The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey

"Things not worth doing are not worth doing well."

- The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey, page 50

As a manager, have you ever found yourself in the unenviable position of having too few hours in the day to accomplish your tasks?

Do you find yourself asking this question ‘I thought hiring new team members would make my life easier?’

‘Why is it that some managers are typically running out of time while their staff are typically running out of work?’ ask, Ken Blanchard, William Oncken Jr. and Hal Burrows, the authors of The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey.

The answer can be found in what is referred to as the ‘Monkey’ problem.

A ‘Monkey’ is defined as the next move for every task or project to be carried out in an organisation.

For every ‘Monkey’ there are two people involved, one to perform the next move (usually the subordinate) and one to supervise it (usually the manager).

Problems arise when the manager takes over responsibility for the ‘Monkey’ which effectively makes him/her the worker and turns the subordinate into a supervisor.

In The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey, the authors reveal exactly how managers can avoid these self-inflicted problems and become effective supervisors of time, energy and people.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Free Your Time

"The more you get rid of your people’s monkeys, the more time you have for your people."
- The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey, page 70

As a manager, when you stop doing your team member’s work and hand back responsibility to them, what magically happens is that you free up your time which you can then spend on your own monkeys!

‘They can see me as often as they wish (which is not very often) and for as long as they wish (which is not very long),’ the authors write.

No longer will you have frustrated staff with a boss who doesn’t have time for them.

As the One Minute Manager explains, ‘That is accomplished by expanding the amount of time I have for them and contracting the amount of time they have for me. If they are running out of time more often than I am, that’s a good indicator of their increasing self-reliance.’

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Hand Back Responsibility

"As a Manager, to the extent that you can get people to care for and feed their own monkeys, they are really managing the work for themselves."
- The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey, page 74

It is sometimes challenging for managers to allow team members to take responsibility for their projects and tasks for a myriad of reasons which include:

  1. They may feel like they are abdicating responsibility
  2. They may lack confidence in the team member’s ability
  3. They may simply be a control freak!

In Onken’s Rules of Monkey Management, the One Minute Manager details exactly how this liberation can take place with elegance, simplicity and most importantly, peace of mind for the manager.

Oncken’s Rules of Monkey Management

  1. Descriptions – The dialog must not end until appropriate ‘next moves’ have been identified and specified.
  2. Owners – ‘The monkey is assigned to a person. All monkeys shall be owned and handled at the lowest organizational level consistent with their welfare. The dialog between boss and staff member must not end until ownership of each monkey is assigned to a person.’ People take better care of things they own than things they don’t.
  3. Insurance Policies – ‘The risk is covered. Every monkey leaving your presence on the back of one of your people must be covered by one of two insurance policies: 1) Recommend, then 2) Act, then 3) Advise.’
  4. Monkey Feeding and Checkup Appointments – ‘The time and place for follow-up is specified.’

What then ends up happening is that the manager keeps only the monkeys that only she/he can handle. The rest are now handled by team members who have grown in confidence and capability as a result of the increased autonomy.

‘The best way to develop responsibility in people is to give them responsibility,’ says Blanchard and Oncken.

When the manager demands excellence from himself/herself, he then has the right to expect and ask the same from team members. One way to accomplish this is to always ask ‘Is this the absolute best you can do on this?’

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Learn to Delegate

"The ultimate degree of management is delegation, where my people are achieving more and more with less and less involvement from me."
- The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey, page 110

How do you know you have achieved the ultimate goal of delegation?

The first sign is that your mentality changes from that of a doer to that of a manager. You stop thinking of your ‘to-do’ list and instead start thinking of your ‘to-delegate’ list.

‘You learn to replace the psychological rewards of doing with the rewards of managing i.e. deriving satisfaction from what people do and being recognized, paid and promoted accordingly,’ write the authors.

The second sign is an enhanced relationship with team members and an improvement in productivity and morale. The manager develops a high level of confidence in the team members and in turn team members feel valued, appreciated and recognized for their contribution.

‘When people throughout the organization have responsibility for managing their own monkeys, it’s hard to tell who’s a worker and who’s a manager because everyone is committed to doing what it takes to do the best job possible.’

Let’s remember that there will always be more next moves (monkeys) than there is time to complete them. So, our goal both at work and in our personal lives is to ensure that we are prioritising the important tasks and letting go of (or delegating) the unimportant ones.

What monkeys can you delegate today?

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