How to Finally Keep The Monkeys Off Your Back!


You take on more work than you should. It's time to get the monkey off your back for good!

Tell me if this has ever happened to you: You assign a responsibility to an employee. You give them the info and training that they need. You feel good about yourself because you are delegating and you know that great leaders delegate all of the time. Plus, you feel relieved because you've just reduced your workload, you've taken a monkey off your back.

However, very shortly thereafter, the said employee comes back to your office with a question. It's a question you don't know the answer to. It's a question that has to be answered before the employee can continue with her delegated task.

Being a good leader (or so you think), you respond with, "Sure, let me find out that information for you."

Congratulations, you've just taken the monkey back.

Allow me to explain. You've given the employee a task, they have come back to you with problem. Instead of helping the employee resolve the problem, you've stepped in to solve the problem. This means that the employee has been freed of all concern regarding this task, and can comfortably go back to doing what they were doing before. And you? You get to add one more thing to your plate. You passed on the monkey and then allowed the monkey to come back home.

You might be thinking, "What good am I if I can't help my employees do their jobs?" That is a valid question. I argue, however, that when you step in to solve the problem, you are simply giving your employees a fish instead of teaching them how to fish.

Let's reimagine what this could look like.

You give a responsibility to an employee, ensuring they have what they need to be successful.

The employee returns with a question that neither of you knows the answer to.

You respond by saying, "Hum, Sue, that is a great question. How do you think you could find the answer?"

"By coming to you, of course."

"Yes, but I too don't know the answer. So, where else can you turn?"

They think about it for a minute and give you one or two ideas. You thank them for their thinking and wish them the best of luck.

Leadership is less about having the right answers and more about having the right questions MICHAEL HYATT

Or, perhaps they can't come up with any answers. So, you respond, "Would you like some direction as to where to go?" Assuming they say yes, you give them some ideas as to where to find the right answer.

Whatever you do, you don't commit to anything and you keep the responsibility (monkey) on their back, no matter how tempting it might be to take it back.

I call this "Reciprocating the Responsibility," which is just a fancy way of saying, "keep the monkeys off your back."


I know that this is much harder and probably will take more time than if you just did it. Human nature guides us to take the path of least resistance. This is the same reason your employee is coming to you. They don't want to think it through. They don't want to do the work. They want to put this onto you. Ignore these feelings. Go contrary to human nature and force yourself and your employee to act and think differently.

Trust me, if you want to grow your employees, this is a very critical key. Stop taking back all the monkeys. Learn how to use phrases such as "Solving this problem is your responsibility. What do you think you can do?" and "This is your job to find out that information. Here are some places that you can look." Not only will this help free up your time, but you'll also feel like you are a great leader because you are being a great leader. Plus, your employees will be empowered, they will be able to solve more problems on their own, and they will feel a deeper sense of trust from you.

Try this out the very next time someone comes to your office. Bonus if you try it out with one of your kids.

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