Over the past few weeks the constant theme that arose in my coaching sessions is the need for role clarity. Much of the conversation is about the fact that people don’t feel as productive as they can and want to be. When I meet with business owners and they share their frustration around how their key people don’t live up to their expectations, I will ask, “Do they know what those expectations are?” So often, the answer is an assumption that they do. When I meet with that key person and I ask the same question, the answer is most often, “No.”

We live in a world of reshuffling and reinventing. I recently read an article about how small businesses more than ever must innovate daily to stay competitive and relevant. As a result, roles are always changing; new tasks are put onto people’s plate without much conversation and rarely are job descriptions formally updated to reflect “today’s” expectations. This is exaggerated by the impact of the economy and the desire to keep staffs lean and “at capacity.”

I’ve written about the impact of clarity on organizational climate and productivity. As a reminder, a healthy climate can “improve productivity by up to 30%.” One of the critical components of the clarity dimension is understanding how one’s role directly affects the success of the company.

During this time of year many of you are starting to have performance conversations with your employees. Ask yourself the following before beginning this process:

“Do I know if my employees are clear about their role? Have I defined the tasks they are responsible for and explained how they contribute to the goals of the organization? Have I made it clear what is expected of them?”

Clearly defined roles and responsibilities make performance conversations much less threatening and will ultimately improve an individual’s productivity.