By Judy Brinkman
If you have a boss, employees, co-workers, friends or even family members, especially kids, there are monkeys all around you, just waiting to jump on your back. They are sneaky and you have to be very careful and stay alert because they are difficult to handle and even harder to get rid of once they have attached themselves.
According to William Oncken Jr., a leader in management training, “a monkey is anything that should be someone else’s next step.”
According to Kenneth Blanchard, William Oncken, Jr, and Hal Burrows, authors of “The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey,” it goes something like this: A co-worker or employee comes to you with a problem while you are working. You want to help, so you stop what you are doing and listen for as long as you can. You learn enough about their situation to know you will need to be involved, but not long enough to make a decision on the spot. So you say, “I don’t have time to make a decision right now, so let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you.”
Bam! Monkey jump. The other person walks away feeling 30 pounds lighter and you now have a 30 pound monkey on your back.
Sometimes you are the best person to handle that monkey, but often times the other person is capable of handling it himself and would really grow and learn and be more responsible if he did. If you had asked, that person could have given you some proposed solutions along with the problem, but too late. Now it’s your monkey and you are in charge of its care and feeding.
Here’s an interesting phenomenon: The person who gave it to you will keep checking to see how well you are taking care of it. Think about how many monkeys are on your back that really belong to someone else. How did they get there?
Usually you allowed it to happen because you thought it would easier or you wanted to impress a boss or a co-worker with what a great team player you are.
According to the Monkey book, there are several things you can try.
1. Look at yourself to see if you might be contributing to the problem. Do you want others to be dependent on you and see you as the go-to guy whenever there are problems? That comes with a price. Your stress level will eventually shoot through the roof and your productivity will be compromised. Actually the productivity could slow down markedly. If others can’t move before you make a decision and you are backlogged with an office full of monkeys.
2. Give your staff members the guidelines, resources and timeline they need to do the job. Then give them the opportunity to do it on their own, checking in with them periodically before deadlines to be sure they are on track.
3. Train staff and colleagues to come to you with a problem only after they have come up with three possible solutions themselves. This helps them become better problem solvers and less dependent on you.
4. Give the “monkey keepers” the freedom to be creative and try new solutions without fear of repercussions. Let your staff members know by your words and actions that you are open to new ideas. They may just find a better way.
So be on alert and prepared at all times for those jumping monkeys. Your company will learn and grow and be much more productive.Brinkman is a business coach and owner of Life’s 2 Short LLC.