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Delegate the Insomnia

If you have ever woken up at 3 AM worrying about your company, you probably felt pretty lonely. That’s the worst time, and it feels as if the whole burden lies on your shoulders.....and it usually does. It is natural for people who own the business to own the worry as well….but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

What you need to do is to turn the problem on its head and ask yourself the following question. “How can I make my employees take on more responsibility and have them solve some of the day to day problems in the business?” In other words: “How can I delegate the insomnia?”

This requires a significant attitude adjustment for many people, and they simply don't know how to go about it. A great place to start is to write down all the things that worry you about your business. Every time you find yourself worrying about your business, write down what is worrying you. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in the middle of the night or the middle of the day, whether it’s last night’s insomnia or today’s crisis…..write it down.    

The deal you must make with yourself for this to work is that you will separate the “what” from the “how”. All you are doing at this juncture is identifying and writing down what is worrying you. It doesn’t matter how you will deal with the worry…..that comes later. Realistically you may not be able to delegate what you come up with, but without identifying what is worrying you and putting it on your list, you don’t stand a chance.    

Once you have a few items on the list, make some time to think rationally and practically about how you can get other people to take responsibility for those items. You will need quiet time for that, but once you have the list you’ll be much more likely to find the time to go through the process. With the list, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to lay some of your insomnia issues off onto other people, and here are some suggestions for how to go about doing that:

1.      Frame the issue properly. Why does it exist and what are the potential solutions? If it is a growth issue, does it require more new customers or more sales from existing customers?   

2.      Make a list of all your employees and rank them by potential. That isn’t necessarily the longest-serving people, as they may not have the most potential (see article Term Limits for Employees). When you look at ability rather than job function, you may be surprised what you find.

3.      Look at your list and identify who might be able to help you by taking on extra responsibility. This will be based on how you framed the issue, so make sure you have thought through the problem properly.

4.      Think about how you can change your compensation strategies to get the behaviors you want. If you want people to behave differently, you have to show them some upside for them. They may love you and your business, but at its core they have their lives to live, and this is  a business relationship   

5.      When you have all the above figured out, sit down with the people with the most potential and discuss your specific worry with them. This is a difficult step for many people, as they think it looks like weakness, but you must take it if you don’t want that very weakness to kill you. In my experience, you’ll be surprised by how people respond and by how you can energize good people by taking them into your confidence and asking for their help.

One of my clients was worried about growth. He was the only salesperson, and he didn’t have the bandwidth to run the company and grow sales the way he needed to. He wasn’t making the money he wanted to make and he was worrying constantly about the future of the company and its ability to survive.

We worked on a plan together to grow sales using the approach outlined above. Through a combination of weeding out the weaker customers, focusing on the more important ones and changing his compensation structure, he was able to have his staff help him generate more opportunities and also get referrals from his customers. Two years later his revenues were up 25% and his profits had doubled…..and he wasn’t worrying about it anymore.

When you have gone through this exercise, you’ll know what options you have available, and you can start to make a plan to delegate the insomnia. It’s easier than you think.