effective delegation

What Has Effective Delegation Got To Do With Monkeys?

I really wish someone had explained the principles of effective delegation and not taking on other people’s problems before I started my first supervisor’s job.

I was only 19 and I had just been employed as a Host in a large restaurant. Being Host meant that I greeted the guests and sat them down, but it also meant that I was in charge of all the wait staff. They looked to me for direction.

I was scared out of my wits as there were so many things I didn’t know.

I made the mistake of thinking that as Supervisor, I was expected to know everything.

I made the mistake of thinking that as Supervisor, I was expected to know everything. So every time someone asked me a question I didn’t know the answer to, I would say, ‘I’ll find out and get back to you.’

This quickly created chaos as I was running around trying to solve other people’s problems.

Meet the Monkey

one minute manager meets the monkeyIn his book One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey, Ken Blanchard talks about this problem and how the art of delegation is learning how not to accept other people’s ‘monkeys’.

He defines a monkey as the next step in a process or project.

So when someone gets stuck regarding the next step in their job and they go to their supervisor asking for help, whoever walks away from that conversation with a commitment to ‘look into it’ or ‘fix’ the problem, now owns the monkey.

As a young Restaurant Host I was walking around with a lot of monkeys on my back!

Why don’t we delegate more effectively?

It is partly to do with ego.

Maybe we believe we really are the only ones capable of solving the problem effectively, and really, we will be quicker and more efficient anyway.

Maybe we can’t be bothered with the hassle or resistance from our staff if we force them to find their own solutions or we lack the courage to push back when our staff bring problems to us.

Or maybe, as in my situation, we’re young and inexperienced and don’t want to admit we don’t know what we’re doing.

Either way, many managers and supervisors are out in the world right now doing way more than they need to because they have accepted other peoples’ ‘monkeys’.

Learning the art of effective delegation by getting the monkey’s off your back is a big step towards being an effective leader.

Talking Point:

  • How comfortable are you with delegating?
  • If you stopped taking on other people’s monkeys, how would it impact your working day?