How Defining Staff Roles Can Boost Your Business

Oftentimes, today’s employees don headphones and send emails rather than chatting with colleagues, and work from home as much as they can. Even though we all tout “working as a team,” many employees have become a silo of one.

For a business to be competitive and flourish in the future, employees must take on new and different team roles beyond their usual job-related activities. The goal of these “meta roles” is not to get everyone on board, reading from the same playbook, agreeing with the boss. Instead, they serve to make people less compliant and more engaged.

Rather than trying to get employees to do a better job, meta roles aim to motivate them to enhance their value so they can become more aware of what’s going on around them and move themselves and their business forward. Here’s a breakdown:

1) The Diagnostician. Businesses have long been the undisputed spawning grounds for employee complaints. While a certain amount of venting may be therapeutic, it normally goes nowhere. However, some of what is affectionately known as “blowing off steam” could actually consist of helpful ideas and insights, which means it could also be a missed opportunity.

Much like the medical internist who is skilled in identifying problems and prescribing treatment to keep patients healthy, the Diagnostician’s task is not only figuring out what needs attention, but coming up with workable solutions as well.

2) The Dreamer. Dr. June McCarroll, a physician in Indio, California, had had enough of being pushed off the road by inconsiderate truck drivers. She proposed putting center lines on highways. But the year was 1917, and the all-male county board of supervisors didn’t recognize the need. Undeterred, McCarroll got on her hands and knees and painted a two-mile long white stripe down the middle of the road in front of her house.

It’s in a company’s best interest to urge employees to dream up new ideas and challenge old ones. Some will work and some won’t, but it’s the excitement and satisfaction of dreaming that makes a difference.

3) The Dissenter. We call them rebels, outliers and obstructionists. They not only rain on our parade, but can also be disruptive to the status quo—and that’s usually not acceptable. Most employees get the message: Stay in line, or else. But not the dissenter.

In the Harvard Business Review, Wharton School’s Adam Grant contends that “conformity is dangerous because it means following other people not because you believe in their ideas or agree with them, but because you want to fit in instead of standing out.”

While we may enjoy being around agreeable people, they are often the least effective in moving an organization forward. Being on the same page doesn’t necessarily translate into progress.

4) The Deliberator. How many mistakes in business result from failing to analyze and understand the implications of decisions? The answer: a lot.

Often, the urge to act trumps being reflective. Getting input is confusing, causes delays and derails plans. It’s almost as if some people fear deliberation because it may lead to altering or rejecting their ideas, which is why potentially helpful and useful ideas get a bad rap.

Good ideas frequently fail because of overlooked details and miscalculations. The Deliberator helps prevent that outcome by vetting them first.

5) The Doer. While analyzing problems, dreaming about possibilities, taking exception and arguing issues all create a dynamic that spurs involvement and innovation, the first four meta roles are useless unless someone follows through and acts. Enter: the Doer.

As someone says at the end of every meeting, “Who’s going to make the coffee?” In other words, who’s going to do what and when? Making decisions only has value if there’s action behind them.

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer.