Imagine an orchestra conductor, meticulously guiding a group of musicians, each with their unique role in the performance. The conductor sets clear expectations for every musician, and they know when to step in for guidance or when to let them take ownership of their parts. This precise approach to defining roles and boundaries can be applied to leadership, empowering team members and setting them up for success.


The Why: Benefits of Clear Role Boundaries

As a leader, defining role boundaries can improve team performance, boost morale, and foster a sense of autonomy among your team members. By clearly outlining expectations and decision-making parameters, you enable your team to make smarter, faster, and better decisions – ultimately creating significant and lasting value for your organization and community.


The Core Issue: Unclear Expectations

The problem that many leaders face is a lack of clarity around role expectations, which can lead to confusion, inefficiency, and even resentment among team members. To address this issue, it’s crucial to establish a framework that outlines the core work, escalation points, negotiable activities, and responsibilities for each team member.


The Model: The Four Quadrant Box Framework

Quadrant Boundary Box


The Four Quadrant Role-Boundary Framework provides an effective structure for defining role boundaries within your team. Here’s a breakdown of each quadrant:


  1. Core Work: Define the essential work and deliverables for each team member’s role. For example, a team member may be accountable for safety measures, weekly and monthly reports. This list should be reasonably high-level and outline the activities they’re expected to perform.
  2. Escalate: Identify specific activities that require your review or approval. In the transcript’s example, a leader may need to review financial decisions over $1,000 or monthly reports that will be presented to the board.
  3. Negotiable Activities: These are “just-in-time” situations where team members can approach you for guidance, input, or approval on a case-by-case basis. For instance, if a team member needs special leave due to a personal situation but knows there’s a limit on the number of people off at once, they can discuss it with you for approval.
  4. Responsibilities: Specify the tasks and activities that you trust your team members to manage independently. In the example provided, a leader trusts their team member to handle incident analysis and weekly reports without their oversight.

The How: Implementing the Role-Boundary Framework

To put the Four Quadrant Role-Boundary Framework into practice, follow these steps:

  1. Schedule a one-on-one meeting with each team member to discuss their role and expectations.
  2. Use the framework to outline the core work, escalation points, negotiable activities, and responsibilities for each individual.
  3. Make adjustments to the framework based on the experience and skills of each team member, ensuring that it is tailored to their unique strengths and development areas.
  4. Regularly review and update the framework to keep it relevant and responsive to changes within your team and organization.

The What Next: Taking Action Today

To make an immediate impact on your team’s performance and decision-making, start implementing the Four Quadrant Role-Boundary Framework today:

  1. Schedule individual meetings with your team members.
  2. Begin the process of defining role boundaries and expectations.
  3. Foster a culture of open communication and support.

Checklist for Success

Define the core work for each team member’s role.

    • Establish clear escalation points and review processes.
    • Identify negotiable activities for just-in-time decision-making.
    • Allocate responsibilities to empower your team members.
    • Regularly review and update the framework to stay relevant.