Tap. Tap. Tap. Someone is knocking on your office door. You look up and welcome one of your best and most productive managers. You notice that she is carrying a monkey with her. It clings to her and it looks familiar. The monkey is slowly loosening its’ grip and beginning to reach for you as your employee tells you that she has a problem and is stuck. She wants you to fix the problem for her.
You like problem solving.
You tell the employee you will take care of the problem for her (or maybe you just tell her how to fix the problem), and you watch her walk out of your office. You think about how good it feels to help someone.
Wait a minute….you feel something clinging to you! That problem-monkey was handed to you, and you’ll be feeding and caring for it for some time. As days, weeks, and months go by, you notice that you are collecting, caring, and feeding for more and more monkeys as you help your staff to solve their work problems. You’re feeling burdened, heavy. You want some relief.
How do you spell relief?
Relief is on the way. Its spelled c-o-a-c-h-i-n-g. We sometimes think of coaching as something that we do in large chunks of time and only in discussions around our staff’s development. Yet, coaching can happen in small snippets when someone taps on your door, sends an email, or calls you for help. They are bringing that monkey to you, and they are anxious for you to adopt, feed and care for it.
When you see that monkey, instead of taking responsibility for it, hand it back by asking:
What ideas have you had so far that will solve this?
Have you asked others what they would do?
What action do you need to take?
How will you start? When will you start?
After these questions, now you can ask, “How can I help?” with the intention to remove barriers to success that your employees can’t remove themselves.
It will take a great deal of strength to keep from solving other’s problems; its been your habit for a long time, and you like it. But really, it’s not the best thing for you or for your staff.
The reason you give the monkey back
The best help that you can give your staff is by helping them to think through solutions and to eventually learn to solve them without you. And that takes some real courage, because we all like monkeys and we all like to help. But we don’t want them to cling and stay with us forever. So give the monkey back by helping others to solve their own problems. It will help your staff to grow, and it will provide you with some relief.