It’s human nature. Faced with competing priorities many of us end up carrying our unfinished projects around like little monkeys on our back, making it difficult to concentrate and focus effectively.
Ironically, the heaviest and loudest monkeys are often those that we have taken on willingly – albeit with the best of intentions – by assuming ownership of someone else’s problems.
Essentially our little “monkeys” represent the efforts of your colleagues, subordinates and even friends and family members to effectively delegate their role, problems or work to you.
More often than not this isn’t done out of malice, but rather because you’ve demonstrated from past behavior that you are going to be a willing participant in this little game of tag.
No question it’s a challenge and a bit of a mixed bag because these are often people you care about so you want to be compassionate and supportive, and of course, there’s also a bit of ego involved because who doesn’t like to feel important and needed.
On the other hand, you may have heard the expression “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man how to fish and he’ll eat for life.” Keep in mind that the best leaders are those who teach others to solve problems for themselves.
If you allow someone to leave his/her problem with you, you have taken their monkey – they walk away with one less pressure and you have one more job to do.
How to Block a Monkey Pass
Your first challenge is to learn to be vigilant so that you can block an attempt to pass a monkey to you. Oh, they’ll try to hide it, or dress it up, and find all sorts of ways to keep from just being obvious and blurting it out. But if you’re patient, the real problem will eventually show itself.
I used to spend a lot of time in Japan working with the airlines and large wholesale companies developing travel packages for Hawaii. One of the first lessons I learned about doing business in that country was that just because the person sitting across from you is nodding his head up and down it doesn’t mean he is agreeing with you, it merely means he is listening. Give it a try! It makes you look attentive and oh so wise and the more you let them talk the more likely they are to reveal their true intent. ~Marquita
Once you recognize a covert delegation attempt your first step is to calmly nudge that little monkey right back to the person who was trying to pass it to you. Let them know that, for their own sake, you want them to learn to manage their own problems and issues.
Explain that your role is that of a coach, guide, and support, and you care too much about them to deprive them of this opportunity to expand their skills and knowledge.
Then recommend that before bringing a problem to you in the future, they take the time to analyze the situation and identify two to three potential solutions, and be prepared to propose a plan for implementation.
Be sure to check for understanding by having them repeat the instructions back to you in their own words.
In this way, you are making sure that when they walk away from you, they’ve got their little monkey by the hand … don’t let them leave without it and don’t let them come back until it’s trained and they have solutions to their problem.
Otherwise, at the end of the day, you’ll have an office/house/car full of screaming, jumping monkeys, not to mention a pile of monkey poop.
Try thinking of that visually the next time you’re tempted to take the monkey off someone else’s back!
I hope this helps you manage your own little monkeys, and if you have other tips, I’d love to hear from you.
Here’s to living and loving your resilient life!
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