The many hats we wear as Managers

01 Jun 2023

One of the constant changes we find as Managers is the increasing number of expectations that are placed upon us. Not only from our organisation and the lawmakers but from our own people. 

Managers are expected to be all things to all people, and this is going to keep increasing as new and different generations enter the employment market. 
To highlight this, we created an exercise at the Management Academy over 20 years ago that we still include today. 

We ask Managers to identify all the hats they find themselves wearing in their roles. Each delegate creates a mind map which quickly fills up with examples including:

  • Role Model
  • Sounding board
  • Buffer
  • Psychotherapist
  • Shield            
  • Judge
  • Leader
  • Police officer
  • Trainer
  • Referee
  • Google
  • Expert
  • Bank Manager
  • Magician
  • Relationship Advisor
  • Counsellor
  • Clairvoyant
  • Entertainer
  • Parent Figure
  • Coach
  • Problem Solver
  • First Aider
  • Financial Advisor
  • Jury

Then to ensure Managers select the most appropriate approach in any given situation that they face we give them a crazy project to complete ready for the next workshop in the programme. 
We ask them to create an actual hat that represents all the hats they wear as a Manager. 

This hat must be specific to the individual Manager, and it can be whatever that Manager wants it to be as long as it serves the purpose of a visual reminder to press pause for a moment before reacting to choose the best way to respond.

As you can imagine this IS NOT a popular project and many delegate Managers cannot believe they had been asked to do this on a professional Management development programme.

But this is the point, we need to be pragmatic and find ways in which we can adapt to the wants and needs of our people, team, organisation, sector and society and sometimes the craziest things seem to have the biggest impact.

Despite the initial resistance to doing this activity, every single delegate Manager since 2003 on either our Open Management Academy or any one of the in-house Management programmes we have designed and delivered has created a hat that is personal to them.

Whether this is a simple baseball cap with roles written on it with a marker pen right the way to an executive chef who made a hat cake where he took a photo as the visual reminder and the best bit was, we all had cake, and it was amazing cake as well.
We suggest that delegates don’t spend huge amounts of time, effort, and money on this creation, but they do focus on the meaning of why they are doing this.
We often recommend that this activity could the subject of a team meeting where the team get involved as this only increases the understanding of what Managers are expected to deliver. 


One reluctant delegate Manager did just this. He scheduled a 35min team meeting.
Armed with a selection of arts and crafts materials he picked up from his local store he explained the task and the team got to work.

He recorded the session and created a short edited video to show how effective it was.

When he shared his hat at the next workshop he stated:

"It was the best 35mins team meeting we have ever had!”

Making The Hat

Often, we adversely react to a situation thinking it will be a waste of our valuable time and we have so many other things to do. But when we do press that pause button for just a moment, we afford ourselves the opportunity to review our initial thoughts and consider a more rational view.

The initial reaction to this exercise is one such example and yet now weeks, months, years and even decades after this exercise had been completed most delegates who have attended one of our programmes still have their hat in their view when at work and they refer to this before reacting so they can respond in the best possible way.