You Must Understand, We All Wear Many Hats Here
If you run or work with a small business, how many times have you said or heard the phrase, “We all wear several hats” to explain how work gets done? In these times, everyone is working harder and doing more with less. But in this ADD world of constant distractions, when are multiple hats more of a burden than a blessing?
Why Must We Wear So Many Hats? It will always be a challenge for a small business to get all its work done. Staffing up to run sales, production and the office in turbulent times often means sharing work. Today’s organizations may be leaner and flatter, but all the technology, systems and controls have created the need for many specialists whose unique skills are only needed on a part-time basis. So, sales staffs take on marketing responsibilities, software specialists manage hardware and the back office also serves as the front office. So, when is it an excuse and when is this fair?
Wearing multiple hats in a small business works when staff is proactively dealing with tasks and challenges. For example, if people know whose part-time task it is to communicate with customers before there is a problem or evacuate the building before there is a fire, multiple jobs are fine. Also, if multiple hats give a company the ability to focus on root causes, that’s fine. An example of this would be a cross-functional task force, assembled to reduce the reasons mistakes are made.
Wearing multiple hats is an excuse when staff is called upon randomly or by “who has time” to reactively solve a recurring problem. If your people are pulled out of their office jobs to make deliveries whenever sales people exceed quota, this would be an example of poor planning. Also, if part of someone’s job is to regularly redo the work of another, this is dealing with a symptom rather than the root cause of someone else’s poor performance.
Three things to do to make sure multiple hats work:
- Make sure people clearly understand the outcomes you expect. The mark of any good small business employee is their embracing of the goals of the business. If they are not working toward selling, delivering, developing or protecting the business, then why not?
- Staff must be personally accountable for their actions. Small businesses cannot provide direct supervision of anyone. The best staff works under general supervision and manages themselves.
- Any small business needs to ensure it is structured to implement its tactics. For example, if the firm wants to meet the unique needs of different customer segments it best not be organized regionally. Too often small business stays organized to implement old tactics despite claiming it is pursuing new opportunities.
Small business will always wear and lament they wear too many hats. Make sure the multiple hats are helping more than they are hurting.