As a leader, have you ever felt uncomfortable about ‘delegating’ tasks to staff or colleagues? Most of us are little awkward about delegating, but that’s only because we’ve never really been taught how to do it. If you knew how to allocate tasks to others (instead of doing it all yourself) in a way that feels natural and non-dictator like, you’d probably be up for it, right?
There is a classic book that we recommend you get hold of called ‘The One Minute Manager Meets The Monkey’. It’s a small book that takes about one hour to read. In his book, author Ken Blanchard uses the metaphor of ‘a monkey on one’s back’ to describe how managers (especially new ones), have the tendency to take on and solve their staff members challenges, rather than encouraging their team to identify their own solutions.
As a result, the manager finds they have landed themselves with way too many responsibilities (i.e. monkey’s) and end up working back late, not taking lunch breaks or just tense and rushed all the time.
In real life, it looks something like this … staff member taps on their manager’s door and says “Xyz has happened what should I do?”
The manager responds by saying “Leave it with me, I’ll sort it out”. Meanwhile, that staff member and others are waiting for that manager to get back to them about their problem. Later on, they ask their manager “How are you going with XYZ?” to which the manager responds “I’m still working on it”. Who is managing whom in this scenario?
My favorite approach to this situation is to not let those monkeys jump on your back. But how do you do that? You start by asking these two questions to each staff member who presents you with their challenge:
- What are your options?
- Which one of those makes the most sense to you?
These two questions give the staff member the permission they are unknowingly seeking to creatively solve their own challenges. It builds their confidence and fosters innovation.
Even though The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey was first written in 1985, its principles prove to be effective today. I highly recommend you pick up the book if you haven’t yet.
Thom Gardner CEO, Get Course