The Three Roles We Play at Work

In coaching or counseling colleagues, friends and people I meet going through a career transition, I often find myself having to explain the three roles we play at work. I noticed recently that these three roles don’t seem to be obvious to many, while simultaneously most folks seem to have some similar notion of them at a subconscious level. This series of posts is meant to document the Three Roles. My aim is to help people be more deliberate in how they show up at work, and how they think about the way they mature their craft.

The Three Roles are:

  • The Pair of Hands (PoH)
  • The Subject Matter Expert (SME)
  • The Trusted Advisor (TA)

While I find most people are always acting in some blended form of these roles, it is useful in processing the social contract between yourself and your colleagues above you, peers, and those more inexperienced. It is also a useful meta-model for helping others be successful in their role as it helps them have a clear understanding of what is being asked of them, and what successfully fulfilling that ask looks like… not just “getting the work done”.

In Part Two, I’ll discuss the role of The Pair of Hands. In Parts Three and Four I’ll discuss The Subject Matter Expert (SME) and the Trusted Adviser (TA), respectively. Finally, in Part Five, I’ll close with an anecdote that shows fluidly working in all three roles.

As my some of my friends say, “Stay Frosty.”

Post Disclaimer

The information contained on this post is my opinion, and mine alone (with the occasional voice of friend). It does not represent the opinions of any clients or employers.

Published by


Devin Hedge is a change agent focused on enabling businesses to deal with complexity and changing market conditions. Devin Hedge brings almost two decades of experience working in the IT Industry in his role as an Executive Coach, Organizational Agility Consultant and Lean Product Development specialist. Devin lives in Apex, NC with his wife and two daughters. When not helping businesses change, Devin spends his volunteering to help those that are forced homeless back on their feet and back into a home. You can find Devin running, biking or hiking all over the South.