Here’s the takeaway: For the most part, titles are seldom relevant. What really matters is that employees understand exactly what they’re accountable for, and how their role helps the company achieve their objectives.
To me, it’s only on rare occasions that titles can be important. If you’re meeting with another senior leader, knowing their title might be important so that you both understand that you’re on the same level. Sometimes titles can help when you’re talking to a banker, or a possible sales contact. For the most part, though, I think that titles are a disservice.
“I’m the VP in charge of Being a Big Cheese.”
Okay, what the hell does that mean? What I really want to know, and what employees should know, is what their role is. In other words, what are you held accountable for?
If you tell me that you’re the Vice President of Sales, that’s great. But what does that really mean? If you can say, “I’m accountable for our sales strategy, execution, and implementation as represented by our actual sales numbers,” that’s much clearer than, “It means I oversee the sales guys, and they do some things.” In this day and age, we have job titles like “Person in Charge of Employee Happiness.” Again, that’s great, but I still have no idea what that role actually does.
On the other hand, if everybody in the organization can know what their role is in the overall objectives of the company, they will understand how they are contributing and where they need to go.
The example I always use is the center in a football team. His title is playing center, but what is his role? Well, he has to read the line, he has to listen, he has to move the ball, and he has to move people. He has to do that really, really well. That’s his role. If he doesn’t do that, the team may not be able to win.
Sometimes, title are just habits. There’s a Harris Poll study that revealed that out of thousands of employees surveyed, one in three didn’t understand the priorities of the company, one in five didn’t care what the priorities were, and half the group had no idea what their role was in helping achieve company objectives. So that, to me, is a catastrophic failure of leadership. Understanding roles needs to be a top-down objective for the leadership team to help everybody understand where they’re coming from, where they’re going, and how each individual contributes to those goals.
It doesn’t matter what title you want. You can be a Guru, a Pope, or whatever you want to call yourself. Understanding roles needs to be a top-down objective for the leadership team to help everybody understand where they’re coming from, where they’re going, and how each individual contributes to those goals. At the end of the day, what is their role?
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