By Bruce D, Johnson – When you start planning your week, where do you begin? What’s the first thing you think about? If you’re like most business owners and property managers, the first thing you probably think about is, “What is the biggest fire that needs to be put out this week?” Or maybe, “What projects need to be moved forward this week?” Or possibly a tactical item like, “What meetings do I need to be prepared for?”
Unfortunately, as the person at the top of your business, that is not a great starting place for planning out your week. Why? Because it immediately puts you in a reactive and tactical mindset instead of a strategic and proactive mindset – which is the level where your business needs you to be thinking if you want to grow it.
In order to remind yourself every week to think at this higher level, you need a framework to help you conceptualize what you should be thinking about – and my favorite framework to do that is to think of the six hats you need to wear every week as the person at the top of your business: strategy, marketing, money, leadership, management and you.
While the people you hire can often wear one or two hats (maybe the marketing hat, the finance hat or the management hat), the reality is that if you’re the person at the top of your business or organization, you don’t have that luxury because you have to think globally. As the person at the top, you have to think of the business as a whole. Plus, it’s rarely your strengths that will take a business down. It is usually your weaknesses that will cause you trouble.
Why You Can’t Wear Just One or Two Hats
Let’s say you came up through the sales or marketing function of your business. If that’s true, chances are you focus your time and energy on sales and marketing activities (which, of course, isn’t a bad thing). However, if you are not really paying attention to – or not good at — managing the money, for example, chances are you’ll be out of business. You can’t say, “But I’m not a finance person. I’m just a marketing person. Cut me some slack.”
That won’t work. Nor can you say, “Managing money isn’t my strength, that’s why I hired someone to manage the money.” Again, that won’t work. Your business will still be bankrupt. As the person at the top, you don’t have the option of not paying attention to or getting good at money management.
Similarly, if you came up through the management/operations part of the business and are really good at managing and executing projects, chances are you will focus your time and energy on the management part of your business (again, not a bad thing). However, if the market has changed and your strategy is outdated, no matter how efficient you are and no matter how well your people execute, chances are you’ll be in trouble. You can’t say, “But I’m not good at that strategy thing.” Or, “I’m not a visionary.” Or, “That competitive intelligence stuff just isn’t my jam.” It won’t work. You will still be killed by your competitors.
Likewise, if you are great at the leadership piece (i.e. you like casting vision, building teams, recruiting top talent and inspiring that talent to produce great results) that’s good. However, if you are not great at managing yourself (meaning your mindset, your skill set, your productivity, etc.), then you’ll quickly become the bottleneck of your business and your business will stagnate.
In other words, whenever you’re the leader of a business or organization, you don’t have the freedom or the option of not wearing multiple hats. You don’t have the right to say, “I’m not good at [blank], so I’m not going to do that.” Nor do you have the option of simply thinking, “I’ll hire someone to do that.”
Why? Because at the end of the day, you are the person responsible for your business or organization. You can hire people to handle certain tasks and functions (e.g., creating a marketing plan or leading a strategic planning process or producing financial reports), but as the leader of your business or organization, you’re still responsible.
Why You Can’t Hire People to Wear Your Six Hats
Abdication is a poor leadership trait. While you can hire people to whom you delegate tasks (which is a good leverage decision), ultimately you have to own the responsibility for everyone you hire. You can’t just hire someone and say, “That’s not my fault,” when something goes wrong. If you don’t know enough about interpreting financial data so that you miss the errors your accountant, bookkeeper or CFO is making, that is on you.
Now, the good news is that you don’t have to do everything, nor do you have to understand everything in your business, you simply need to know enough about each of the six key areas to make wise decisions — because making good decisions is what good executives do.
Just because you do not feel competent or good at one or more of the six key areas of executive attention (strategy, marketing, money, leadership, management and you), does not mean you can abdicate your responsibility and blame someone else for not getting something right. Use Harry Truman’s famous line, “The buck stops here.”
