244 - When People Don't Know What You Do - John Laurito

244 – When People Don’t Know What You Do

Some people see titles as an important aspect of their roles in an organization or a business — others even consider titles as success. While some are content to be on the sidelines doing their job and what is expected of them. In this episode, host John Laurito gives a piece of advice for people on the sidelines: make sure you get clarity on what your role is, no matter how small. Job titles are not just for defining the business hierarchy; it also plays a part in your job security.

[0:00] Intro

[0:43] Here’s some career advice…

[2:54] As a leader, get clear on what someone’s role is

Ask questions about success


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John Over the last two decades, I’ve been in an insatiable quest to learn everything I can about leadership, what makes the best leaders so good after running companies small and large over the last 20 years. Today, I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name’s John Laurito. I’m your host, and I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this very topic and what makes the best leader so good. Welcome to tomorrow’s leader! 

All right. Welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dove deep on all things leader-related, related to living yourself and leading others, OK? Today I’m going to give a little bit of college career advice, I guess because I’ve seen a problem that exists that many people have. Some don’t know they have it, some know they do. But most people, I think that are in this situation don’t even realize they have it until it’s too late. So call what it is. 

Whatever this free advice may help you in your career. It may help you as a leader if you listen closely to the messages. It will. And here’s what the problem is I have in my career of twenty-five. Let’s see. Wow. Almost 30 years. Holy mackerel. Anyways, yeah, I’ve seen situations in companies where I just didn’t know exactly what a person did. I couldn’t tell you I knew what their title was. In some cases, I couldn’t remember what their title was because it wasn’t clear. But and you know what I’m talking about you can you know these people in different organizations where they just have a role that’s not it’s really not well-defined. 

John Now again, part of this is the leader’s fault because it needs to be really clear, not just to that person, but it needs to be clear to everybody in the organization. What does this person do? But the other part of the problem is and can be impacted by you. If you were in this situation, I’ve had kind of heart-to-hearts with people when I’ve worked at companies kind of alongside them, I said, Hey, you know what? You’ve got to figure this out because right now your role is very fuzzy. And I’ve seen the way that this movie ends a lot because ultimately when people have fuzzy, ill-defined, or totally undefined roles, it’s really hard to attach a specific result or impact or know what they’re really doing. 

John How are they really impacting the organization and impacting the bottom line? And when that’s the case and we need to make cuts or changes or whatnot, those are the roles that go. Those are the roles that vanish. So I’ve gotten to the point where I can see this ahead of time. I know what’s going to happen. And as leaders, you need to be really challenging yourself when you start somebody in a new role. Is this crystal clear of what defines your success? Now, listen, I’m speaking to you as a guilty person. I’ve hired people for roles and I’ve done podcasts and given some examples of these where I did not clearly define. I thought the person was great. I’m like, I just wanted to figure out how to bring them in the organization and let me just put something together and it doesn’t work. 

John Yes, it’s great to be able to get a great person in your organization, but there is such a thing as getting the great person at the wrong time. And if you’re not ready for that person with a really clearly defined role, the best thing you can do for you and them in the organization is to just hit the pause button and just say No, it just doesn’t work. From my experience, I’ve seen it really, really, really very rarely, if ever work out game. So as a leader, when you have people, just think about your organization and you may know, you may know, OK, I’ve got these 10 people that are in different key positions. I know exactly what these people are supposed to be doing. That’s not only good enough, though, you need to understand it. 

John Obviously, the rest of the organization needs to OK or at least the people that they’re responsible to be working with. There are some people that add a lot to an organization. They add a certain element to the culture they contribute. They may come up with certain ideas. But their name is really not attached or connected to anything in particular, again, they’re kind of almost like a utility player to some extent. And when that happens, that’s dangerous. So part of what you can do is is have a title that’s very clear and very specific. Sometimes we get overboard with these titles and make them sound so generic and confusing that nobody knows what they are or somebody is so focused on the title. 

John It’s got to have VPI in the title that we end up changing and making it something that it’s not. And, you know, blah blah blah. All kinds of problems of that. But the role itself has to be clearly defined. What does it look like for this person to have success? I tell people, and you’ve heard me say this all the time. Any time you’re starting a new organization are starting in a new organization. Ask this question of the hiring leader. If you’ve hired me and I’m here for a year or two a year from today and you are thrilled with the decision to hire me. Feel like it was the best decision you’ve ever made. What have I done? OK, and then listen and take copious notes. OK. If you’re the leader, ask yourself that question what has this person done and even ask them that question, Hey, if you came in here to this organization and you were thrilled with what you’ve done a year from now, what have you done? 

