Machen MacDonald: Monkey business is bad business |

Machen MacDonald: Monkey business is bad business

Machen MacDonald

Always beware of the Monkey. The Monkey looks cute, innocent, and fun loving. In business and leadership the Monkey can be dangerous.

The priority for any leader is to grow our people. In turn, the people will grow the organization. In this process, it can become easy for us to accept the challenges and issues of the people we work with and try to solve them.

Let's talk about the Monkey to help make the point.

Imagine yourself either alone in your office or walking down the hall and an associate suddenly approaches you. Then comes the question, "Have ya gotta minute?" Be careful here. That question is the announcement the Monkey is in the room and if you are not mindful the Monkey transfer will commence without you even knowing it.

You reply, "Sure." And regretfully, the transfer is complete. Your colleague, promptly follows up with, "I have a problem," or "We have an issue."

When we begin the discussion and enter into problem solving mode, we often run out of time. Our team member innocently has left us with his or her monkey. Another meeting must be arranged, or we need to do research to help the situation. This accelerates the sand through the hour-glass of which there seems to be limited grains to begin with.

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A barrel of Monkeys

Whatever the situation, we simply cannot end the meeting with their Monkey clinging to our neck. If we take on their Monkey, we rob them of the growth opportunity the Monkey is there to teach them.

Over the years, I have taken on plenty of Monkeys. I made up that I was supposed to have all the answers. After all, I am the one with the experience and the initials after my name.

I did a brilliant job of training those around me to expect me to have the answers and to come to me for the solutions. I thought I was leading. Mistakenly I was being lead. I wasn't proactive, I was reactive.

When you care about your people it can be easy to run the risk of taking on their Monkey. I have all the time in the world for the people I lead. However, I have no more time for their Monkeys.

Try this next time you hear the words, "Have ya gotta minute." Invite them into your office and immediately stand up. This action alone suggests a quickie. i.e., no way am I taking your Monkey standing up.

Listen, and if need be, schedule a coaching session. It is during a coaching session when you can effectively ask questions and guide them to solve their problem on their own and help them increase their capacity and acumen.

The best advice I have seen on this subject is in an old Chinese psalm written by Lao Tzu. It says, "Go to the people; live among them; love them; learn from them; start from where they are; work with them; build on what they have; but of the best leaders, when the task is accomplished, the work completed, the people will remark: 'we have done it ourselves.'"

Be there to grow your people by not taking on their Monkeys. Show them how to handle their own Monkeys.

Make it up, make it fun, and get it done!

#1 bestselling author Machen P. MacDonald, CPCC, CCSC is a certified life and business coach with ProBrilliance Leadership Institute in Grass Valley, CA. He helps business people gain more confidence and clarity to live their ideal life. He can be reached at and 530-273-8000.

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