Play Your Roles Well


We’ve all heard of “role playing” as a way to work through problems and practice for difficult interpersonal situations. But the plain fact is that you are playing roles every day you are working … and living.

Mostly, we don’t think about these roles in any detailed, conscious way. But they exist, we participate in them, and we are seen as occupants of these roles whether we like that or not.

So the better you understand and execute within the various roles you are playing, the more productive and successful your work and life can be. For this reason, it’s worthwhile to intentionally focus on some of the roles you may be playing, and think about how to play them better.

With apologies to the experts, then, let’s take a few minutes and visit this approach to understanding and improving your effectiveness:


Most people are leaders of some group or other. Whether it’s your family, your work group, or your posse of friends, you are the person that some other people look to for ideas, values, standards of behavior, and much more.

Ghandi once suggested we “be the change we want to see in the world,” and this same idea applies to our role as Figureheads. We can benefit from thinking about the kinds of messages we want to present to those who look to us for guidance, and making sure we present the guidance we can look back on with pride.


Related to your Figurehead role, your Leadership role is more explicitly involved with providing decisions, plans, assignments, and other elements of team direction.

In this role, you may be involved in such activities as setting and managing budgets, restraining excess and waste, directing efforts at important goals, and prioritizing among various demands.

As the engine pulling along a train of other people, it’s important you do this thoughtfully, carefully, and with a strong focus on the consequences of your Leadership both for yourself and for the people you are leading.


Unless you’re living alone on a desert island or you’re otherwise in a position to operate in total isolation from other people, your ability to connect with others and get them involved in your projects and plans is central to your productivity and success.

Much has been said elsewhere about successfully networking, so I won’t try to improve on any of that material. But I will encourage you to recognize that networking is a two-way street, and to paraphrase The Beatles: “the good will and success you take is equal to the good will and success you make.”

For example, you’ll find you can overcome any self-consciousness you may feel while networking by concentrating on helping other people feel comfortable.

Information Gatherer

In a constantly changing world, a critically important role you play is the one who casts a wide net and gathers important news. Much of what you look for should be directly relevant to your work and your life, of course, but there can be value in browsing through unrelated news and information. Thinking about how unrelated news does and does not apply to what you are trying to accomplish can stimulate your own creativity and help you make more effective choices.


As you gather new information and process it internally, you will begin to formulate ideas and approaches to work and life that can be of great value to your family, team, and/or posse. This is the fodder which you will often want to pass along in your role as Teacher.

Again, much has been said elsewhere about how to teach effectively, so here I won’t go into that important and difficult realm of human activity. But I will encourage you to see yourself as a Teacher and to do a good job at it, as this will – yes it’s true – “help you help others to help you” work and live more productively and successfully.


You don’t have to start a new business to think of yourself as an Entrepreneur. You play this role every time you try to solve a problem, organize a group effort, work out a plan of action, or exchange one resource (most often money) for another (such as equipment or services you want in your work or life).

You’ll find you generate better results as an Entrepreneur when you find ways to improve your:

  • Recognition of your own strengths and weaknesses,
  • Ability to get others working on your projects,
  • Resilience in the face of difficulties, obstructions, and failures,
  • Vision for a better future.


The people around you will inevitably get into conflicts over various choices, issues, values, and personality characteristics. Whether you volunteer or not, it will often fall to you to restore the peace between them.

To do this, you’ll want to improve your ability to:

  • Identify the underlying causes of the conflict,
  • Facilitate a peaceful negotiation of these differences, and
  • Help those in conflict come back to emotional balance.

To this end, it’s important to help them overcome or at least downplay their differences and recognize their commonalities.

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