John Just make sure you’re on the same page. That’s key, right? That’s critical. What does success look like? It’s amazing how many times our definition of success is so different than somebody else’s. What does that look like? The only way you’re going to figure that out is to talk about it. Ask your team at your next leadership meeting. Ask them to write down on a sheet of paper and just say, OK, I’m going to let you think about this for a second. What is a successful week for you in your role? What is a successful week? And then ask your leaders in your unit or business unit or division of the organization what is a successful week for the organization? Just start the conversation, then put those answers up on a board or talk about them, whatever. Just share them and see as anybody gives everybody clear on that and does their answer match what your answer would be for them? Really, really key. 

John But, you know, sometimes I’ll ask people in the organization, Does everybody know what this person does? You know so-and-so? What is this person’s role when things are working really well? What are they doing and where does their kind of role fit into the big picture? The clearer you can get on that, the better. Think of it like a sports team. Listen, I. I know in baseball who is supposed to be doing what in every given situation, every play. I know that in certain positions and plays. The second baseman needs to cover certain positions or be back up to certain players. At other times, there doesn’t really have a role in that play. 

John If there’s, you know, I get it, that’s fine. But everybody needs to know that. Otherwise, it becomes very messy. If everybody, if there’s a fly ball, hit the second base second baseman in the infield and everybody is converging and running toward the ball because they’re not sure who’s ball it is well, you know, that blows everything, right? The play can’t be executed the right way and it’s just it’s wasted effort. You get what I’m talking about. 

John So the bottom line is the clarity with somebody’s role. If you have a role in an organization and you feel it is fuzzy and not well defined, make that the topic of your next one-on-one with your leader if you don’t have a one on one with that your leader. Schedule one says I need to have more clarity on this. I need to be able to communicate better to other people because I’m sensing that some parts of the organization don’t know clearly what it is that I do. I need to be able to communicate this. So can you help me? And I just want to make sure we’re on the same page? I promise you that that conversation will go well. If you’ve got a good leader, it will go well and it will certainly help you and help elevate the effectiveness of your role. 

John If people cannot point if the CEO of the organization cannot say specifically what you’ve done and what results you’ve gotten and what you’ve impacted, you’re in a dangerous spot. I hate to tell you this, but you are in a really dangerous spot if there’s nothing that they can put your name next to. Yeah, so and so she did this or he did that, and this is what they’ve got and they’re running with and they’re leading and this is what they’ve done this last year. If it’s fuzzy stuff or if it’s a lot of indirect stuff, you know, yeah, they had a little bit of the there’s a little bit of that. Again, this is becoming a risky area. 

John You’re in that gray area where, you know, and if people if they need to make cuts, you’re in a danger zone. And again, I speak from 30 years of experience. I’ve seen it a zillion different times and I’ve been the cause of it because I’ve not done it well at some points where I have not defined certain roles and lessons learned because I lost good people because of that or the person within the organization, but just scratching the surface on what they could do. And ultimately that didn’t end well at all. So same end result. So in any event, if I can help in any bit, you know, this is one of the things I was working with a friend and I said, OK, let’s just map this out. What do you think you can do for the organization? 

John What truly, if you had just your leader gave you a blank slate, blank canvas and you could create it where you knew it really leveraged your strengths and made you happy and you loved doing it and you did everything you were doing, you wanted to do all day long because you were making a big impact to the bottom line of the organization and you were enjoying it. What would it look like it’s created sometimes leaders just don’t know how to fully utilize you. That’s it. And if they knew and you said, Hey, you know what? I really think I can contribute more to the organization by doing this, we have this problem.

John I feel like I could help solve it with this goes back to the podcast they did a few weeks ago about being underutilized. This kind of falls a little bit in the same area. Now, if you’re that type of person, which I don’t think you are where you just want to kind of stay off the radar screen and you’re, you know, comfortable enough people not knowing what you do because they don’t want them getting my stuff. OK, just know what risk you have. And don’t be surprised when you get that call now, and it’s not a good one. So my goal is to look out for you and put you in the best position, the strongest position you can as a leader or as a future leader as a CEO of your organization, whatever it is. So I’m here to help. I hope this sheds some light on maybe something you didn’t think about before. 

John Again, your role needs to be clear about how you’re impacting the bottom line needs to be clear, what a successful week looks like needs to be clear. Clarity cannot be too clear. Cannot be too in focus. There’s no such thing as out of focus. You can be really out of focus. You can’t be too. In focus just doesn’t. That doesn’t make any sense. 

John So again, I always appreciate you liking, subscribing, sharing, and reaching out to me. Let me know what issues you have challenges, questions, topics you want to hear about, guests that you think you’d be you’d love to hear from. And I’ll work on getting them on the show and in the meantime, go down below give a five-star review and I will see you next time. Thanks, everybody. 

John Thanks for joining us for today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader for suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching, reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, lead on!

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