Have you ever found that you enter the week without a clear plan of action? Do you wish that you could articulate each team member’s role and responsibilities more clearly? In a dynamic, fast-paced work environment, it’s challenging to maintain clarity about your core objectives and priorities. It’s even more challenging to provide this clarity for your team members and peers as well.
As a leader, I developed a technique called Role Mapping in order to cultivate continuous clarity about my role — my ongoing responsibilities, my current objectives, and my priorities. Role Mapping is a simple and engaging visual technique for clarifying a role’s scope and priorities. Role Mapping is a visual way to organize and plan. It paves the way for greater focus, presence, and productivity.
As you use Role Mapping, you’ll find that following through with your objectives becomes more effortless and enjoyable. Let’s take a closer look at how Role Mapping can improve your leadership of your work and/or your team.
The Purpose of Role Mapping
As I define in my first book, Awake Leadership: A system for leading with clarity and creativity, a Role Map is a diagram used to clarify, organize, and show the full scope of your role at any point in time. Role Mapping is inspired by a visual technique called mind mapping. Viewing your role’s scope visually, in mind map form, helps to see the full picture of your role’s scope with more clarity. When we zoom out, we can hone in on what is really important, simplify, and prioritize accordingly.
A Role Map helps us each to gain clarity about our core responsibilities and objectives. It also helps us to engage in more productive one-on-one meetings, prepare for performance reviews, and manage smoother team transitions. Below is an example of what a finished Role Map looks like.
Now, let’s back up and discuss the basic building blocks of a Role Map and why a Role Map is designed in this format.
The Role Map Foundation
Though Role Mapping is a profound technique, it is relatively simple to do once you invest the initial time in creating your first Role Map. Before diving into the how-to, let’s take a look at what the foundation of every Role Map looks like.
The central focus of a Role Map is your position title. Every Role Map also has five major branches: Operations, Projects, Team Members, Partners, and KPIs. Here are quick definitions of these five branches to help guide you as you populate your Role Map content:
Team Members: The position names and given names of your team members
Partners: The position names and given names of your key collaborators, both internally (within your company or organization) and externally
Operations: Your ongoing tasks and responsibilities — everything you do that is continuous from day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, quarter-to-quarter, or year-to-year
Projects: The special projects you are working on as one-time efforts
KPIs: The quantitative performance metrics you use to track progress and success, as well as your key qualitative objectives
As a leader in the corporate world of retail and supply chain, I found that these five branches covered the full spectrum of a role’s scope for my team members and myself. I still use this template and approach as an entrepreneur, too. You can download the template for free from our online library.
Now, with this Role Map template, you can begin to branch (or mind map) to create your own Role Map. Each branch will be specific to your Role. Take a look at some awesome real-work examples from leaders from different industries below for inspiration. Then proceed to the how-to section to begin creating your own Role Map!
Role Map Examples from Leaders in the Field
How to Make and Use Your Role Map
Set aside the time and commit to clarity.
Turn off the WiFi, tech, and surrounding sounds and solely focus on making your map. To get started, take at least 30 minutes to populate your specifics on the five branches of the Role Map template (just like the examples above). I suggest starting with the Team Members and Partners branches. Take the full 30 minutes (or more) to really specify all of your operational tasks (ongoing responsibilities), projects, and KPIs.
Once you have made an initial attempt at your Role Map, take at least one day to process and revisit to edit. Meet with your leader and/or peers to clarify any questions and to polish your map. It can really help to discuss with peers for their feedback and thoughts.
Organize and prioritize.
Use your Role Map to prioritize and plan your week. Assign dates to each task. Envision each day of your week and set your top priorities for the week. It’s helpful to use color to highlight your top priorities or to plan by days of the week.
Finally, revisit and iterate.
A Role Map is a living document, so it’s essential to revisit and update your Role Map frequently. Each Sunday (or before your week begins), take 20 minutes or more to review your map from the previous week. Consider what tasks and objectives you completed or made progress on, and what needs to be a priority for the new upcoming week. Add any new tasks or objectives to your map.
Sometimes it helps to fully redraw your map each week. While this might seem like a waste of time, it is actually a helpful (and even fun) exercise for starting a new week and cultivating focus. It’s also satisfying to look back and see where you have been and how much progress you have made.
A Role Map can serve as your anchor for making impactful progress and enjoying the journey. When everyone is clear about his or her responsibilities and objectives, the team moves forward with more focus and energy.
The process of Role Mapping doesn’t just make your work easier; it prompts you to get intentional and get organized. Through this work, you can plan the work and work the plan with presence and respond to change with more ease.
Leaders who prepare are more present and supportive of their team members and peers. These teams make efficient progress and are the most engaged. I hope this technique helps you on your leadership journey this year and beyond.