Team Building 101: Clear Roles & Structures

Who is responsible for what? If a team member doesn’t perform, what happens? How do our distinct roles play together in pursuit of our shared goal? Who holds the authority here? If the Warriors didn’t know who to look to when calling the plays, why certain skilled players sat on the bench while others got to start and how they could leverage their individual skills, collectively, this season would have looked a a lot different.

These may seem like simple questions, and when I ask these same questions to “team mates” I typically get different answers.

Now why would that be the case? Because these conversations are rarely being had out loud! They are taking place in our heads based on our individual, totally unique understanding of how the world works. 

Too often stakeholders make assumumptions about the roles, interdependencies and structures that confine and focus our work. Leaders say, “I hired them to do X job, they know what to do. That’s why I hired them!” Meanwhile, that same employee is saying, “I don’t know if I can make that decision…. My role is intertwined with other functions, I think that is their job.”

The roles and structures of your team are low hanging fruit when it comes to building your team. A series of explicit conversations with all involved stakeholders can help clarify roles, define structures and shine a light on the gaps that exist in your team/group and between the members. The following questions can help you and your team/group clarify issues and begin solidifying structures to support your people to begin performing as a team.


Role & Structure Clarifying Questions

      What are our individual skills and functional areas of responsibility?

      How do our individual responsibilities impact each other?

      How do we individually and collectively hold each other accountable?

      Who has decision-making authority for each functional area? For all functional areas?

      What specific behaviors do we want and expect of each other?

      What behaviors would negatively impact our working relationship?

      What is the best way to give each other feedback?

Getting clear answers with your team to these question will help you take large strides towards clearer roles and structures. Essentially, the work of clarifying roles and structures is to set expectations about who will/can do what and how they will engage with other stakeholders along the way. This information empowers members of a team to begin working together efficiently and reduces miscommunications, overstepping and turf warring.

Andre Igudola knows he could be a starter on the Warriors. Without clear expectations and a shared understanding of the roles of the other individuals on the team, Andre might become resentful and frustrated sitting on the bench as much as he does. But he does not. He understands his role is to be a spark for the Warriors when the stars are resting. Because this is widely known, Andre does notharbor resentments or make a stink out of his lack of playing time. Additionally, the team knows who to look to to call the plays and they respect the authority of the play caller. They have clear roles and a shared understanding of the structure of how their roles interact and are interdependent, and the result is some of the most fluid and high performing basketball that has ever been played.


"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." -- Henry Ford