Thursday, March 12, 2009

Roles & Responsibilities -- Director, Manager, Supervisor or Coordinator?

We're happy to say that the Chief Executive Boards International Blog is becoming something of an "ideabook" for small and midsize businesses. A few weeks ago, I received a request from a blog reader, asking if we might suggest some "criteria for determining what level of responsibility an employee should have to be titled Director, Manager, Supervisor, or Coordinator."

An interesting question, and, I believed, something that might be a useful reference for lots of small and midsize businesses, like those whose owners and CEOs are members of Chief Executive Boards International. In general, smaller companies have a hard time with title alignment, and perhaps a set of guidelines is a good place to start. So, here's my point of view:
  • Coordinator -- The people with whom she works have NO organizational reporting lines -- they don't work for her, and she can't do anything about getting them hired, fired, or raises granted. Supervisors are important, but not in control -- their job is to do the best they can with the situations they're given to coordinate. They're a span-breaking mechanism. See:

  • Supervisor -- Deals with individuals and tasks. People are directly responsible to the supervisor (they work for her and no one else). Supervisor may or not have hire/fire/salary authority. They surely do have recommendation authority over who gets hired, fired, or a raise. And they get to say what someone must do, vs. a Coordinator, who's just telling them what they should do. They're a span-breaking mechanism with authority.

  • Manager -- Deals with groups and priorities. Allocating resources to the most important projects and initiatives. Mostly a tactical perspective -- takes things that Directors & VPs have defined as important and makes them happen. Key element among managers is finding a way to get done what the organization (read Directors and VPs) has defined as important, done. They should be measured on results expected. They make hire/fire decisions, and make them quickly. See:

  • Director -- This title should be a real big deal (as should VP). This is a person who decides where we're going, not how we're getting there (left to managers). A person who has a sense of mission, some vision, and who's adding energy to the system. Someone without whom the organization couldn't move forward. They set organizational goals, either themselves, or collaboratively with the Managers. See:
    They define the direction of change, and effect change. See:
If you haven't done so recently, I'd recommend you read Jim Collins' book Good to Great. Here's a "Leadership Pyramid" offered by Collins. Supervisors should be operating at Level 2.5, Managers at Level 3, Directors at Level 3.5, and VP's at Level 4. The CEO should be operating at Level 5 (if you're not operating at Level 5 most of the time, see:

If you have other viewpoints or alternate definitions for these jobs, please click on "Comments" below and share them with us.
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Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International
Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, beautifully laid out!

    I have been doing a series for non-technology managers in the SMB space on hiring in IT.

    Because I find that IT is a huge culprit in this "title" mess.

    I have met senior IT staff with a title of 'director' that are basically administrators, and the exact opposite, 'Administrators' being responsible for operational and tactical planning, contract and outsourcing negotiations etc.

    This was truly relevand and nicely timed!



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