Don’t let your fast-growing business burn you out

What is Burn-out?

Burn-out is a state of chronic stress that leads to: physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism & detachment and feelings of ineffectiveness & lack of accomplishment. 

We all end up feeling like this if our week at work is spent talking about the same old issues, or trying to re-invent the wheel. Getting involved and arguing over the same old, and often, insignificant issues exhaust our energy levels.

You don’t hear of anyone suffering burnout from solving problems. Burnout comes from working on the same old problems over and over again.

“Re-solving” problems is a big waste of our time, energy and creativity - and it will cause a build-up of frustration - leading to real burnout.


Effective Delegation

For a business owner, working on and solving the big strategic problems in their business is invigorating. This is what they are there for and this is what they are probably best equipped to do, it will keep the business on track and deliver the key results. However, working on the day to day issues and minor problems that often surface without warning in the operations of the business - that the owner isn’t always engaged with - are probably best solved by the team closest to the issue. 

This is where the challenge of effective delegation to the team can deliver real benefits to the business and the stakeholders: 

  1. Firstly to their customers, both external and internal, through faster and more effective problem solving by the people who are closer to the root cause of the issue.
  2. Secondly, to the team, enabling them to take on more responsibility by developing potential solutions and more accountability, by making and implementing decisions, and from learning from their mistakes. This empowerment enables effective “on the job" staff development.
  3. Thirdly, delegation frees-up the owner’s time for the big strategic tasks and key decisions - greatly reducing the risk of burn-out!

While delegation is crucial in preventing burn-out - it has its risks as well. Poor delegation processes, unclear accountabilities and unclear authority to spend the business’ resources (time & money) will end in tears.


The Decision Tree Process

The Decision Tree (Attribution: Susan Scott, April 2013 of Fierce Conversations, Inc.) process is designed to identify and minimise these risks. Through a simple process of data collection, risk evaluation and a workshop based involvement of the key team members, the principles and practices of effective delegated authority can be safely introduced to your business.

Why the Tree? Trees create a simple analogy for the four levels of decisions encountered in running businesses.

Leaf decisions – relatively simple even if not made or implemented correctly, they pose no risk to the health of the tree (the business) - these are the easiest to delegate to your team.

Branch decisions – these will have more impact on the business. They still need to be delegated, but the actions taken and the outcomes of these actions need to be routinely reported on. This builds trust and creates accountability.

Trunk decisions – these will have a material impact on the business. The decision needs to be evaluated, options reviewed and a decision on the preferred action needs to be made by the key manager with responsibility to implement. Once the agreed action has been implemented, the outcomes need to be reported on and learnings reviewed & shared.

Root decisions – the most important decisions the business make. Options need to be evaluated at the most senior level, with input from all relevant staff. Implementation is rarely delegated off, but outcomes and learnings from the actions taken should be shared where appropriate. 


Effective delegation processes can be readily implemented in any business, it takes some courage and trust, but it will deliver improved business performance and it will free the owner up from getting dragged into the low level issues and decisions that lead to burn-out. 


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Author: Derek Stott, Partner of nem Australasia.
This article is based on research and opinion available in the public domain.