How to Get the Monkey Off Your Back-img

By Mark Creedon

How to Get the Monkey Off Your Back

Most monkeys start their life straddling across the back of both the team member and the manager. Most team members are quite skilful at sliding in such a way that the monkey loses grip and reaches out for… you guessed it… the manager’s back, your back!

Just imagine if you only have two team members to manage and they are kind enough to only throw you two monkeys a day. Collectively, by Friday you’ll have twenty screaming, hungry monkeys to feed!

The Care and Feeding of Monkeys

1. Getting rid of the monkeys

This step involves meeting with team members and determining how the next move in the care and feeding of the monkey is the team member’s responsibility and not the managers.

It is important to note that if a decision cannot be reached it is okay to leave the monkey on the back of the team member overnight; they will sleep just as well there.

2. Applying the problem ownership skills to monkey management

If a team member has a problem and you allow them to move the monkey to your back, then they no longer have a problem and you can’t help someone who doesn’t have a problem.

3. Establish clear rules for the care and feeding of monkeys

Rule 1 – A monkey should be fed or shot., otherwise they will starve to death. Time will be wasted on post-mortems or attempts at CPR.

Rule 2 – The monkey population should be kept below the maximum number the Manager has time to feed.

Rule 3 – Monkeys are fed only by appointment.

Rule 4 – Where possible, monkeys should be fed face to face or by phone. Email should be avoided at feeding time.

Rule 5 – Every monkey should have an agreed feeding time for next time.

Rule 6 – Empower team members to feed and care for their own monkeys. Continually guide them to be able to do so.

By adding the empowerment process that comes from coaching team members, providing constant education and tools, we can move into the stage of effective delegation.

Dispelling Leadership Fears and Fallacies

One of the keys to effective delegating is not getting stuck in the fallacies, fears and myths that plague some leaders.

The Fallacy of Omnipotence

This is the ‘I can do it better myself’ syndrome. Even if it is true, the choice is not between the quality of the manager’s work and the employee’s work on a given task. The choice is between the benefits of your performance on a single task and the benefits of your spending time in planning, organising, motivating, controlling and developing an effective team.

Often supervisors act more like a subordinate than a leader of the work unit. They focus on tasks and avoid developing as managers by failing to get immersed in planning, organising, motivating and controlling. They do this because they are comfortable that way.

If you are skilled in the tasks of your work unit and less adept at management skills, it is easy to just keep on doing those tasks. That is your comfort level. But to grow and become a stronger leader you must stretch your comfort level. If you find yourself in this predicament, force yourself out of the task-oriented comfort zone and little by little start taking on management skills.

Fear of Being Disliked

As a leader, would you rather be liked or respected? How about being both liked and respected? We all want to be liked, but we cannot let that desire be the motivation behind our management of the work unit.

Leaders make tough decisions and often have to enforce unpopular policies. These management decisions cannot be made on the basis of whether you are going to be popular and well-liked.

It is okay to delegate a lot of work to your employees. It is okay to be critical; it is okay to decide who gets a raise and who does not. It is okay to say no, and it is okay to be a strong, stern manager who delegates and acts in a fair and consistent manner. Think of the managers you have liked and respected, weren’t they strong leaders? Employees rate leaders who make full use of delegation as good to excellent. Poor delegators receive lower ratings.

Lack of Confidence in Employees

Managers who lack confidence in their employees should look to themselves for the answer. They are, or should be, in control of the situation. If employees cannot handle delegated assignments, the manager has either incompetent people, failed to provide them with appropriate training, not worked closely enough with them, or not made the effort to find out the extent of their capabilities.

The remedy: Identify your employees’ strengths and weaknesses, and train or replace those who still cannot meet standards.


The Fallacy that Employees Expect the Answers from Managers

This fallacy allows managers to rationalise taking problem solving and decision making away from employees. It occurs when an employee takes a problem to a manager who says, “Why don’t you leave it with me, and I’ll get back to you.” The manager gets back to the employee with the solution. Often the employee wanted only to talk about the problem—and did not want the manager to solve it. Besides, when an employee leaves a problem on your desk, that is delegating upward, isn’t it? Smart employee, don’t you think?

The Myth that It Is Easier to Do It Than Explain It

A manager who uses this excuse to justify doing an operating task that team members could learn is making a serious mistake. If you do not take the time to teach someone else the task, you will still be performing it far into the future. This consumes valuable time and effort that could be better spent on planning, organising, motivating and controlling.

Sometimes a manager truly cannot delegate. However, upward progression requires more delegating and less doing of operational tasks.

Fear of Losing Control

Most managers, especially new ones, have experienced some anxiety over losing control. Things can get very busy and chaotic and at times it may seem as if everything is out of control.

At moments like this, it is important to set priorities and objectives that will lead you back to a feeling of control. A sure way to avoid this out-of-control situation is to place emphasis on the management process instead of on performing operational tasks that others could do.


Three Questions to Ask to Check Delegation

If you want to have a quick process to follow to ensure you are delegating as effectively as possible, follow these three simple rules:

1. Have the expectations been clearly set?

2. Is there a clear and concise process which allows for reporting, monitoring and checking monkeys?

3. Do they have all the skills, tools and resources necessary to perform the task?

Once you address each of the fears and fallacies around management and delegation you are well on your way to being an effective delegator and therefore an efficient and effective manager.

Delegation is a learned skill. Few people find it comes naturally to them but, like anything, practice makes perfect.

Following these simple steps of ‘monkey management’ will help you to fine tune those skills and you may just be surprised at how it will lower your stress levels and help you to communicate more effectively and to better empower your team members.

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Mark Creedon

Mark Creedon is the founder of Business Accelerator mastermind by Metropole and business coach to some of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs – helping them build a true business, not a job.

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