The Power of Clear Responsibility

How to Create an Empowering Environment: part 2 Give People Clear Responsibility




It’s the cry of every player, “Put Me In Coach!” And, while you are at it, give me an assignment that matters.


Good leaders do more than get stuff done. They deliberately build capacity for impact by empowering other people.

To do that, they need to build a culture, an environment, that empowers other leaders. This is the second in a series of six posts about how to build that kind of environment. If vision—a Reason behind it all—was step one, then this is step two. Ensure that people have laser-like clarity about their responsibilities. You want everyone to be able to answer the questions, “what is my role?” and “why does it matter?”


Everyone wants to know that their assignment makes a difference to the whole endeavor. We want the chance to do something that will affect the outcome of the game. To use football as an analogy, leaders want to know what their assignment is on any given play and that there are consequences if they miss their block, drop the ball, or let that tackle slip away.


We often find this kind of stuff in a role description. But, clarity about personal responsibility means so much more than an HR compliant document. Powerfully articulated responsibility elicits emotion. It generates passion. It includes behavioral expectations, compelling outcomes, the scope of authority, reporting relationships, and metrics of accountability.


If you want to do something truly powerful for the people on your team—not to mention your whole organization—help every person go beyond their comprehensive role description to articulate the essence of their role in one sentence.


Wise leaders devote considerable energy to helping those they lead discover God’s unique calling and wiring. They seek to leverage individual calling and gifting by shaping a role that leverages both. Rather than trying to squeeze people into preconceived boxes, these leaders work to create roles and responsibilities that leverage the unique wiring their people.


Think about this. What if, leadership is really an opportunity to champion the unique contribution of individuals, not just the vision of the whole? of individuals in front of the whole group.


When Your People Lack Clarity About Their Role:

  1. Your whole team will struggle with role confusion. (Everyone needs to know the answers to two core questions: Who do I turn to for what? & What are others expecting of me?)

  2. Differing expectations will breed miscommunication, competition, even jealousy.

  3. You’ll succumb to the virus of creative paralysis. (Creativity is directly related to knowing where the fences of the playground are.)

  4. You’re people will be set up for failure. (Some will be strangled by the fear of “doing it wrong. Others will burn their calories doing the wrong stuff.)

  5. You will end up spending your energies micro-managing people instead of shaping the direction and capacity of your whole organization.


An Experiment: This Week:

Ask yourself, can every leader on any level of your organization easily describe:

(1.) What they are specifically responsible for? (2.) What they are not responsible for? (3.) How much authority they have? (4.) How they know when they are successful?



If you answer any of these in the negative, it looks like you have an assignment for next week.

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© 2020 by Gary Mayes