By Jenny Lukas, AVN.
How much time would you save if you never had to solve problems for your team ever again? Many managers spend a huge amount of time and effort solving problems brought to them by their team.
Imagine the scene…
A team member comes up to you and says “We have a problem.” They then spend 15 minutes telling you about it. And you end up saying “Leave it with me and I’ll see what I can do.” As a result their problem becomes your problem… and you end up doing everybody else’s work.
Sound familiar? In their great book, The One Minute Manager Meets The Monkey, Ken Blanchard and William Oncken and Hal Burrows describe this as “Letting a monkey jump from your team member’s back onto yours” – and they claim that it is one of the biggest thieves of managers’ time.
The monkey is the Next Step. And the key to effective delegation is only agreeing to take the next step yourself (i.e. to let the monkey jump onto your back) if it is a step that ONLY you can take.
Here’s a brief overview of the monkey management approach:
As your 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’s your problem I will help you 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?” Also make it clear in advance that whenever team members bring a problem to you, they must also bring at least one suggestion for the next step.
Note: This alone will greatly reduce the number of problems brought to you. In thinking of their suggested next steps, they will often discover that they can solve the whole thing without ever involving you.
As they tell you about the problem and their suggested next steps, you decide what needs to happen next. It could be to go with one of their suggestions; do something else you dreamed up at the meeting; or go away and research some other solutions.
Agree who is to take that next step or steps. Remember, this next step is the “Monkey” – and you should only let it jump on your back if it’s 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 bring you more recommendations before they take some or all of the next steps. This 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 that 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.
I also strongly recommend that you read the One Minute Manager Meets The Monkey (available on www.amazon.co.uk) since it obviously contains a lot more guidance than I’m able to give here. Many people regard it as the most useful and practical book on effective management and delegation ever written. Best of all you can read it in 60-90 minutes – so there’s no excuse! And ask your team to read it so that they understand what you are trying to achieve and why.