An essential part of making businesses succeed is having employees focused and developing themselves as much as possible – that translates as growth for them and your company. Whether you have a team member in the wrong position or one that has out-grown their role and requires new challenges, you need to learn about role alignment! 


If you have listened to our most recent episodes of Systematic Excellence Podcast (which you don’t want to miss, by the way) we have been covering the Business Hierarchy of Needs, and in the latest episode, we talked about role alignment.


Our guest for this episode is Adrienne Dorison. Adrienne is the cofounder of Run Like Clockwork, alongside her business partner, Mike Michalowicz. She spent the past 10 years in the field of operational efficiency and has created the most simplistic approach to making businesses ultra-efficient. 


We highly suggest you read this article so you can learn all about role alignment, methods to make the process easy, and how important this alignment is for businesses. Keep on reading!


How to understand your team member’s talents


Amalie: I’d love to hear your philosophy about roles and responsibilities and how to align people with the talents that they have.

Adrienne: So we have the approach that it’s much better to understand what your team member’s strengths are. What are their true talents? Then try to find responsibilities within the business that align with those things, versus creating a job with a specific job title, because then we have all these responsibilities that we “have heard” should fall under this title. And oftentimes a lot of those tasks don’t necessarily correspond to the same strengths.

For example, if you have an administrative assistant that might be doing some things that are communication-based, they might also be doing some things that are much more detail-oriented or even analytical like review metrics and things like that. And so they’re all over the board in terms of what their innate strengths might be. 


So instead of using just a job title to define what this individual should be doing inside your company, start looking for areas where the strengths and the talents can align to the responsibilities that you’re handing over to someone. So for example, if communication is someone’s one of their highest strengths, and they’re just really good at communicating, instead of just putting them on one area where they can communicate, ask how can we get more pieces of the business over to them that relate to communication? So if someone is dealing with your customer support inbox, they also might be really great at sales calls. And I think this is super helpful in a small business because sometimes we have all of these different responsibilities and we don’t have enough work to give someone a full-time job in the sales department. But if you have someone who’s a great communicator, maybe they could take on some of that responsibility and it becomes a full-time job or more hours dedicated to something that’s related to their strengths.

Amalie: Let’s say that someone that has a team of 5 to 10 people. What is something that they might recognize in their team that says that people aren’t necessarily where they need to be? The first step is recognizing that there’s a problem. What are those red flags or keys that they need to be looking for?

Adrienne: I think number one is identifying that people aren’t maybe performing at the level that you want them to in certain roles, but you can see that they’re doing certain things very well. Maybe they’re not good at that thing. So instead of saying, “Oh, I have to fire them. I have to start over. I have to find someone else. Where’s my like unicorn that’s just going to be able to do everything really, really well?” And instead, identifying, “Hey, I can tell that this person has incredible talent in this one area. Maybe I’m just not aligning them with the right responsibilities.” And actually I need to start looking for other potential gaps in the business that this individual could step into. 


So #1, are they maybe not performing well in certain areas, but excelling in other areas that you really want to capitalize on? And then another thing that might be happening is you’re experiencing gaps within the team, as the team continues to grow, you’re identifying that you have a new position available. But ask yourself, do you really have a new position available? Or do we just need to rebalance and shift what everyone on the team is currently doing? Is it a gap or do we just need to maybe shuffle things around in a way that aligns with people’s strengths? Because when they’re working on their strengths, they’re usually going to be more efficient at doing things so they can actually handle more in terms of capacity. So sometimes we think we need a new hire when really we just need to rebalance based on people’s strengths.



Aligning talents with responsibilities


Amalie: So how do you go about figuring out what people’s strengths are?

Adrienne: Number one, we want to track everyone’s time on the team and kind of assess where their time is currently going. If we think that that currently aligns with their strengths and start identifying what needs to be shifted over to someone else. So the reason I bring that up is because a lot of times your team members actually know what their strengths are or what they’re frustrated with or what they’re not good at because they’re feeling the frustration of it as they’re doing the work. So when we do a time tracking, I have them tell me, “what could move off of your plate potentially? What do you want to transfer? What is potentially either below your pay grade, or it’s just not aligned with your strengths?”. So they are able to kind of communicate to us “this is not a good use of my time, or I think I could train someone else to do this a lot better. Or I think someone else on the team might be even better at this than me.” 

The other thing that we use is like personality tests, we use StrengthsFinders, for sure. I think that StrengthsFinders is an incredible one for helping people identify certain things like soft and hard skills. We use a couple of different personality tests, we also use Enneagram, but that’s more of a self-awareness how I work type of thing, which can be super helpful in terms of communicating as a team and working better as a team. 


