The Importance of Giving People Their Monkeys Back

The Importance of Giving People Their Monkeys Back

If you have ever been in a leadership position, you probably got used to employees coming to you for solutions to problems.

As much as this can feel good in the beginning, you quickly realize that you are the bottleneck.

Think about it…

If you have 10 employees, and they all come to you with 2 problems in a week, that’s an extra 20 problems you have to add to your to-do list, in a single week.

That’s 20 extra problems on top of all the ones you are already dealing with.

I used to be that guy. Trying to be that hero that would solve everyone’s problems. It felt good to be needed and to have the answers, but the truth is that’s just not a sustainable strategy.

Then, I read The One-Minute Manager (by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson), and a concept really hit home with me. The book uses the analogy that the problems your employees bring to you can be depicted by monkeys.

The concept is that employees will always come to you with “monkeys on their back” and hand them off to you.

Before you know it, you have dozens of monkeys on your back that you did not have earlier that day.

That is when I had a profound realization about the importance of giving people their monkeys back.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t about avoiding work or being lazy.

It’s actually about empowering your team.

This concept was further solidified when I came across the 1-3-1 rule from Dan Martell. It revolutionized the way I approached problem-solving and empowered my team to take ownership of their work.

In the past, whenever someone came to me with a problem, I would often find myself taking on their burden. I would try to solve the problem myself, adding more tasks to my already overflowing to-do list.

This approach not only overwhelmed me but also hindered the growth and development of my team members.

The idea of giving people their monkeys back means that when someone approaches you with a problem, you should encourage them to take ownership of it.

Instead of immediately jumping in to solve it, ask them to define one specific problem statement. This helps them clarify their thoughts and focus on the core issue at hand.

Once the problem statement is defined, challenge them to come up with three viable solutions. This not only encourages creative thinking but also empowers them to take responsibility for finding a resolution. By brainstorming multiple solutions, they can explore different perspectives and possibilities.

After they have generated three potential solutions, ask them to recommend one. This final step of the 1-3-1 rule allows them to take ownership of the problem and propose their preferred course of action. By doing so, you are empowering them to make decisions and take responsibility for the outcome.

Implementing the 1-3-1 rule has had a profound impact on my team dynamics. It has fostered a culture of problem-solving and ownership.

Instead of constantly relying on me for solutions, my employees now approach me with well-defined problem statements and well-thought-out recommendations.

Empowering your employees in this way not only lightens your workload but also promotes their professional growth.

By giving them the opportunity to tackle challenges and make decisions, you are fostering a sense of ownership and accountability within your team.

Furthermore, when employees feel empowered, they are more likely to take initiative and think creatively. They become problem solvers rather than problem bringers. This shift in mindset can lead to increased productivity, innovation, and overall team success.

Of course, there may be times when you need to step in and provide guidance or support. However, by following the 1-3-1 rule, you are encouraging your team members to develop their problem-solving skills and become more self-reliant.

Remember, your employees are capable individuals who can contribute valuable insights and solutions. By giving them their monkeys back, you are not only empowering them but also fostering a culture of trust, collaboration, and growth within your team.

So remember 1-3-1 is,

  • 1 clear problem

  • 3 viable solutions

  • 1 recommendation

So, the next time someone comes to you with a problem, resist the urge to immediately take it on yourself.

Instead, guide them through the 1-3-1 rule.

Encourage them to define the problem, brainstorm solutions, and recommend a course of action. You'll be amazed at the positive impact it can have on both your team and yourself.