One of the most important and challenging aspects of leading a coalition – or really any team – is getting clear on roles. This is especially true when you have new staff, leaders and members. When you find yourself overwhelmed by all of the work or frustrated that no one is volunteering, unclear roles are likely part of the problem. If your members are confused about who is leading which area or what they are expected to do, you may not have clarified roles. If you have clarified roles and there is still confusion, you may need to find new ways to communicate those roles. Join me this week as I highlight four major types of roles you want to clarify in leading a coalition, partnership, team or network:
Coalition, partnership or team role(s)
One of the best ways to clarify your coalition, partnership or team role is to consider the purpose of the group and how the group functions. For instance, your mission or purpose may be focused on reducing lung cancer. While this is important, the next step is clarifying your role in reducing lung cancer. One of the most common roles for a coalition is to convene diverse partners, serve as a neutral forum and facilitate meetings. While you may think that everyone knows that is your role, if you haven’t clearly communicated this, you may experience confusion. If you have a lot of people interested in a topic, clarifying roles is even more important so that you can maximize coordination and reduce duplication. Spend some time reflecting on the following questions: What is the purpose or focus area for your group? What are you trying to accomplish? How are you doing this? Who is involved? What are three to five words that can be used to describe your role? Clarifying the role of the group is the first step in clarifying roles for everyone else in the group.
When considering staff roles, think of those who are paid to do specific activities in the coalition, partnership or team. In this context, staff may also be contractors. You want to be clear about what the staff do overall as well as individually. Last week, I met with one of our coalition leaders and she expressed confusion on whether she needed to talk with me, with another staff member or both of us about her request. You know it is time to clarify roles when your partners or members are not sure who to talk with about a specific topic or you are feeling overwhelmed because you feel like you are involved in every aspect of the coalition. Spend some time reflecting on staff interests, skills and capacity in order to clarify roles. One of my favorite resources and tools comes from Michael Hyatt’s book, Free to Focus. As part of this book, he emphasizes the importance of spending most of your time doing things you both enjoy and are good at doing.
Depending upon your structure, you likely have several unpaid leadership roles. You may have a leadership team or chairs/co-chairs of specific workgroups, teams or committees. Similar to clarifying staff roles, you need to spend time clarifying roles and setting expectations for leaders overall and individually. While some of your leaders may be interested and skilled in helping facilitate meetings, other leaders may be particularly interested in providing expertise or content in a specific area. Consider the roles you need for the coalition as well as the interest, skill and capacity for each leader. Also, remember to clarify the difference between staff or contractor roles and leader roles. Although staff often serve in a leadership capacity, consider what is realistic for paid staff vs. unpaid leaders. The more you can get clear on leader roles, the easier it will be to recruit and engage your coalition leaders.
Once you have clarified the roles for staff and leaders, you can clarify the roles for members (and/or partners). Consider how the members can participate in the work of the coalition. You may also consider different membership “levels” based on interest, skill and capacity of your members. One of the coalitions I have worked with over the past few years has established membership levels based on how the members want to participate. You likely have some members who want to read your emails and maybe attend your meetings or webinars while other members want to contribute specific activities to the coalition. When you think of your coalition, partnership or team, what roles do your members want to play? How can they participate in the coalition? What are the different roles for members vs. leaders?
So what about you? Which roles do you need to clarify first?
If you would like more ideas and practical suggestions for clarifying roles, check out my Masterclass recording, Clarity in your Coalition.