The Most Powerful and Neglected Tool in Business



If you cannot put together a decent Role Description for a position, as we discussed earlier, you have no business hiring someone for that role. You may need someone to do that role, but they won’t do it well without a focused description.


My colleagues know if they want to add a new position not to come anywhere near me without a Role Description and a Scorecard. (We will talk about Scorecards shortly.) The reality is a well-considered Role Description increases your chances of hiring the right candidate by 50 percent. A great Scorecard increases your chances of hiring the right candidate by another 20 percent. These things really matter, so much more than the vast majority of people in the corporate world understand. I’m begging you to take them seriously.


If your organization already has a way of developing Role Descriptions, great—review it with everything you have learned in these pages in mind. It may be good, it may need tweaking, it may need new life breathed into it, or it may need a complete overhaul. If it needs the latter, do it—you will be so glad you did. You need a phenomenal Role Description template.


Most organizations don’t even have a good template, let alone a phenomenal one. That would be considered a complete waste of time by the majority of people in business—which is why corporate waste and mediocrity are so widespread.


What are your chances of hitting a target if I don’t tell you what the target is? Right. Next to zero. But we do it to people all the time. A poorly considered and badly written Role Description is a form of corporate violence against employees because it sets them up for failure. It is also a waste of resources, destroys efficiency, and robs people of the joy that comes from doing good work.

Leaders: Do you have a copy of the Role Descriptions for every person who reports to you? Do you have a copy of your own Role Description?


Employees: Do you have a copy of your own Role Description?


I think you can see where we are heading, and it is along the big fat road that leads to the big fat land of mediocrity. The land of mediocrity is getting more crowded every day—full of lazy procrastinators with no direction, who are clueless about what their actual role entails.


In every situation like this there is someone worth envying in a healthy way. In this particular situation, I envy professional athletes. They always know how they are doing—all they have to do is look at the scoreboard; as soon as they walk off the field they are given a bunch of statistics that tell them how they did; their games and practice sessions are filmed; and their position coach breaks down every play, pointing out nuances to build skills that improve both individual and team performance. That kind of clarity is an incredible gift to give an employee.


That’s why a Role Description is not enough. You should have a Scorecard for every employee—before you begin the interview process. It outlines how you are going to measure success, what the key performance indicators will be for this particular role. So, as you are interviewing candidates, you can delve into their past experience to see if they will be able to live up to the Scorecard.


The best indicator of future performance is past performance. If a candidate has not done something in the past that you want them to accomplish in this new role, what makes you think they will be able to deliver? That is called hope, my friend, and hope is a beautiful thing, but it’s often misplaced. Hope has no place in the Hiring Process.


You need a Role Description and a Scorecard for every person in your organization. These need to be updated regularly; they should be living, breathing documents. People should have a copy of their own with them at every significant meeting. Every leader should have a copy of the Role Description and Scorecard for every person he or she leads.


The reasons for this are many, but let’s quickly list the big ones. Nobody can perform their role if they don’t know what the role is. Nobody can achieve excellence if they don’t know how it is being measured. You cannot effectively lead people if you don’t know what their deliverables are. People deserve to know where they stand and how they are doing.


How will you and, more important, the person doing the role know if he or she is excelling without a clear Role Description and Scorecard? I think we both know the answer: You won’t.

A few years ago, FLOYD was invited into an organization to work with their sales team. The organization was young but massively ambitious. They were doing $3 million in sales with a goal of $100 million within ten years. They had twenty-seven salespeople but four guys were producing more than $2 million of the sales. Two of my FLOYD colleagues and I spent four hours with these four salespeople, and it was awesome. For starters, they were annoyed that we had taken them away from their work. It was immediately obvious why they were successful: They were dripping with commitment, a desire to succeed, and a healthy competitiveness.


After talking to the four sales guys, we provided the owners with a list of five qualities and asked them to make copies for the other twenty-three salespeople. We wrote the name of each employee at the top of each sheet, and then we walked through the five qualities with each, asking which of them he or she had. Then we ranked every person on the sales team according to how many of the qualities they had from the list of five. We then asked for a list of the previous month’s sales results from best to worst. With the exception of only one person, the lists were identical.


“How did you do that?” one of the owners asked me.


“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “The point is we did it, and what we now know will take your business to $100 million in annual sales.”


“How?”


“What do your top four salespeople have in common other than the five qualities?” I asked the two owners. They didn’t know, and they were smart enough not to pretend that they did or fruitlessly guess.


“They were all college athletes. They hate losing. They know how to win. They have been trained to win. You didn’t have to train them to win because they already had it in their blood.”


“So, what should we do now?”


“Your next five highest performers were also college athletes. They can stay for ninety days with very clear daily, weekly, and monthly goals.”


“What about the rest?”


“Gone. Today. It is stupid and immoral to hire someone for a role they have no chance succeeding at.”


“Then what?”


“Who does the hiring around here?”


The owners looked at each other and replied, “We do.”


“Good. For the next six months you only hire former college athletes, who have at least three of the five qualities on the list.”


“What else?”


One side of their office space was all windows and the other side was a wall. “Get rid of all these offices and cubicles; open up this space. On that wall, I want to see a huge scoreboard. Every person on the sales team needs to know in real time how they are doing: for the day, week, month, quarter, year, and lifetime results. They also need to see how their teammates are doing.”


They did everything we recommended. In fact, they might be the only client that has ever done everything we suggested. Remember their goal: $100 million in ten years. They did it. But they did it in three years, nine months, and twenty-seven days.


And the culture: competitive, committed, and fun. But the leaders had great values. With the wrong leaders, this could have been a complete disaster. As a leader, you can create either healthy competition or very unhealthy competition. But that is not the main point of the story.


People deserve to know where they stand. They deserve to know how they are doing. That’s the main point of the story. People also deserve a chance to win, so they need to know what winning looks like, and when they do win, they deserve to be celebrated.


Originally, I called this chapter “Job Descriptions Matter,” but I knew if I called it that, many people wouldn’t read it, so I had to change it. As the actual title says, Role Descriptions and Scorecards truly are the most powerful and neglected tools in business. I hope you will start calling them Role Descriptions, but regardless of what you call them, just get really clear that they matter.


Take this seriously. Your culture needs it. Most businesses and most leaders look at creating Role Descriptions as just another box that needs to be checked in order to move on. Most people only ever look at the Role Description when they are applying for a position, and never look at it again, even if they get the role. Stop. All this must come to an end if you want to build a Dynamic Culture.


Spend time developing usable Role Descriptions and Scorecards for every person in the organization, and review and refine them at least once a year. Refer to them in the review process. Use them to coach people to constantly improve, and use them to make your expectations abundantly clear. People are not mind readers. They need to know what their role is and what your expectations are.


Role Descriptions are a system, and a very powerful, neglected one at that. Systems drive behavior. Like so much of what we have talked about in this book, you are already doing these things; it is a matter of engaging them in a new way.


Don’t get overwhelmed. It doesn’t have to be this week or this month, but build this into your Strategic Plan. Respond, don’t react. But for any new roles, do it right from the start. Here’s how:


  1. Develop a template for a Role Description and Scorecard.

  2. Test the template across a variety of roles and departments.

  3. Write your own Role Description and Scorecard.

  4. Distribute the template and ask everyone in the organization to write a first draft of their own Role Description and Scorecard.


Matthew Kelly, The Culture Solution





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