Remove the monkey from your back

  • Have you ever had a staff member come in with a problem and it seems to add to your to-do list?
  • Have you ever tried to delegate a task to a staff member, just to find after a discussion it is still on your to-do list?

If you added yes to either of the two above questions you have the monkey on your back. The monkey is a management concept that has been around for years. Put simply,  the monkey is on the back of the person that has the task on their to-do list. If you answered yes to either of the questions above you understand what having the monkey on your back is like.

Delegating to remove the monkey

As a leadership coach, I come across many supervisors, managers, and leaders that seem to have the monkey always on their back. I know from experience this comes from not delegating correctly. Through proper delegation, you will remove the monkey from your back through empowering your team members.

What type of delegation are you using? Do you gofer delegate? This is where you delegate a task or part of a task without really delegating the required outcome or objective. Gofer delegation is like asking someone to mow the lawn and then prune the trees and then sweep the paths, without actually delegating the required outcome or objective of a neat and tidy yard.

Delegate the outcome

When you delegate the required outcome and not just a task you are passing the monkey onto the team member empowering them to achieve the objective. Delegation by objective will empower the team member to use their skills and knowledge to come up with the best way forward. You give them responsibility for how.

So how do you delegate by the outcome? The 5 Ws are a good start. The 5 Ws are the Who, What, When, Where and Why of what you are delegating. This will provide key information in terms of the expected outcomes and objectives. Using the 5 Ws will help to develop an understanding between the delegator and the delegatee.

Reinforcing responsibility

So you delegate by the outcome and your staff member comes to you with a problem relating to the task. What do you do? Firstly it is not to the benefit of the staff member if you take the monkey back. So instead, ask the staff member what they need to overcome the problem. Then guide, support and coach them. Ensure that responsibility for the action items remains with the staff member.

In concluding this article, I encourage you to delegate by outcome and not by gofer. This will get the best from your staff member and will also provide them with the best development opportunities. Then when your staff member comes to you to hand over the monkey, guide, coach and support them. Ensure you delegate effectively and they hold onto the monkey. They will thank you in the long run.