Managers’ time can be divided based on 3 types of work they do:
- Boss-imposed time - used to accomplish activities required by manager’s boss.
- System-imposed time - used to help out and support colleagues if requested.
- Self-imposed time - used to work on manager’s own initiatives. You can use some of it the way you decide to (discretionary time), but some of it will be spent on dealing with subordinates’ problems (subordinate-imposed work).
A manager’s goal, is to minimise or eliminate front line-imposed work, get control of boss- and system-imposed work, and maximise discretionary time. The point is to develop initiative in staff.
Monkeys in this context are: issues, problems, tasks, queries, decisions to be made or advice needed. When you encourage employees to handle their own monkeys, they acquire new skills, initiative and ownership and you liberate time to do your own job.
The art of monkey management is therefore to help your staff manage their own monkeys by not actually taking them on yourself. Instead you need to supervise their monkeys to help them become more independent and you to focus on your own work. Sure, it’s initially more time consuming than tackling problems yourself but you’ll win in a long run.
So why do we do this?
- We don’t recognise them as monkeys
- We quite like fixing stuff
- Lack of assertiveness, maybe
- People pleasing
- We actually think it’s our job….
The golden rules for monkey management are:
- If the answer’s quick, deal with it immediately, or decline the monkey, helping the bearer to understand that the problem relates to their priorities, not yours, and explore what other options they may have.
- Avoid monkey-bearing by not inviting people to share their ad-hoc monkeys in the corridor, the lift, the canteen, etc. Encourage them instead to come to you for A.I.D. – Advice, Information, or a Decision.
- Monkeys should be 'fed by appointment only'. In other words, a monkey's true owner should only be seen by appointment, face to face or by phone, to ensure they understand the next move and that there is an agreed upon level of ownership and initiative to act, including an agreed time and place for the next appointment. There are 5 levels of initiative:
1. Wait until told what to do.
2. Ask what to do.
3. Recommend an action, then with your approval, implement it.
4. Take independent action but advise you at once.
5. Take independent action and update you through routine procedure.
When an employee brings a problem to you, outlaw use of level 1 or 2.
Agree on and assign level 3, 4, or 5 to the monkey. Take no more than 15 minutes to discuss the problem.
What monkey will you tackle today? Let us know what happens!