You’re not out of time … you’re just wrangling too many monkeys

Want to know why you can’t break through the ceiling and get more out of your business?

It’s because you’re failing to lead.

Ask leaders what their top issue is and you’ll likely get the same answer over and over again: “I don’t have time.” No time to build the business. No time to innovate. No time to anticipate future disruptions.

No time to lead.

And why don’t they have time? Because they’re doing everyone else’s job. They’re taking on too many monkeys.

In a now-classic Harvard Business Review article, William Oncken Jr. and Donald Wass describe the phenomenon this way: Your subordinates’ problems are like monkeys. When they come to you with their problems, the folks you lead are trying to give you their monkeys. They don’t want to deal with them, so they give them to you. That means their problems are now your problems. Pretty soon, you’ve got a room full of other peoples’ monkeys, and you find yourself spending all of your time wrangling them instead of doing your own job.

Whenever someone comes to you with an issue, your goal must be to send them back to their desks with their monkeys still sitting on their shoulders — to have them accept responsibility and accountability for their own problems. That’s the only way you’ll ever get any important work done.

The brilliant folks at EOS Worldwide have created a simple but powerful tool to help you figure out how many monkeys you’re carrying. It’s called “Delegate and Elevate,” and it works like this:

Imagine a two-by-two grid in which you list every task for which you are responsible. The top two quadrants include (a) the things you love to do and are great at, and (b) the things you like to do and are good at. The bottom two quadrants include (a) the things you don’t like to do but are good at, and (b) the things you don’t like to do and aren’t good at.

You should be spending almost all of your time on the tasks that fall in the top two quadrants. These are the things you’re passionate about and drive your business forward. They are what “Strategic Coach” founder Dan Sullivan would call your “unique ability.”

Here’s the problem: Most of us spend too much of our time on the tasks in the bottom two quadrants. Those are other people’s monkeys, and they suck the life out of our jobs and our businesses.

We only have 100 percent of our time to spend — whatever that amount of time is. If we decide 50 hours a week is 100 percent of our time, that’s our capacity. When we find ourselves working 60 hours a week, we’re working 20 percent over capacity, and that’s the point when we need to stop doing certain tasks for the greater good of the business … and our own sanity.

The stuff we need to stop doing is in the bottom two quadrants. We need to delegate that stuff to someone who can benefit from doing that work. That will give us more time to spend on the stuff that we’re passionate about and will drive the business forward.

It’s all about delegating and elevating. Delegate the stuff that gets in your way. Assign it to people who want to do it and are good at it. That will free you up to do the things that will grow your business, and it will help them grow at the same time.

It’s not easy, but it’s essential. As your business’s leader, you must spend more time on the things that will build your business … and less time on other people’s monkeys.

Click here to download a simple, powerful tool that will help you master the art of delegating … and grow your business at the same time.

How strong is your business?
Use the free EOS Organizational Checkup to gauge the strength of your business … and to find out whether you’re wrangling too many monkeys.

Take the Organizational Checkup here.


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