Eliminate Stress… Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!
Stress? Stress is “any uncomfortable emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioral changes.” In an article by Linda Ray, entitled, “The Leading Cause of Stress in Small Business” posted on Chron.com, she states:
“Stress leads to a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion that can interfere with your ability to successfully keep up with your commitments and effectively run your business. Burnout, financial difficulties, employee turnover, government regulations and competition are just a few of the causes of stress for small businesspeople. While you run the risk of losing ground with your business when stress goes untreated, you also put yourself at risk of developing a number of diseases, ranging from cardiac arrest to chronic headaches.”
We know what stress feels like, how it disables us, and the consequences it causes for us when we cannot get over it. It creates dysfunctions in all parts of our lives.
I suspect all of us in business has experienced some level of what is described as stress. And while stress is sometimes more visible and apparent at the mid-levels of employees, I am confident from hearing from my Vistage members that stress is common at the levels of the President, the founder, the owner, the CEO, the COO, and most all C-level executives of any business, regardless of how much we have trained ourselves to “handle it all.”
I have come to believe that burnout can be overcome if we recognize that “we do not need to do everything.” We can delegate! To do this, we need to know what our true responsibilities are — the ones that we “cannot” delegate when we are on top of the organizational chart.
In order to keep it simple, I have often said that the role of the person at the top, be it the owner, founder, CEO, President, etc., is to take ownership of only the most important responsibilities of the company. I would suggest that these include the following:
- Create the vision, which includes the mission, core values, and KPI’s.
- Communicate the vision regularly to the leadership and management teams, the employees, the customers and clients, the business consultants, and all others involved.
- Delegate responsibilities for the implementation and execution of the vision.
- Focus on accountability and an accountability culture to ensure that the team is executing on what they say they are going to do.
- Celebrate and reward the team to recognize them for their efforts and their successes.
Once the leader has attained this, he/she might want to consider using their own particular skills, interests, experience, and other attributes to do whatever they “enjoy” to do in the business. Do the extra things that bring the greatest value to the company and have “fun” doing it!
Now the five responsibilities do not take 60 hours of work per week. They do not even take 40 hours per week — or maybe not even 30. With systems, procedures, policies, and an “A” team of “jazzed” employees, versus “jobbers” and “jaded” employees, these five responsibilities might take not more than 20-24 hours per week — essentially 2-3 days. The rest of the time is play time. It is the time to have fun and dilute the stresses by doing the things we like to do in the business.
If your DNA marks you as an innovator, it could be R & D or product development that you enjoy. If you have a salesperson personality, you might like networking and creating relationships. If you are creative, perhaps you might choose branding and marketing. Find that part of you that brings enjoyment into your life and capitalize on it… it may be exactly what the doctor ordered to relieve your stress to allow you to still work on and grow your business.
Some will say that this is wishful thinking. But think about it: If we hire the best talent, we hold onto a culture of accountability and responsibility, we turn over the day-to-day responsibilities to those we trust and who have the right skill-sets, and our team takes ownership of the ship. It is now possible that we as leaders can step back and do what we do best — build a vision for the future. Isn’t that what we are paying for when we offer compensation plans and benefits?
You see, we don’t do this not because it is impossible to do, but because we are so trained in our ways of the past that we do not think there is another way. It is our default. Remember those who resisted the four-day work week? That just did not seem possible in a business world of 24/7. But what if we changed our paradigm? What if the norm for the entrepreneur or leader of an organization became the 20-24-hour work week, and the rest of the time we simply grew the vision and put in place that which is needed for success? What might the business of the future then look like? But more importantly, could stress no longer be part of the game because we now have an outlet to release all the steam?
In the movie, “The Aviator,” Leonardo DiCaprio plays Howard Hughes. The film is a biopic depiction of the early years of the legendary director and aviator’s career from the late 1920s to the mid 1940s. Hughes was a visionary. Yes, there were many parts of him that were dysfunctional. But he was still a remarkable “visionary.” The last line of the movie, “the way of the future,” reinforces what he owned as this visionary and how he largely lived the five responsibilities shared above.
It has been said that “what we tolerate becomes the norm.” When we allow actions, behaviors, or conditions to exist that go against what we want, we are notifying others that these are acceptable. The ability to create a well-oiled machine is to not tolerate that which we don’t want to tolerate — to not grant permission to those things that are not desired. When we start to hold a sharp edge and create boundaries that cannot be crossed, we end up with culture that is driven by the vision; and through delegation and accountability, that vision becomes reality.
Along the way, it just gets easier. We no longer overanalyze. We simply flow just as the ocean’s waves do. We settle the stress down to a tune of harmony.
Do you remember playing the board games, “Monopoly” or “The Game of Life” when you were a child? Monopoly was a real-estate board game in which the player’s goal was to remain financially solvent while forcing opponents into bankruptcy by buying and developing pieces of property. What a concept! Throw the dice, buy property, take a risk or opportunities on Chance or Community Chest, and do not go to jail. At an early age we are being taught the “game” that business is all about.
Then there is “The Game of Life.” The goal of The Game of Life was to “collect money and LIFE tiles and have the highest dollar amount at the end of the game.” In the game, there are only two major life-altering decisions you can make – Start College or Start Career. Now, we certainly know that life has many other paths that require decisions. Nonetheless, The Game of Life emphasized that we have constant and regular decisions to make along the journey… year to year, month to month, day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute. And all of these decisions have the potential to culminate in stress.
I would, however, suggest that the most important lesson of The Game of Life is simple. You might not realize it, but real life is a game of strategy. There are some fun mini-games – like dancing, driving, running, and sex – but the key to winning is simply managing your resources and making decisions. Most importantly, successful players put their time into the right things and do not get stressed over the realities of how things show up. They simply treat these realities as part of the game.
As children, we played these games for fun. We did not allow ourselves to get stressed out over the results that showed up. We would just start over, learn from our mistakes, and move on to the next level of challenge. We did not become paralyzed by the decisions we had to make, the results of throwing the dice, or the consequences of going around the board over and over and over and over again.
So, what would it be like to play life as a game? What would it be like to run and grow our businesses as if we were playing Monopoly or The Game of Life? What would it be like to change the default habits that lead to stress? Could we play the game of life and business in the same way that we played it as a child?
Napoleon Hill, American self-help author of the book, “Think and Grow Rich” said “Life is a game board. Time is your opponent. If you procrastinate, you will lose the game. You must make a move to be victorious.” Don’t let stress be the part of the game that takes time away from your journey of success.