Is it time to change your roles?

27th April 2020

In the past few weeks a lot has been said about the importance of focussing, prioritising and having a clear plan of action. As agency leaders you’ll have received suggestions that you should concentrate on clients, new business, employees, financial management, long term strategy – and everything in between. But are you crystal clear on who should really be responsible for what at the top level within your agency? It’s now time to take a good hard look at who’s doing what – and why.


Many small to medium sized businesses have operated quite happily for many years without defined roles at senior management level, especially where they are a group of founders. The ‘all hands on deck’ approach has created flexibility and spread the load but as the business grows the need to clarify roles has often remained unconsidered or ignored.

In recent weeks, many agencies with clearer role allocations have also lapsed back into the ‘all hands on deck’ approach. But coming through the current challenges and thriving as a winner in the post Covid-19 business environment will require top level responsibilities to be focused like never before.

Without this clarity, there are some risky consequences:

  • Key areas may be under-resourced
  • Too many people spending time on the same issue
  • A lack of accountability reducing commitment and effectiveness
  • The long term sacrificed for the short term, or vice versa
  • Failure to achieve a reasonable level of ROI
  • Inability to survive in the longer term

So now is the opportunity to ensure every member of your senior team has a clear remit. You should consider the size of your senior team and define responsibilities where the required clarity has been absent. Or change responsibilities to put you in the best place to succeed in the future.

But don’t expect do this from a management textbook. Recognise the need to play to people’s strengths and to define appropriate roles to which the individual can adapt and in which they can excel.


Very few people are perfectly equipped for all aspects of a senior role, so it’s a question of finding the right balance. One model we use to help do this is the Japanese concept of Ikigai (which translates literally as Life Meaning). Used for many years on a personal level by the Japanese, it’s been increasingly adopted to help define organisational purpose.

The model helps find the balance between four key factors that drive satisfaction and motivation: passion, expertise, demand and value. Let’s take a closer look at how this can be applied to the definition of roles.

1. Passion

For an individual, it’s what they are passionate about, what they just love to do – project work/ client relationship building/exploring new ways of working/ team management/ winning new business/ setting the vision for the company. The tricky bit here is that though there may be many things people love to do, only some of them will also meet the other criteria below.

2. Strength

While an individual might love to do many things, they will only actually be good at some of them. This is where Ikigai departs from the common advice to just “do what you love and love what you do”. In fact, just doing what they love won’t optimise impact. They need to be good at it too.

3. Need

For an individual or a business, if the focus is on something that isn’t really needed a lot of time and effort is going to be wasted. Individual’s roles and responsibilities can’t just be based on the things they are good at and love doing – they need to be focused on the areas that are vital to the success of the business.

4. Value

Many senior team members, often with many years of experience, will have the ability to turn their hand to all kinds of things. And to make a positive contribution. But where do they add the most value to the business?


Now how do you make it a reality? Once you’ve done the thinking, decided on the shape of your senior team, identified and aligned on the key areas for each person, it’s vital to define things precisely and communicate to everyone in the business. You’ll also need to decide how success will be measured for each role depending on the specific responsibilities.

And finally, as the new world evolves, so will your business and the people within it. Be prepared to monitor and hone your thinking around roles regularly to ensure you’re deploying your talent for maximum impact.


About Tonic Creative Business Partners

The business consultancy to add clarity, confidence and colour to your ambition.

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