While working with a leader, they mentioned how much they were struggling to juggle all the seats they sat in for their organization. Owner. Visionary. Sales. Product Development.
As we talked, it hit me that in the times of my life where I was overwhelmed with work and life outside of work, I often struggled to see the path out. This simple exercise was born out of that moment.
As leaders, we wear many hats. These “hats” represent all the roles and relationships we’re committed to, both personally and professionally. A key truth: there’s a point of diminishing returns with hats, and as soon as we hit that point with each one we diminish our performance in all of them.
If you feel like you’ve hit a wall, here are a few questions to consider:
- Are you struggling with work/life balance?
- Do you sense frustration from your team regarding how much time you’re available to them?
- Are you frustrated by what you see as a lack of leadership from your team because they always come to you with problems and few solutions?
If any of these are true, you might have a hat management issue. Here are 6 rules to help improve your hat management, and three steps you can take to decrease the number of hats you wear.
Hat Management for Leaders Exercise
If you’re a leader who feels like you’re wearing too many “hats,” this video is for you! I’ve developed a quick exercise called “Hat Management for Leaders” to help identify the different hats you wear in your personal and professional lives, accompanied by some guiding questions to help you reflect on your various roles.
6 Rules for Hat Management
Rule #1: You can only wear one hat at a time.
Pretty simple! When you sit down in your living room to answer emails while your small children are running around, you are trying to wear two hats, parent and employee. And let’s be honest, when you try to wear both hats, you’re really doing neither task well. If you have teenagers and you want to test this, walk into your kitchen while actually wearing two hats at the same time. The feedback will most likely be that you look #stupid.
Rule #2: We gravitate towards the hat we’re most comfortable wearing.
When faced with a list of things to do, we naturally focus on the work that excites us or what we feel we can most likely complete. On the other side of the coin, we often procrastinate on the tasks we don’t like to do.
The good news is that, if we have a choice to design our perfect role, we get to keep the responsibilities we’re naturally gifted at and give away our other hats. By divvying up hats to those already interested in wearing them, we can make sure all work gets accomplished and everyone stays happy.
In most cases, we just have to recognize that some uncomfortable tasks are part of our job, and we just have to manage them as best we can.
Rule #3: Others will make you wear the hat with the most perceived power.
How many times have you walked out of a meeting or conversation and realize you did all the talking and made 95% of the decisions? That is not leadership, it is genius-ship. The latter term comes from the observation that some people lead their teams as a ‘genius and 1000 helpers’. Even if you attempt to enter a discussion with one of your team members as an equal, they’ll still put your “leader” or “boss” hat on your head and treat you accordingly.
Rule #4: “Love” is putting the hat on that someone else needs you to wear.
One of the greatest regrets of dying people is, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” A big part of that is recognizing early enough in life who you love and who really loves you, and making sure you wear relevant hats to really express that love.
It can be as simple as, “no email until after the kids go to bed,” or twenty years of monthly date nights with zero work. When we value a relationship and devote time (that is, wear the corresponding hat) there’s a simple word for that: love.
Rule #5: Feedback 101 leads us to ask, 1) Does this hat fit me? 2) What adjustment can I make to make it fit better?
When we receive feedback we should see it through the lens of hat management. The more we listen, the more affirmation we get around question number two. We’ll also likely receive warnings when the first question becomes an issue for us. If you ask powerful questions and listen effectively, those around you will help you prioritize and manage your hats.
Rule #6: Duplicate hats can only exist for defined shared decision-making groups.
This is a special rule for governing bodies that have to learn to discuss, debate, and move forward together. For example, you can have several board members on equal footing, but not two CTOs or VPs of Marketing.
3 Ways to Improve Your Hat Management
Let me warn you, changing isn’t easy. You must be willing to step back and be honest with yourself, and make yourself vulnerable by asking for genuine feedback.
All progress begins with telling ourselves the truth.Dan Sullivan
Determine the Current State of Your Hats
I have created a hat management tool that will help you assess this. In addition to that exercise, I’d recommend identifying two people whose opinion you value the most, one inside work and one outside of work. Ask them to do the exercise for you and then compare your results.
Choose One Thing to Work On
Trying to change everything at once is a great way to set yourself up for failure. Based on your feedback and self-analysis, choose one thing you will work on in the next 90 days to improve your hat management and stick to it. Check in with yourself every month or so to see where you’re at and how you’re doing.
Explore the EOS Model®
If you are an owner or entrepreneur who’s frustrated overall by inefficiencies in their organization, I help leaders implement Entrepreneurial Operating System® into their organization. The book Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business by Gino Wickman outlines the EOS model, tools, and implementation process if you’d like to learn more.
Remember, they are your hats to choose, so choose intentionally and live by these rules.
As always, if you have questions, just look me up and ask. I’m the only Scott Patchin on the internet, so I’m pretty easy to find! Either connect with me on LinkedIn, or shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!