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What’s your role?

You walk into the office of your startup. On the way to your room, your mentor tells you that you have one week left from your assignment. You will have to look for a new place. Just before you reach your room, your co-founder tells you that, registration for one of your services has skyrocketed, so it requires a huge software development to deal with the increased demand. Then you reach your desk, in front of which you see a huge slop of coffee spilled on the floor. Then you start to wonder: What’s your role in this organization?

Do you start to mop?

I believe, that you are capable of negotiating with a landlord, to get you a low-cost office space. Also, you are good at coding as well, and sure you can grab a mop to clean up coffee.

But don’t start to solve everything by yourself!

What’s your role in this startup?

200 upset guests

Last Saturday, I worked at a wedding as the Master of Ceremony. There I saw a clear role confusion.

There was a moment during the dinner when I found myself among 200 upset guests that have been waiting for about twenty minutes for the main dish to be served. To check, what the problem was, I entered the “backstage”, where catering was preparing the food.

There I saw waiters standing in a circle, waiting to get the dish setup for them to serve. In the middle of the circle was the leader of the catering team.

The problem behind the curtain

Instead of organizing and giving the necessary orders to make sure serving is seamless, the leader was preparing the meal. She was picking meat from the trays and putting them on the dishes. One by one. While the majority of her employees were just standing there and waiting to get the prepared dish.

If you are the leader, than lead!

That is not why she was there. She was not there to pick the meat and arrange them in perfect order. Any of the waiters could have done that. She was not there to wash the dishes, or serve guests with drinks and food.

She was there to do something, that none of the others were empowered to do. She was there to be in control. To make sure the orders were fulfilled. Not by fulfilling them personally, but to ask someone to do it and then check on them.

Waiters were not there to figure out what was wrong with the system, that upset the guests. They were there to fulfill orders from their boss. If no orders, then no job gets done.

Everyone should have had a role in that system. There should have been someone to serve the guests, someone to prepare the dishes and someone to control the whole process. Since roles hadn’t been handed out well, things soon got messy.

How about your team?

What’s your role in your organization? Are you there to handle the office space rental? Are you the coder, who codes, when needed? Are you the one to mop up the spilled coffee?

I know that if you work at a startup, then you feel that, everyone has to be responsible for everything.

However it makes people either anxious about all the burden they have on their shoulders, or it makes them reluctant to involve themselves more, because of increased responsibilities and hence expectations.

Give the job to the most suitable person

Sit down with your team. Ask them the question: What’s your role? Define the areas they already have to cover and take a huge step of writing names next to the areas. Names of people who will be accountable for that area.

If it is about coding, then don’t ask the marketing guy to be good at that too. If it is pitching, then don’t expect all your team members, to give good pitches.

Pick suitable people for suitable jobs and help them improve in that area. This way, when you go to work in the morning and there is the office problem, or an overload of coding, or mess in the office, you will not have to deal with all of them. Each task will have their own owner, even without your involvement in making the decision.

All you have to focus is on the people, that are focusing on the task.

If you are a pleaser, then I understand that it is hard to believe. But just try it out for 3 months and check the morale of the team after this period. I bet you will be amazed.

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