The concept of roles has been bouncing around in my head lately. One, I’m learning more about soccer because I’m watching the US Women’s National Team crush it in the World Cup; and two, because we are going through a bit of a transition here at InkleDeux.
Soccer is a sport that I just never got into. It was usually played during basketball season, so having to pick between the two, I chose basketball. Now that the ladies are doing so well, I’ve decided to jump on the band wagon and watch a little bit of it. Now, every sport has different positions, but soccer seems to have more defined roles. I think its because the field is so big. If you didn’t stick to your position, it would be very difficult to recover. Where as in basketball, the court is not that large and even if someone breaks away, it is quite common for defenders to catch up and block from behind. Soccer though, really seems to depend on knowing your role and sticking to it. When a match is won by a score of 2-1, or 1-0, there is little room for error.
How are roles defined and established like that then? Well, first there is a plan. There is a system, or strategy, in place that considers everything. Then roles are established to fit the needs of that system, or tactics. It’s like building a machine, then putting the gears in place to make it work. A good system should operate much like a machine, consistent and dependable. Once those roles are established, people, who are most capable of fulfilling the need of that role, are selected, trained, and then commissioned to operate.
What I want to focus on is that little area between selection and training. Once the person is selected, they have to be told what their role is clearly and specifically. If they do not understand their role, they will wander off and try to do aspects of someone else’s role. That’s when things break down. Just like in soccer, a defender probably shouldn’t go up and try to score goals because if something happens, they will have left the entire back field open and recovery will be difficult. The same thing happens in business and personal relationships, because a role is always in relationship to someone else’s role. A gear is always being turned by and turning another gear, they are in relationship with others. If our roles are not clearly defined and clearly articulated, then we will wander off and do things that WE think is important, but may not be best for the team or machine as a whole.
There is only one way to do this and that is to communicate directly and without “sugar coating.” Through my professional career people have always told me that I need to sugar coat my communication. That I need to be less direct so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings. How people feel is important, but it cannot be the driver of our communication. The concern for presenting information in a way that doesn’t upset anyone is the major reason people don’t know what they are supposed to be doing. I had a team of 10 employees and I did not sugar coat anything for them and they respected me for it. Why? Because they always new that what I was saying is what I meant. There was no, “what do you think he means by that?” This isn’t something I am naturally good at. It took me years of screwing up to figure out that it wasn’t worth the effort to try and please everyone. Once I gave that up, I was able to be myself which freed my team to be themselves as well. That direct communication allowed us to be real. There was no fake facade, so we could trust each other.
We are starting to experience some of this in InkleDeux. The reality is that I struggle with letting go of control, so I quickly became overwhelmed. I finely got the courage to tell AJ that I needed him to take over the podcast. I was worried about it at first, but being direct with him allowed him to open up about feeling as though he was not contributing as much. I did not know that he felt that way. My candidness allowed him to be candid and now InkleDeux is better for it. AJ is now fully running the Podcast and I am able to expand and press our coffee business.
Irregardless of the relationship you are in, sports team, business, marriage, I recommend establishing clear roles. When doing this, don’t beat around the bush or sugar coat things. Be direct. The pain of hurt feelings from direct communication will always be much much less than the frustration later when everyone is operating on different expectations of others.