Monkey Business

Whenever I help leaders to create a high performance culture in their organization, they often tell me that they feel like expensive executive babysitters: They are frequently called upon by their team to take low-level decisions, solve internal conflicts, or act like task-masters. Instead, they would like to spend more time on setting strategy, driving innovation, and building essential external relationships.

I usually point out that it’s their own behaviors which make them executive babysitters in the first place: They need to become much more aware and raise the bar in the area of monkey business.

Nowadays, a lot of organizational energy is unfortunately used to move to-do’s from one action list to the action list of someone else. Imagine for a moment that an action is like a monkey, jumping from one shoulder to another. If a monkey jumps from a direct report to a leader, this means that a leader is accepting work, which should be done by his or her direct reports. This is called monkey business. 

A powerful approach for any leader who wants to stop being an executive babysitter, is to become aware of any monkey business. If you don’t want any monkey to jump from the shoulder of a direct report to you, you need to stick to three simple leadership rules:

  • Anyone who brings an issue to your attention, needs to present options to solve this issue as well. 
  • Never leave a conversation with your direct reports with an additional monkey on your shoulder.
  • End any conversation with a mutual review of all monkeys, and what to do with every single monkey.

A key behavior of an effective leader is to take control of their own time. This starts with zero tolerance for any monkey business.

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/GlobalP

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