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Role definition

A tool to help you define your role and manage expectations.


What is a role definition?

A role definition is a tool you can use to help you to clarify what is expected of you in your job.

Being clear about your role, helps you to spend your time and energy on doing what counts.

A clearly defined role means you can focus on what makes you successful and avoid the distractions that add layers of stress to your job.

Why you need a role definition.

When people give you a job do to, they have certain expectations of how you are going to do that job:

  • If you meet their expectations, they are satisfied.
  • If you exceed their expectations, they are delighted.
  • But when what you deliver is different to what they expected of you – then they are often disappointed or frustrated.

Performing well is about managing expectations and delivering according to those expectations. If you want to delight others, all you need to do is what they expect you to do.

How to use a role definition tool to clarify what is expected of you in your job.

Successful people are those that:

  • Are clear in their own minds about what they need to focus on.
  • Successfully manage the expectations of others regarding what they will deliver.

So when they do their jobs, their bosses, stakeholders and customers get what they expected, and are delighted by their performance.

When you don't need to do a role definition exercise.

When you know what is expected of you, you don’t need to think about the role you need to play. You know why you are doing your job. You know what to do. You can focus on just doing your job.

When you do need to do a role definition exercise.

But, when an organization makes important changes, you may need to take time out to rethink the role you play. By doing this you will be able to focus your time and energy on doing what is now important to your organization, rather than continuing to play the role you played in the past and running the risk of being seen as irrelevant.

Organizational triggers that affect the role you play.

An organizational change means you need to rethink the role you play.

A number of organizational changes will require you to take on new roles to support the change, and stop doing roles that may no longer be relevant.

You will probably need to do a role definition exercise whenever your organization makes any of the following changes. They:

  • Develop a new strategy.
  • Create a new structure to support that new strategy.
  • Introduce new projects and project teams to support the new strategy or vision.
  • Change a structure to save costs.
  • Appoint new leaders or new teams.
  • Focus on new goals or priorities.
  • Change their business model or organizational design.
  • Implement a new IT system or process.
  • Introduce a performance management process.
  • Develop different levels of leadership in the organization.
  • Change the culture of an organization so people are more responsible or accountable.


Personal problems that indicate you need to redefine your role.

You should consider redefining your role if:

  • You have been promoted or have a new role or career.
  • You have lost your focus.
    Successful people focus 80% of their time on the 20% of roles that lead them to 80% success.
  • You feel you are being pulled in different directions.
  • You are feeling overwhelmed. You have too many responsibilities, and you find it hard to complete anything thoroughly.
  • You don't have space to think or plan.
  • You are tired of being running around in circles. You want to take time out to get your focus back.

Role definition - a coaching tool to help you get focus.

The role definition tool will help you to spring clean your workload, and find focus. This on-line tool takes you through a structured process where you consider all the roles that you are playing, or may be expected to play in the future. It then helps you to categorise your roles into those that are core to your future success, and those that you can either delegate, postpone until another time, or stop doing altogether.


How the role definition tool works.

Before you start working with the tool, talk to you stakeholders about what they expect from you.

Then begin using the tool. What roles do you think you may need to play during the next year? As you think of a role, add the name of the role into the tool.


Once you have added all the possible roles that you may be expected to play, you can quickly assign a category to each role.

Then using the filter buttons, look at a list of the roles you have under each category. You should have between 3 and 5 core roles. If you have too many core roles or roles that only you can do, you can quickly edit a role and change its category.


Shaping expectations - how to use succcess criteria and measurement indicators.

Your boss, customers or other stakeholders use their own standards to judge your performance. If their success criteria and measures are different from those that you have in your mind, the chances are they will be dissatisfied with your performance. So it is important for you to agree on the success criteria and measurement indicators for each role with important stakeholders.

In our tool, you can quickly add the success criteria for each core role. These are the quality standards your stakeholders expect from you, and that you believe you can realistically achieve. You will also list the indicators that you and your stakeholders will use to measure your performance on each core role.

Remember that when you write down success criteria and performance measures, you are setting expectations of how you will perform in other people's minds. So take time to ensure that what you are promising is something you are able to deliver on.


Create a report - Use your report to guide what you do every day.


Click on the roles report button, to quickly create a report of all your roles.

In your report, your roles are grouped under their categories with the core roles being at the top of the list.

You can copy and paste your report into a Word document.

5 ways to use the role definition tool


1. Shape others' expectations of you.

Show your boss and other important stakeholders your role report. Focus on your core roles, success critiera and how you will be measured. Make any changes you need to on the tool, and then generate and print an updated report for your stakeholders to review. Keep adjusting your role definition until you and your stakeholders have agreed on your core roles for the year.

2. Live the 20/80 principle.

In line with the 80/20 principle, your core roles are the 20% of roles that will lead to 80% of your success. Spend 80% of your time to your core roles, and the remaining 20% of your time to non-core activities.

3. Communicate your focus to your colleagues and direct reports.

Talk about your core roles to your colleagues and direct reports. This will help them to understand what is important to you and why you are saying "No" to tasks they may want you to do - tasks that may distract you from your core roles.

4. To guide what you do every day.

To keep focused, begin each day by reviewing your core roles. You can use your smart phone, tablet or computer to view your roles report. The data is saved in the cloud, so if you make any changes to your roles, your information is always up to date - on all your devices. Pin the role definition tool and your report to your pinboard, so you can access them quickly.

When people give you urgent tasks to do, check whether or not they support your core roles. If they do, they are not distractions, they are part of your core roles. So make time to do them.

If people ask you to do a task that is not part of your core role, you can use the role tool to:

  • Show them you have listened to their request by adding their role to your list.
  • Show them the roles you currently have in each category - especially your core roles.
  • Negotiate to either do their task at another time, to delegate them, or not to do them at all - by ticking the appropriate category for their task.

This allows you to say "No" to tasks that will distract your from your core role, in a positive and respectful way.

5. Keep a clear focus as priorities change.

As you complete a role, tick the achieved box on the tool.

When people ask you to take on new roles, add them into the role tool. Then together with your boss, view how many core roles you have. If you have more than 5 core roles, negotiate your priorities with your boss. You may need to edit the categories of some of your roles. Or add success criteria and measurement indices to a new core role. Each time you update your role, generate a new report and agree your new focus with your boss.

Tip: Always make your changes on the role definition tool, so that at all times you are working with a clear up to date focus - available on all your devices.

What the role definition tool provides that you can't get from anywhere else.

  • A quick way to document roles.
  • An easy way to sort roles into categories, and to view each category.
  • An easy way to choose the 20% of roles that will contribute to 80% of your success.
  • An easy way to ensure you dont' focus on too many roles at once.
  • A quick way to update roles as priorities change.
  • A tool for updating and reviewing your roles on multiple devices - phone, tablet or computer.
  • An easy way to generate a report - each time your roles change.

Benefits of redefining your role - using the role definition tool.

By clarifying your role in a comprehensive and structured way you will:

  • Reduce stress.
  • Focus on the 20% of tasks that will generate 80% of your success.
  • Ensure you stay relevant.
  • Create more time to think and plan before you implement.
  • Do less as you stop doing tasks that add no value to your organization.
  • Improve your relationship with your boss and key stakeholders.
  • By sharing your completed role definition with your boss, you will shape his/her expectations of you.
  • Build confidence as you and everyone around you knows exactly what is expected of you.
  • Increase the likelihood of you being seen as a high performer in your organization.

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