Getting clarity here makes everything easier when you're part of a team. But deciding who will do what isn't always as straightforward as it seems. If you're assigning roles based on skills, access or experience alone, you may be limiting the growth of your team (and yourself!).

Graphic Showing Holding a BouquetTraditionally, the process of assigning team roles has been somewhat clinical. It's based on individual's known strengths. The person who's organized creates the meeting agenda. The one who's good with numbers runs the analysis. And so on. But here's the downside of a clinical approach.No one's learning anything new.

It's a wasted opportunity. A team should be a safe place to stretch and acquire new skills. WIth the support of your teammates, you should expand your comfort zone and develop in ways you can't in your own job.

When Assigning Teamwork Roles, Don't Miss the Opportunities

What's unique about task forces and special teams is that they're usually focused on something other than today's work. This affords you the luxury of time. Since you don't have to race the clock, you can seize the opportunities to build in learning and development.

Ask people what they'd like to learn. Align each individual's responsibilities on the team with their development or stretch goals.

Ask people what they'd be willing to teach others on the team. Create shared learning experiences and facilitate peer mentoring within the team. As people teach, they learn more and develop their own expertise, too.

As you set up your assignment matrix, consider rotational assignments so all members of the team learn each role and take on each responsibility over time. Soon, this team will operate at higher levels of productivity because they will understand the impact of implications of every handoff.

When Assigning Teamwork Roles, Don't Box People In

Serving on a team where you do the same kind of work that you do everywhere else is not stimulating or engaging. That's why so many people on teams do lackluster, last minute work. They phone it in.

Graphic Showing Boring Meeting

Being boxed in by your own specialty makes working with a team feel constraining rather than liberating. People who are assigned to teams to contribute in a singular way generally feel burnout and job fatigue. The team assignment is viewed as a burden rather than being seen as a growth opportunity.

Most people are looking for ways to continually grow and try new things. Teams that give people room to grow and support for stretching out-perform teams where people work in pre-determined roles and have no hope of growing.

When Assigning Teamwork Roles, Be Benevolent

It's an old-fashioned word, one we don't often hear outside of church. But benevolence is an important quality for team members and team leaders. Being benevolent with each other means being kind and generous. It manifests as giving aid and assistance without expecting something in return.

Without benevolence, you can't genuinely assign roles and responsibilites that are a stretch. If people fear the response they'll get for working slowly or making mistakes (both are unavoidable when learning!), they won't even try. They'll default back to what's usual and comfortable for them to do.

Without benevolence, people will feel deserted. Unless others are willing and able to kindly guide and patiently teach each other, this won't work.

Benevolence allows people to be more vulnerable and to experiment and take risks.

Sometimes, what's most obvious and efficient isn't the best choice. Though it may be more challenging and could be less efficient, assigning teamwork roles that help people grow is a long-term strategy that works. If you limit people on your team, you may find that the team, too, is limited and becomes ineffective altogether. Don't misfire by prioritizing quick and easy above people development.


The CONNECT2Win Blog has been discontinued. The CONNECT2Lead Blog continues, and you'll find free and affordable resources for team on People First Leadership Academy