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Avoid Typecasting your Team

Updated on August 27, 2015

What is Typecasting

For the sake of this article, we’re talking about typecasting when it comes to extracurricular activities that fall outside of the formally written job descriptions. Although typecasting when it comes to hiring is likely a thing that takes place, this Author is not currently willing to delve into that subject without doing the research. Glad we got that out of the way; let’s get started.

Most of us are familiar with the term “typecasting” as it relates to acting. It is when an actor or actress is repeatedly assigned to the same type of role, as a result of previous success in such roles. Typecasting in the workplace is essentially the same thing. The truth is, we’re likely aware that we are doing it, we just call it delegating. There’s nothing wrong with delegating tasks to those we know can handle them, but we want to create opportunities to see who else might be up for the challenge.

The Scenario

The big Boss calls you and says you need to choose someone on your team to help you put together a client presentation on new equipment. Before you even hang up the phone, you know who you’re going to choose. Charlie. He’s always actively participating in meetings and you know he has no problem speaking in front of people because he’s done it a thousand times before. You’ll ask Charlie to get started on the presentation and then you can move on to your next task.

As Leaders, we know that this happens often. We need someone to help us write an email, host a meeting, plan a potluck, create a spreadsheet, and the list goes on and on. Again, there’s nothing wrong with knowing who our “go to” people are for certain tasks, but if we do not continuously identify others who have similar skills, we are not fully benefitting from the power of a team. What if there is someone on your team who is even better at giving presentations, but you don’t know it because you’re always calling on Charlie? What if Charlie is out of the office the next time you need help with a presentation? By identifying all of the great Presenters on your team, you can avoid additional stress if your go to person is not available when you need them.

Why is it important to identify others who can help?

You want to show all of the members of your team that they are valuable to you outside of their normal day to day job functions. There will always be those employees who are happy to come in and keep their heads down, but there will also always be those who want more. They want to know that they are contributing and that you trust them with other tasks. It helps morale tremendously when people know opportunities exists to break free from their redundant responsibilities from time to time.

Secondly, you’ll provide a way for different members of your team to connect with a common interest. If Evette always plans the team party because she does a great job, it’s very tempting to always ask her to handle this activity. However; Sarah worked as a party planner before she came to the company, but has been too shy to ask to get involved because she doesn’t want to step on Evette’s toes. The reality could be that Evette would love some help from someone who isn’t going to complain and pairing her up with Sarah lays the groundwork for an epic team party.

Lastly, and on a more personal level, someday you’ll likely want to take that next step on the corporate ladder and before you can exit your current position, you’ll need to identify someone who can take your place. If you’ve always seen Jim as the jokester and just assume he cares more about making people laugh than he does about taking on more responsibilities, you may never know that Jim has all of the characteristics of a great leader.

How will I know who can help?

Well you start by taking a chance on someone else. At some point in time, we all need to be given a chance. Before I go on, I’d like to point out the importance of being a realist in this example… If this is a million dollar client and your job is dependent on this presentation going well, then of course this is not the time to take a chance on the mail clerk you hired last week.

Let’s go back to the scenario where the Big Boss called and said you need to choose someone to help you present. Rather than automatically calling on Charlie, use this as an opportunity to identify someone else on the team who might be equally great or even better at giving the presentation.

Perhaps someone on your team has expressed that they would like to be more involved with client relations if an opportunity ever arises. Another person on the team may already be an expert on the new equipment (the subject of the presentation you’re supposed to give). You may have someone attending college who just so happens to be taking a class on public speaking that would like the exposure. The point is that if we would just allow ourselves to think of someone other than the primary “go to” person for a task, chances are that several other worthwhile candidates would come to mind.

If your team is somewhat small and you truly aren’t sure who else might be interested, send out a team email and ask. If you’re worried that Charlie might think you no longer have faith in him, it’s a good idea to let him know that you’re looking to mix things up a bit.

If you’re not comfortable testing out a new Presenter in front of a client (understandable), then next time there is a team meeting, choose a short topic that someone else could present for you. This goes for any task– start out small and work up to bigger challenges.

The Challenge

Avoid “typecasting” this week and see what happens. Challenge yourself to call upon anyone other than your typical “go to” person whenever possible. Ask the quietest person on your team to host a meeting, or ask the jokester to put together a quality control plan. You will of course use reasonable judgement when deciding on the tasks, but you get the point. You’ll definitely find hidden skills within your team in unexpected places, or people in this case. Most importantly you’ll get to expand your “go to” database, and multiple people will come to mind for any given task. Good Luck and Lead Proud friends!

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