How Clarifying Staff Roles and Goals Will Improve Employee Performance


“It’s not my job!” “Jack’s supposed to do that!” “I can’t finish this because Mary hasn’t provided the stats!” How often have you heard these sort of outbursts from employees? These are symptoms of unclear role and goal clarity.

Impact On Your Business

When specific common goals don’t exist, you can’t have clear definition of who does what. And if who does what isn’t clear you’ll jeopardize business results regardless of how specific and measurable your goals are. You see, team development is essential in small-medium business.

Role and goal clarity is most likely due to lack of management focus. Staff should be absolutely certain where your business is going and what their part is. If they aren’t, they’ll guess … and act on their guesses.

The “Everyone Knows” Myth

“But Leon”, I’m frequently told, “everyone here knows their job and what the company’s goals  [3.1]are”. If this is so, accept my congratulations and read no further. If you’re not absolutely sure, and I mean absolutely sure … please read on.

What’s Role and Goal Clarity?

Goal clarity means that every member of a group agrees and accepts what the group exists to achieve. Role clarity means that each individual in the group agrees and accepts what his or her contribution will be towards achieving the group goals. And it also means that each individual accepts and agrees to the  roles of others in the group.

Why Are Role and Goal Clarity Important?

They’re important because they lead to task interdependence and goal dependence. [3.1]This is not impenetrable jargon. Task interdependence means “If I don’t do my job well, someone else can’t do his or her job well”. Goal dependence means “I am dependent on my colleagues to achieve their goals to enable me to achieve mine”. It also means that “the most important goals are the overall goals of the task interdependent group”. It’s usually called a team.

Every successful team shows superior task interdependence and goal dependence.

What To Do

• Ask your employees. If you have a very small business ask everyone to specify the goal of your business and their role in it and the role of each other employee.

If your business has specialist groups, ask each employee to specify the goals of the business, the goal of their group and the roles of each person in the group.

• Avoid generalizations and clichés. “To make a profit” is not a goal. It’s an outcome. “To have

  • a domestic plumbing maintenance business
  • with the largest market share
  • which is the acknowledged customer service leader
  • in domestic plumbing maintenance in the northern suburbs”

is far more specific.

Similarly “to maintain all accounts accurately, legally and punctually” is OK. But if we add “so that at least 95% of invoices are paid within 14 days, that bad debts never exceed 2% etc, etc” you have a vastly superior goal.

• Examine what your employees say. Look for fuzziness, uncertainty or even conflicting statements. Identify the most serious differences in both goals and roles.

• Seek Clarity: sit down with your staff and clarify both roles and goals. This should be done with both groups and individuals. Make sure that everyone understands everyone else’s roles. Don’t just assume this is so. You may need a few meetings to achieve this.

• Monitor: set a timetable to review how well the revised goals and roles are working in practice. Be prepared to adjust and adapt where necessary.

Sometimes it’s most useful to start the team development with your management team.


Role and goal clarity are essentials in small-medium business. Most conflicts, differences and disagreements result from unclear goals and poorly defined and inflexible roles. So called “personality conflicts” often arise from lack of role and goal clarity. When you have absolute task interdependence and goal dependence your management role will be much easier.

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