Bits of Life Missed Worth Exploring

Jobs versus Roles


What job do you do? It is a common question used when you first meet someone. I am a manager,doctor, mother, pastor, mail clerk, or stock boy. For many, years of schooling are needed to have the technical skills to do a job. All of us, identify with what we do.

What do I mean by a role? It is all of the things that other people expect of you when being in a certain job position. Roles are not written in job descriptions often. The people that you touch while in your current position act almost like a market place where objectively & subjectively, over time, they determine what value you bring to them. The roles you assume are what brings them value.

Where people get themselves in trouble is not understanding the roles they need to fill when holding a job position.

When you don’t fill a role you end up providing less value to those your are responsible for or work together with. When this happens, their cooperation degrades and trust disappears. You no longer have their attention. This leads to bad consequences. [It’s fascinating in that this sounds backwards but isn’t.]

For example, you could be in a leadership position. Your job description says you must do x, y, and z. Your education and work experience fit what you need to do to finish those tasks. You feel competent to fulfill the specific tasks of the job.

Then it gets more complicated. Your co-workers may look to you for encouragement. They may need you to validate that their work is meaningful. They may need you to help them with the direction of their work. They may look to you to be their “north star” and have your actions provide a sterling example for others to follow. You many need to sort through issues between people. They may want you to be their friend. These are examples of roles that they expect you to fill. From leader to co-worker to mentor, friend, director, judge or traffic cop (just to name a few).

You might be good at buying things cheaply or you negotiate well or have a strategic mind. While these things are good, they are not what will make you successful. It is only when you fill the undocumented roles that others need of you in an organization of any size (two or more people), that you can begin to be more effective.

Defining by ourselves what our roles will be, in any position, is dangerous and can ultimately be destructive. ¬†Forcing onto others what our roles will be and not adjusting or considering the needs of your constituencies (all of the people “around” you) and the roles you need to fill for them is irrationally dysfunctional.¬†

We hear often about emotional intelligence. Of feeling the other person and the dynamics of any social situation. When this is lacking, all of the humanity in our organizations and around us cannot connect to be more purposeful and flowing. You need some of the skills of emotional intelligence to begin to understand what roles are being asked of you to fill.

Understanding the roles required of us, in any position, is more important to our effectiveness and success than any technical skill or rigid view of who we must be in our position. Finding out what others need from us takes good listening skills and being present and patient with others throughout your journey.

This is the essence of servant leadership. It is not doing other people’s work. Servant leadership is providing others what they need (from you) to succeed in doing their work.

Once again, who we are, plays a much larger role in all aspects of the life we encounter and many times must endure. If only we could see ourselves more clearly and listen to those around us to better understand the roles we must fill in order to be more effective.

Bits of Life Missed Worth Exploring


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