Business leaders today often find themselves wearing many hats while needing to keep their organizations running smoothly. When budgets are tight, and staff resources are stretched thin, how do effective leaders maintain focus on achieving strategic goals? Two experienced, busy leaders shared several insights with us gained through their years of success getting things done with limited capacity.

The Challenges of Wearing Multiple Hats

Operating on a lean budget with limited staff, some leaders have crossover roles as CEO, CFO, head of HR, and receptionist. We only have so many hours in the day to get things done, so we asked our experts how they prioritize to achieve success.

Amanda Berg, VP for Financial Affairs and CFO at Edgewood College, illustrated a common challenge of leaders taking on roles extending beyond their core responsibilities. “I think there might be a few more hats on my wall. For instance, I’ve worn the hat of plumber and therapist,” Berg said. “I think all of my teammates right now are wearing multiple hats. So, there’s also the aspect of managing how people feel about extra work and stress that comes with wearing multiple hats. It’s quite difficult to balance at times.”

Staying Laser-Focused On Top Priorities

Wearing multiple hats is second nature for Berg, who traces her roots in managing priorities back to her college career. Over the years, she has used different technologies to prioritize and stay organized.

"I've always been a multi-tasker," Berg said. "In college, I was a Division I athlete, playing softball. I practiced three to four hours a day and I went to school four to five hours a day. You add that up, you add in the four or five hours of sleep you get, and you learn to use every moment of the day."

From notebooks to Post-its to digital tools like OneNote, she has tried various productivity methods over the years to stay on top of everything. Ultimately, though, she finds that "the calendar has become probably the best tool. Because when you do wear multiple hats, you'd love to be proactive about getting things done, but I think in this environment, we've really become reactive, and you have to learn to prioritize based on what's coming up."

Stewart Myers, VP of Programming at National Content & Technology Cooperative (NCTC), a media rights cooperative representing over 700 cable companies across the U.S., weighed in on the topic. "You feel constant pressure to handle it all yourself to keep things moving,” he empathized. 

Myers advised keeping your central organizational goals constantly top of mind. “Regularly revisiting your core purpose helps appropriately allot time,” he suggested. “Ask yourself every week – are my activities aligned with the key outcomes I was hired to drive?” This can prevent crucial priorities from slipping through the cracks when you switch between various "hats."

Evaluating Whether To Outsource Or Delegate

Our experts also highlighted that leaders shouldn't try to tackle every task solo. Investing in onboarding competent staff is vital, even if the budget is stretched. 

“To be honest, delegating is a new word for me. I’m not a great delegator,” Berg said. “I’ve gotten better at delegating by building trust with my team. What I learned was that I can delegate because I trust my teammates. I choose teammates who I have confidence will handle assignments how I’d want them done.” 

Myers recommended evaluating if you can outsource secondary functions. “Maybe you outsource HR tasks like payroll and compliance filings or accounting functions like accounts receivable. This lifts some workload from a leader’s plate so you can focus more on advancing main objectives,” he offered. The ability to identify non-essential areas for external support provides leverage.

Identifying and investing in synergistic relationships can substantially supplement internal bandwidth.

Berg emphasized the exponential value of trust when adding new partners. “The best partners are the ones I don’t worry about because I trust implicitly they’re doing great work behind the scenes,” she stated. 

Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) To Get More Done

Along the lines of outsourcing, leaders can also consider using virtual assistants and AI to get more done in less time and to alleviate the burden of their small staff.

A virtual AI assistant can help with various tasks and services that can reduce their workload and stress. Some examples are:

  • Business planning: A virtual AI assistant can help with creating, managing, and updating a business plan. It can also provide AI-powered insights, data analysis, and suggestions to improve the plan. 
  • Project management: A virtual AI assistant can organize, track, and complete projects. It can also automate workflows, assign tasks, and collaborate with team members. 
  • Meeting assistant: A virtual AI assistant can help with scheduling, recording, and transcribing meetings. It can also provide summaries, action items, and follow-ups.
  • Writing assistant: A virtual AI assistant can help with generating, editing, and proofreading content. It can also provide suggestions, feedback, and templates. 

These are just some of the tasks virtual AI assistants can tackle for business leaders — many more AI assistants can cater to different needs and objectives. Virtual AI assistants allow business leaders to save time, money, and resources and focus on the most important and meaningful aspects of their work.

Harnessing The Power Of Passion And Purpose

When asked how they stay motivated under heavy demands, our experts pointed to passion and alignment with their organization’s purpose. 

“I love to work at organizations that are doing great things,” Berg said. “For me, the motivation is about the people. I watch people around me. It's the relationships of the people around me; it's the excitement that they get, the passion that they get from doing what they do. I love to come to work and see my colleagues. That's what motivates me — being here with these great people. I've been really fortunate that I have been able to work with some pretty darn amazing people in my career,” Berg shared.

Myers echoed, “As Amanda said, before you get involved in an organization, make sure it's important to you and the people involved are passionate about it. Going back to my experience on the board of the Negro League Baseball Museum, as an African-American, I was happy to be on this board to promote the perseverance and celebrate the triumphs of the Negro Leagues Baseball in the United States. But also, I was happy, I was proud that it's headquartered in Kansas City, and I'm a Kansas Citian. Also, I just love sports, so to be around that, it was easy for me to put in the time and take a few hours a week to work on matters related to that. If you believe strongly in the cause, you’ll find the fuel needed to push through wearing multiple hats.” 

Embracing the Concept of "Good Enough"

As 92% of workers say it’s very or somewhat important to them to work in an organization that values their emotional well-being, leaders can also shift their expectations to improve morale when their staff is stretched too thin. 

Embracing the concept of “good enough” can help organizations retain employees who might otherwise experience burnout. With limited hours available, maximum efficiency requires avoiding analysis paralysis and chasing diminishing returns on over-polishing deliverables.

Balancing Well-being and Efficiency For Long-Term Success

As business leaders navigate the challenges of limited resources, success requires focus, trust, delegation, and passion. By keeping strategic goals at the forefront, investing in capable partners, considering how technology can provide leverage, and connecting to organizational purpose, leaders can motivate themselves and their teams to accomplish great things, even with constrained capacity. Though the demands will likely continue to increase, by embracing concepts like “good enough” and safeguarding staff well-being, leaders can sustainably operate at peak performance over the long haul. With strategic prioritization, trusted collaboration, and heartfelt vision, companies can continue advancing their mission despite wearing many hats.