No more monkeys jumping …

As a follow up to A Leader’s Downfall, I want to comment on one of the most common mind sets that new leaders lack – to NOT take on too much themselves.  There’s several reasons why we try to tackle too much ourselves.  Here’s what we normally tell ourselves:

  • My direct report(s) are incompetent
  • I can do a better job than they can
  • I need some hands on in this department to completely understand our current situation so I can better supervise in the future
  • My direct report(s) are too busy to pile on them more stuff
  • I’m afraid that if I ask them to do this stuff they’ll burn out

So the big question … are those legit?


They may be true.  But that’s irrelevant.  They are self-deceiving, self-aggrandizing excuses for not doing your job as a leader.  Your job is NOT to do everyone else’s work.  Your job is to assemble, inspire, measure, coach, and train leaders who can take your shared vision to produce incredible results.

I can hear your protests now …

  • Dave, you don’t get it.  I’m a servant leader.  I don’t ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.
  • Dave, you don’t understand my team.  We have some serious weak links right now and if I didn’t take on this stuff (that they should be doing) it wouldn’t get done.

I do get it.  And, I do understand your team.  Perfectly.  I understand the stress, the frustration, the underachievement, etc.  And, I’m telling you, you’ve got to wake up and do your job!  One of the reasons this is so tough for newer leaders, in particular, is because we feel so much insecurity during the beginning of our leadership.  There’s so much we don’t know.  And, everyone knows it.  Since we don’t have the instant credibility that years of doing this provides, we try to gain it the only we know how … becoming superman for our staff.

  • Dave, we need a HMO contract with XYZ company.  Can you get one for us?  Sure!
  • Dave, I’m having problems with 2 of my staff.  Can you talk to them for me?  You bet!
  • Dave, we need some new landscaping out front.  What do you think?  I’ll go to Home Depot!
  • Etc …

What’s the problem?  Every one of those things (and probably 50% of your to-do list) are things your people should be doing.  After a few years of struggling to become superman for my staff to make up for my own incompetence and lack of experience, I finally took the leap of faith to adopt the mind set taught by Bill Oncken, described as Monkeys.  I’ve posted here a long excerpt of Oncken teaching it himself.

A couple of the main principles:

  1. An inferior job done by your subordinate is 100% better than a superior job procrastinated by you and never done.
  2. If you don’t complete a task you’ve given yourself (or accepted to do for your subordinate), it’s called … procrastination.  If you don’t complete a task your supervisor gave you, it’s called … insubordination.
  3. So, if there are tasks (monkeys) on your to-do list that have been there for a couple weeks that you haven’t had time to get done (procrastination), give it to your subordinate so it becomes insubordination if it doesn’t get done.  Guess what.  It will get done.
  4. This is not a lazy or selfish act.  I had an allergic reaction to this talk of ‘subordinates’ and insubordination, and giving people work that I normally did.  But, then I woke up.  It empowers them!  I pushes them to grow.  It removes you as the constraint in your operation!  Progress speeds up.  Change happens.  Because your doing your job … not theirs!

It saved my career.  I hope you can make time to listen to it.