Fuzzy Roles

Fuzzy Roles

Years ago there was a popular game show called What’s My Line?, in which blindfolded celebrity panelists played “20 Questions” to determine a mystery guest’s occupation. For some Copreneurs, there’s a similar guessing game going on. “Whose job is that?” How did that decision get made?” What’s your part of this project, exactly?” For Copreneurs, fuzzy roles can lead to overlaps, gaps, confusion and conflict.

If you’re wondering whether any of this applies to you, take a look at these symptoms of fuzzy roles:

  • One of you is overwhelmed, while the other of you feels unchallenged.
  • There are too many bottlenecks in routine processes.
  • When something doesn’t get done, it’s not clear who’s accountable.
  • Decisions aren’t being made on a timely basis or projects are stalled

In contrast to these problems, when you’re clear about your roles, there’s a decrease in duplication of effort and an increase in accountability, and performance.

If you’re ready to see more clearly, here’s a process for working together to clarify and align your roles.

First, agree on your primary roles. As your business matures, so should the way you work together. It’s important to understand your essential roles and detail your key responsibilities. Write them down. Exchange lists with your partner. Discuss them as business partners, noting missing or incomplete items. Decide if there are any sensitive issues that should be revisited. Are these the roles you would have chosen for yourselves? Do they play to your respective strengths?

Second, address the boundary issues.  Building on the first meeting, reconvene to address the intersections and overlaps between your roles. One way to do this is to draw a large grid listing the two of you on one axis and critical decisions or tasks on the other. This can help you quickly spot interdependencies between your roles. Some couples stay stuck in a “joined at the hip” arrangement where both parties are involved in every decision long after the business is off the ground. It’s not necessarily because they want to have that kind of business partnership, they just haven’t discussed it.

Most role confusion comes from unclear or missing communications, so working through a process like this as a team can be very beneficial. As each of your roles becomes more clear, you may feel your energy shift from frustration to implementation. Take some time to define and align your roles. It’ll help you change the channel from “What’s My Line” to “The Amazing Race.”

This Week:  

What symptoms of fuzzy roles might have appeared in your partnership? What clarification in your roles would have a positive impact on your relationship? The business?

Clarify your roles to decrease duplication of effort and increase energy and results.

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