One of the things that we do is identify where people are and what we call an S curve. So Whitney Johnson wrote a book called Build an A Team, and she talks about this concept of an S curve and how it’s related to people’s competency within their role. And so I share that because sometimes people are in a role that does align with their strengths, their natural strengths, but they’re not fully competent yet within the role. So they are going to be challenged. So I always like to tell people, if you’re being challenged by something, it doesn’t mean that it’s not aligned with your strengths. It just might mean that it’s new for you and be patient.


Amalie:  I like to gauge my tests about which ones I procrastinate on. If I keep putting it off, that means that’s the thing that I need to stop doing.

Adrienne: Anytime they’re getting frustrated by things, we get frustrated because they hate doing it for some reason. We communicate this again and again, and again and again, because rebalancing the team is not like a one and done type of thing. Because my team members and myself hopefully are continuing to grow. Especially if I’m pouring into them and if I’m investing in them and training them on different things or creating opportunities for them to be trained by other people in the strengths that they want to grow in. Then every quarter we’re kind of looking at that time tracking and looking at where they’ve grown, what maybe is no longer something that they want to keep on their plate. And so it does give me an opportunity to keep reminding them to not feel bad about telling me  “Hey, I want to transfer this off my plate right here because I’ve grown beyond it or because I’m looking for a new challenge or because it does not align with my strengths anymore or never did, but I just ended up doing it.” That happens all the time.


Why you need to start moving people from one role to another


Janine: That rebalancing naturally introduces some cross-training, too.

Adrienne: So one of the things when we use this S curve concept. What they call the sweet spot is right in the middle of that and that’s when people are just like rocking and rolling in their role, they know what they’re doing, you can trust them. They feel like they’re competent. They’ve built some confidence, but at the top of that S curve is what we call mastery. And mastery is great for a certain period of time, but our A players will get very bored in mastery maybe a year, maybe even less than that. And so what we always want to be doing is identifying when someone has achieved mastery in their role and then opening up that conversation for where do we want to jump them to a new challenge, but within the company where it can align with their strengths. We’re doing this right now inside of our company, someone who has previously been on the coaching and programming side of our business is going to jump to marketing next year. The reason for that is because she’s absolutely at mastery in her role and if I didn’t give her this new opportunity to be challenged and to bump to the bottom of low competency again, she would leave and go somewhere else.  And this is what happens to our talent, especially on small teams, they don’t see an opportunity for themselves to grow, there are limited spots. 

And so by removing yourself as the bottleneck and clockwork in the business and allowing the business to grow more effectively, it gives people more opportunities because there are more positions we’re growing. They don’t have to go to a new company.


Why challenging your team is so important


Amalie: And they can train the people that will come in.

Adrienne: Yeah. So I think number one, when you write a job description or when you’re communicating to your team members what they’re going to be responsible for. I think a lot of miscommunication happens because we don’t clearly indicate what the outcomes are that we want them to be responsible for. That creates a lot of “poor performance” of people. People sometimes feel like, “oh, this person isn’t performing up to the standard that I want.” And I tell them, “well, what is the outcome that you have outsourced to them?” And they’re like, “Oh, I don’t know.” So how do they know that they’re doing a poor job? Do they know what the expectation is? And what is excellence in their role look like to them? 


Because your expectation of excellence might be very different than theirs. So at least when you’re starting the delegation process, or if you’re needing to do a little bit of a re-onboarding, which I highly recommend, to communicate what the key outcomes are that you want them to be responsible for. Make sure that it’s in alignment or clear up anything that you feel is out of alignment before they get three, six months down the road then feeling like they’re not getting it. And maybe it is their strength, but they just didn’t understand what your expectations were of them. This will lead to poor performance from everyone because they can’t take full autonomy of their role and really utilize their strengths if they have no idea where they’re supposed to be going. 


I was talking about this the other day to a colleague. I told them, “if you want to hire A players, you have to understand that A players want to win. And if you are either not giving them a target or constantly moving the target for them, they will leave.” Or they’ll just do the bare minimum because they know that they cannot please you because they have no idea what it takes to win on your team. 


Another of the things that we do, when we do our strengths analysis, we also do what we call a user manual for everyone on the team. We have them write down what do we need to do to get the best out of you as a team member, and what do we need to do to get the worst out of you as a team member? So each individual writes that about themselves because all of the tools that we buy come with user manuals, and we, as people, the most complicated tool, have no user manual yet we’re expected to work together perfectly. And our team has access to each other’s user manuals. We read them when we onboard people. 


And that’s it for today! We hope this interview has been as helpful to you as it was to us. See you on the next episode!


To listen to the full episode click here.


If you’d like to connect with Adrienne, you can reach him at:


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