In addition, if you’re the leader and you aren’t good in one of the six key areas, how can you lead the people you hire in those areas well? For example, if you do not know how to think like a marketer or do not know how to judge what makes a marketing piece good or bad, how can you effectively lead your head of marketing? You can’t. Or if their marketing campaigns aren’t generating the results you want, how can you effectively coach them if you don’t have the mental framework for determining what great marketing looks like?
And lastly, the third reason why you can’t have someone else wear any of your six hats is because all organizations take on the personality of their senior leader. If you are not good at something, your business will become weak in that area. For example, if you are not very productive yourself, your employees won’t be productive. If you are not very good at managing people, your managers will not be very good at managing their people. If you are not investing the time to think strategically about the future of your business, your people will not invest the time to think strategically about the future of their area or department either.
For good or for bad, all businesses become a reflection of their leader, which is the final reason why you don’t have the option of not wearing all six hats. You don’t have to do all the work in each of the six key areas, you just have to wear the hat for each of those areas every week.
How to Wear All Six Hats Every Week
In order to make sure that you are working on your business and not just in it, what I recommend is that you start each week (either Sunday evening or Monday morning) by pulling out a piece of paper and writing out the six hats you need to wear that week along the left side of your paper. Or if you prefer, you can download a PDF of this from my website at www.WiredToGrow.com. Just go to “Free Tools and Helps” and select “Senior Executive Weekly Planner.”
If you want to do this on your own, here are the questions I recommend you ask each week for each one of these six key areas of executive attention. Note: The I/we combination is meant to remind you to think of both your responsibility and what you need to hold others on your team responsible for.
What do I/we need to do this week to better position and differentiate our business and offerings? And what do I/we need to do to innovate the next iteration of our products and services?
What do I/we need to do this week to ratchet up our company’s ability to attract, retain and/or delight our customers? And is there anything we need to do to increase the average stay value and/or the average lifetime value of a customer?
What do I/we need to do this week to make better well-reasoned financial decisions that can both fuel and sustain growth?
What do I/we need to do this week to better attract, motivate and leverage the talented group of the people in our company? And is there anything I need to communicate to them this week to keep morale high and for them to feel informed?
What do I/we need to do this week to make sure we’re executing our strategy effectively, completing our projects on time and/or raising our level of execution excellence?
What do I need to work on this week to improve my productivity, mindset, skill set and/or knowledge base so that I’m the best version of me to lead this company while doing everything I can to avoid becoming the bottleneck?
Can you imagine what could happen for you and your business if you got in the habit of asking and answering those six questions every week so that you made sure that you were focused on wearing all six hats and not just the one or two that you like or are good at?
It could be a game changer. Not only will you become more and more of the kind of leader that your business needs you to be. You’ll also end up building a bigger, better, faster and more profitable business.
So, as you look at these questions, how are you doing? Are you wearing all six hats every week? If not, which ones aren’t you wearing? Why? And what’s keeping you from wearing that hat (or those hats)?
If you want to build a healthy and fast growing business or organization, you have got to wear all six hats. If you feel like you are not very competent in one or more of them, no problem. Just make the commitment to become more proficient in that key area of executive attention. Remember, you do not have to be the best in each of these six key areas, you just need to be good enough to know how to make wise decisions in each of these areas. Plus, you need to know enough to be able to lead/coach those whom you hire to do the tasks associated with each of those areas.
While you can, and should delegate as many of the tasks on your plate as possible, if you want to grow a great business, you need to make sure you’re wearing all six hats: strategy, marketing, money, leadership, management and you. And if you want to avoid being the bottleneck, you’ll want to make sure you’re growing in each of them.
Bruce D. Johnson is the President of Wired To Grow, a business growth coaching, consulting and executive education firm located in Charleston, SC that helps business owners and entrepreneurs grow their businesses faster, generate more profits and reduce their labor intensity by building more scalable and successful versions of their businesses. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org