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« Be Big. Be Bold. Be Bright. | Main | It’s not ‘you’, it’s ‘me’ »

Get the monkeys off your back!

Ever heard that phrase “get the monkey off your back?”  When you have that monkey, that problem or irritation, that pure nuisance that just won’t go away? And isn’t it just heaven when someone takes your monkey off your back? What a relief! No more monkey. No more worry.

So consider those people lined up at your door ‘what should I do about this’, ‘what should I do about that’. What do you do? As the senior person in all your wisdom, used to having and dishing out all the answers, do you do your very best to answer each and every question, solve each and every problem? From your team, from IT, from HR…?

It feels good to start with. You feel important, you feel needed, you believe this is your role and you dutifully do your bit.

And as your team gets bigger, and your remit gets broader, you have more and more questions to answer, more and more problems to solve. Sometimes you do have the answers and sometimes you don’t. You are involved in each and every bit of minutiae involved in the day to day running.

You bring your work home with you because you didn’t get time during the day. At some point you might worry that you have given the right answers, the right solutions - after all, you can’t know EVERYTHING!  Maybe you suffer from sleepless nights. Maybe exhaustion. Maybe no time for yourself or your family.

And what about the people who gave you their monkey? What are they doing? They have no monkey, and you have all of theirs!

And what about your monkey? Those niggles you now have because you aren’t getting around to what you really should be doing, all those things that will move the organisation forward, and they are starting to weigh heavy. More sleepless nights.

I think you get my drift now. This really isn’t working, is it? The more you take the monkeys, the more you will get. The more you get, the less you personally can achieve. And the less gets done in the organisation as a whole.

Why? Because people are not being given the chance to think things through for themselves. Without that chance they will never grow or develop. Without that your organisation grinds to a halt… or worse.

But there is ‘another way’! A way that keeps the monkeys off your back and has everyone stepping up, thinking for themselves and being more productive.

So how do you support people in solving their own problems? A good first step is to move telling to asking. Ask them what they want to achieve. Ask them how might they achieve that. What options have they considered? Etc etc. Help them to think it through. It might feel like it is taking longer, that it would be quicker doing it yourself, but I think we have already established that the alternative isn’t sustainable.

Try it, you will be surprised.