Delegating monkeys is an important part of being a leader, partner or parent. There is a delicate balance between abdicating and delegating. Abdicating can happen when a leader chooses to ignore a situation (usually a sticky, messy and uncomfortable monkey) which allows the issue to slide down to the next level of management. Not good delegation.
As Ken Blanchard said in his book, The One Minute Manager meets the Monkey, “for every monkey there are two parties involved, one to work it and one to supervise it”. The monkey is the task or project. You may have given the monkey to your child, co-worker or assistant but that doesn’t mean that you have absolved yourself of any other responsibilities. You’ll need to make sure that the monkey is getting fed….and not over fed. You don’t want to have a bunch of chunky monkeys running..er swinging around.
So how do you take care of the monkeys without getting them back? Here are some ideas:
1. Pick. Pick the right time and place to delegate. If you are in the middle of serving twenty people a Thanksgiving meal and your daughter has never made gravy before…maybe you should wait until there is a little more time and (in my case) more patience before you give a gravy clinic. If you are going to give a monkey to someone, pick the right time to do it.
2. Decide. Decide if this task or project should be delegated. If it’s not clear who is caring for a particular monkey, then you have decided. You have abdicated and the monkey is running loose and no one knows who is in charge. Like that annoying employee that reports to you but that no one likes and is afraid of. You aren’t handling the monkey, so everyone else has to. Decide if the monkey is yours or…not.
3. Select. Once you have decided it’s the right monkey to delegate, select the right person or group to take care of the monkey. If the new incentive plan needs an Excel expert, then find one. Don’t just give the project to the closest person who seems available (especially if you don’t know their Excel abilities). The monkey needs the right talent to take care of it. Not just another animal at the zoo.
4. Define. Define what success looks like. If you ask your child to mow the lawn, you better be clear with timelines, parameters for what mowing the lawn entails (leaf blowing, edging, bagging of grass, etc.), and if there will be any compensation involved. There have been plenty of family squabbles over something as minor as what mowing the lawn entails. Make sure you define how to take care of the monkey.
5. Ask. Make sure that they are up to the challenge of caring for a new monkey right now. Maybe their plate is full. Maybe they already have 50 monkeys and 13 of them are sick and in need of intensive care. If I ask my daughter to edit a blog post for me (and I frequently do), I better make sure she’s not in the middle of mid-terms. It’s important to ask if she has time for one more monkey.
6. Delegate. Once you have completed steps 1-5, then hand off the monkey. Knowing that it is the right time, place and person will make this much easier. Instill your confidence in their monkey care-taking abilities and then walk away. If they think there is any chance that you will be back for the monkey, it will erode their confidence and commitment to care for the monkey.
7. Track. Track progress after you delegate. Make sure they’re grooming, training and not over feeding the monkey. Make sure they aren’t taking on too many other monkeys or that the monkey you delegated to them may not get as much care and attention. Let them know their progress along the way. Just because you delegated, doesn’t mean you have absolved yourself of all responsibility. Check in on the care and feeding of the monkey.
People who effectively delegate their monkeys are ultimately better leaders and citizens. The team around them is more highly skilled and feels more empowered. Try these steps and see if you can’t be more effective with your monkey management.
How do you delegate your monkeys?