Job descriptions and roles in projects

– What roles?! There are only three roles in this project: project manager, assistant and financial officer!

This was a response from a participant in an “Giving positive feedback training for managers” at the point we were discussing how to get the best from team members to achieve success. And that answer made me sad.

“She should resign from this position. She is more of the creative type”, I heard the other day in respect of a team member of a diplomatic mission.

What the two above have in common? The missed opportunity to look beyond and to put to use the best of everyone for the common good.

Job descriptions are necessary. No doubt. They offer clarity and a certain protection to staff. As it was the case of a driver in a project team who was asked by a consultant to deal with his expired driving license. “Sorry, Mark, it is not his work duty. If you need help, we can talk about it outside working hours and see if I have private connections to guide you through the right procedures”, was my response back then, to protect my colleague and also offer clarity on roles in the project.

Back to roles and missed opportunities. People are different and this makes their skills and competencies complementary in a project/team. It is the project manager’s job to ensure this complementarity. To do that, he/she needs to learn what each member of the team is best at, ideally before the start of the project.

There are a variety of ways to do that. I remember a team building retreat we had at the World Bank, when each was asked to describe the skills he/she brings to the team. Through a skillful moderator we realised how many various skills we bring individually to the team and how, as a result, we make the team collectively strong and unique.

Do:

  • take time to learn about each team member skills and past experience;
  • look beyond the CV and/or HR file;
  • give roles to match skills: if a person has good social skills, let her/him talk to the client; if a person is an introvert and prefers quiet time to reflect, given him/her to do the research and behind the scene work; and alike. Picture1
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