The Monkey House

The monkeyThere is a great book called the One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Kenneth Blanchard, Hal Burrows, and William Oncken. In this book, they explain their philosophy that managers should not take on problems (monkeys) that are not theirs. When managers take on other’s monkeys, they end up becoming the hopeless bottleneck for the company.

I have a client who was really struggling with taking on everyone’s monkeys. I decided to have the whole leadership team read this book. At our next session, one of the leaders put on the issues list “The Monkey House.” This got the team’s attention. When we got to the point in the meeting where we began to solve issues, The Monkey House was prioritized. The leader explained “Dave, your office is a freakin Monkey House. You take on every person’s issue that comes through your door.” (Names have been changed to protect the guilty.) The rest of the team nodded in agreement. Dave had also read the book but was still struggling with the concept. He was also feeling a little teamed up on at this point. Dave responded, “But, there are some of them I don’t trust to fix their own issues, others that have too much on their plate, and some of the monkeys are from all of you!”

As we dug into the issue, we found that Dave was actually hiding many of the bigger issues that the company had by fixing everyone’s problems. I also explained that he was really disempowering his team and the staff because he was taking away their chance to learn how to solve their own problems. By the end, Dave was able to see how debilitating his “kindness” was. To this day, Dave still struggles with “helping” his team too much but he is always quickly reminded by his other leaders and even some of the staff that these are not his monkeys to take on.

If you are the Dave in your company, read the “One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey”, and make sure that after you talk through an issue with one of your team, that they leave with the monkey on their back, and not yours.


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