Imagine this scenario, Dan from IT comes into your office and announces “we have a problem.” He then spends the next 15 minutes telling you about the problem…and eventually you end up saying “Leave it with me and I’ll see what I can do.”
Your morning is now completely taken up solving Dan’s problem. The time you had set aside to develop a new service or call prospective clients – the problems you’re paid to solve – has been used up.
In their great book The One Minute Manager Meets The Monkey, Blanchard and Oncken describe this as “letting a monkey jump from your staff members back onto yours” – and they claim that it is one or the biggest thieves of managers’ time.
They proposed a six step process for managers to use ensure their staff’s monkeys (problems) don’t become their own monkeys.
When a team member brings you a problem say:
“We need to both understand that ‘WE’ don’t have problems. If there is a problem it is either yours or mine. And if it is your problem I will help you with it on the clear understanding that it will never become my problem. So at the end of this meeting it will be you that has to do whatever it is that we agree needs doing. Does that make sense?”
Whenever team members bring a problem to you, they should also bring a possible solution. Not only will this shorten your meeting with them. You will also find that by them having to find a possible solution, they will often realise they can solve the problem without ever involving you.
As they tell you about the problem and their suggested next steps, decide what needs to happen next. Is the solution they brought with them suitable? Do you have a solution? Or do they need to go away and do some more research on other solutions?
Agree who is to take the next step or steps. Remember, this next step is the “Monkey” – and you should only let it jump on your back if it is a step that only you can take!
Agree whether they have full authority to take the next steps and then report back to you – or whether they need to come back to you with more recommendations before they can take some or all of the next steps (which should only be necessary where the problem is either very important or you have serious doubts that the person is fully up to the task).
Agree a time when they will report back to you.
At the next meeting go back to Step 1 and start again. Continue looping through the six-step process in this way until the problem has been solved.
Finally, don’t worry about using the word “Monkey” – experience with UK businesses suggests that the visual image it conjures up helps to make the concept fun and much more likely to be embraced.
We are here to help. If you like any further advice on delegation and time management contact us on 0161 476 8276 or email email@example.com