Worry: it’s something everyone struggles with to some degree. But, it seems that business leaders have a knack for turning worry into an artform. Whether it’s restless nights about decreasing sales, making payroll, finding the right employees, workplace accidents, or lawsuits, as business owner, you’re exposed to many different opportunities to create ulcer inducing patterns of worry.
How about meetings to talk about problems? Those are just the best, right? There’s worry, there’s meetings, and then there’s meetings about what we’re worried about. They are a wasteful, bureaucratic, and painful misuse of our time.
I want to share one simple trick that I recently found while reading Dale Carengie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. It promises to instantly reduce the worry about your business by 50% and drastically reduce time spent in meetings required to address problems that arise.
I have been using the tactic since reading the book, and I can attest it lives up to the claim.
In How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Carnegie interviews Leon Shimkin, a then top executive and eventual chairman of the board of Simon & Schuster, about his tactic for reducing worry and meetings. He claimed by implementing one simple process, he reduced the amount of worry and time spent in meetings exponentially—both for himself and across his entire team.
How did he accomplish this? It was actually simpler than you might think. In fact, all he needed to do was create one single requirement.
Before anyone addresses their individual worries or problems, Shimkin requires that four questions be answered. In order to hold the meeting, their answers to these question must first be written out and submitted to the meeting attendees.
The four questions are:
- What is the problem?
- What is the cause of the problem?
- What are all the possible solutions to the problem?
- What solution do you suggest?
By following this process, you will instantly and dramatically decrease the number of problems you have to face on a daily basis.It forces you and your team to slow down enough to think through all the facts of the situation and think things through more reasonably instead of responding emotionally. After considering these four questions, the issue is typically either much smaller than originally thought, or there’s actually no problem after all. In fact, the solution is usually clear and simple.
No need for a meeting. No need for long discussions. No need for worry.
At times, you will still face real challenges that make it past these four questions. However, when this happens, you will have clear and defined paths toward more quickly solving these problems during your meetings.
This process creates an environment with less time spent worrying and discussing what has gone wrong, and more time spent focused on what needs to happen in order to resolve the problem and move forward.
I will confess: I am a worrier, and I know many of you are too. Even if you are not someone that constantly “sweats the small stuff” as much as I do, though, you almost certainly have members of your team that do. If you want to keep your team on the same page and firing on all cylinders, it’s crucial to have strategies like this in place in order to help you worry less and live more. If you find yourself worrying about something, a simple but consistent process like this will help tremendously.
It will force you to define the problem, identify what caused it, list potential solutions, and create a plan to resolve the issue. That way, you will no longer be bogged down by by small issues getting blown out of proportion or dealing with the same problems week after week, and you will greatly reduce time spent in meetings.
Instead, you address the worry directly, deal with it, and move on.
I am a big fan of Dale Carnegie’s books in general. Across the board, they contain numerous formulas and strategies that are every bit as relevant (maybe even moreso) today as they were when they were first published over fifty years ago. These four questions, and Carnegie’s strategy for using them shows how timeless and relevant How to Stop Worrying and Start Living remains to this day.
I hope you find this tactic to be a useful for you and your team as well!