Monkeys: LIBERATING Time Management Concept [Video]

Monkeys are the “leading cause of death” of new leaders.

Recent conversations with a few new(er) leaders about this common pitfall, prompted me to post this here. If you don’t have time (28 min) to watch this, then you probably really need to watch this. ūüėČ

This time management concept saved my professional life.

After about 7 years in operations of skilled nursing facilities at The Ensign Group, a skilled nursing, seniors housing, home health & hospice, and radiology company, I spent 5 years there as the Chief Human Capital Officer. What an exciting time. Ensign’s “First Who, Then What” approach to growth meant we had to attract and train a lot of AITs into facility-level CEOs fast. ¬†Over those 5 years, I personally participated in the training of about 100 new leaders. Week long boot camps, case studies, online tests, conference calls, assignments, analysis, etc. ¬†I saw, up close and personal, what helped new leaders succeed … and fail. ¬†

Monkeys has a lot to do with both.

I’ve trained the topic to groups in the hundreds at association conferences to 1:1. And, I wrote about monkeys years ago here:

But, this is the video that gives a thorough explanation of Monkeys and that my colleagues and friends have found most useful to understand the time management concept from theory to practical application.  While there are several healthcare operations and Ensign references, the principles are universal.

I hope it helps you or someone you know:

 

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“I am through waiting”

Kevin Costner Dances with Wolves

 

It’s a great story. ¬†One of my favorite movies. ¬†Dances With Wolves. ¬†I used to watch it all the time as a kid. ¬†After about 20 years, I watched it again recently. ¬†It’s funny how music, scriptures, books, movies can mean something so different depending on one’s circumstances. ¬†This time, I saw a lesson of management/leadership that didn’t really apply to me at age 12.

Procrastination is a challenge for many of us. ¬†For some (me) more than others. ¬†There are plenty of causes to procrastinate a decision or an action … (insufficient information, analysis paralysis, laziness, passive-aggressive attitudes, misunderstanding, feeling stuck in a rut, etc.) ¬†About 18 months I found myself feeling stuck.

Almost like a victim of circumstance.

That, my friends, is an uncomfortable feeling.  I was trying to navigate personalities, agendas, and business objectives and I felt like I was failing.

Looking back, I was taking a passive approach which is very much not my style.

Luckily for me, I snapped out of it. ¬†Or, I got slapped out of it ūüôā ¬†I doubt I’ll forget that particular meeting wherein the conflicting personalities, agendas, and business objectives blew up. ¬†Toward the end of that meeting, I resolved to “get back in the game.” ¬†Maybe, just maybe, Dances With Wolves came up from my subconscious. ¬†Lieutenant John J. Dunbar had a similar wake up call …

“I realize now that I have been wrong.
All this time I have been waiting.
Waiting for what?
For someone to find me?
For Indians to take my horse?
To see a buffalo?
Since I arrived at this post I have been walking on eggs.
It has become a bad habit and I am sick of it.
Tomorrow morning I will ride out to the Indians.
I do not know the outcome or wisdom of this thinking, but I have become a target and a target makes a poor impression.
I am through waiting.”

It can happen in a moment.  The change of momentum.  In fact, look at the word.  

MOMENT(um)

Momentum. It is the secret to love, health, body, mind, spirit. How do you get it? We all know what it‚Äôs like to have it. Those happy days when we were ‚Äėon the wagon.‚Äô I don‚Äôt care how or why we fall off whatever wagon matters to us. I just care that we get back on. Quickly. But how?

Momentum is made up of one ordinary yet powerful word: MOMENT. We take moment(um) back moment by moment. The moment we turn off the TV and go to bed early. The moment we arise early in the morning and run instead of sleep longer than is needful. The moment we say no to the candy, fast food, junk food, soda, and choose healthy food. Each moment builds upon moment until you feel the momentum lifting you out of bed to exercise, eat right, make time for the most important things and people in your life. If you don’t have the momentum you once did in any aspect of your life, it’s just a moment away. Seize the moment. Regain the moment(um).

Whoa.  Took a little personal life detour there.

What about your facility?  What are you waiting for?

McKnight‚Äôs Guest Column & Attack of the Killer Email Monkeys

I recently wrote a guest column for McKnight’s that was apparently really well received according to their editorial staff. ¬†You can read the article here:

McKnight’s Guest Column: The “Leading Cause of Death” of LTC Leaders

There are several really good comments at the bottom. ¬†One comment, along with my reply, I’ll post here below. ¬†I literally had this very same Q&A yesterday with a colleague who is fighting to get a handle on his workload/monkeys and establish a stronger method of follow-through. ¬†Here’s the back and forth for the comment and I’ll include a little more from my email exchange with my colleague …

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Avatar
TryHaggis
2 days ago
Dave, nice job. Speaking as a casualty (or fatality) of this very issue, I can attest to the principles here 100%. I’m always curious about what people use to “know” their monkeys, tasks, etc. Given the close relationship between time management & monkey management, have you discovered a great time management tool / system that effectively discharges monkeys?

Avatar

A colleague of mine shared with me his secret for seeing his EMAIL MONKEYS a few years back. And this usually takes a bigger leap of faith, but it is HUGE for my ability to SEE my monkeys and act quickly on them. “A monkey is whatever the next move is when dialogue between two parties ends,” right? Therefore, emails become a massive collection of monkeys.
So, here’s what I do ‚Ķ I delete EVERYTHING that doesn’t REQUIRE a response. My Trash folder becomes my massive archive if I ever need to review an email from before. I TRY to keep my inbox below 10. I have 8 in there right now (I have 24,985 in my Trash Folder). Again, I delete everything that doesn’t require a response, a next move. So my inbox are only monkeys that need my attention. I’ll sometimes put on my calendar an email/monkey to address if it can’t be done immediately or if I’m in the middle of other more important things. It gives me a tremendous sense of control and organization.
I breathe/sleep easy knowing that I don’t have monkeys hidden in an inbox of 10,000 emails (those hidden/forgotten monkeys are the ones that undermine my credibility with people who are WAITING forever for me to respond). I do not use folders to organize emails from So-And-So or emails on a certain topic. I’ll use Evernote to record emails on a certain topic of a project I’m working on. Folders are just more hiding places for monkeys. It could take a weekend to thin out your inbox depending on the size. So, you may just want to rip off the bandaid and delete everything older than two months and thin from there.
I go into more depth here (caution: don’t click unless you’re really interested in the “nitty gritty” of handling monkeys AND I’m fully aware what works for me won’t necessarily fit you): Monkey Nitty Gritty or “It’s About Time”

“It’s About Time”

“I wish I had time for that.”
“I don’t have time.”
“There’s not enough time in the day.”

The issue of time/self management plays a major in new leaders’ ability to succeed. No matter how brilliant your ideas are, if you aren’t managing yourself effectively, your results, your work, your happiness SUFFERS. I’ve written and spoke a lot about the why & how time/self management tends to be the LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH in new leaders.

With his permission, let me share with you a recent email exchange between myself and a relatively new Executive Director (Administrator) to reinforce those principles with this real-life scenario and to take it from the conceptual to the nitty gritty

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Email #1:

“Dave, what have you seen successful leaders do to be organized day by day? I feel I need a better skeleton than I‚Äôve had ‚Äď maybe I need to go to a franklin planner or something‚Ķ I know everyone functions, remembers, and acts differently but I‚Äôm thinking there is a wheel out there rolling somewhere that I can jump on and customize rather than sitting over here designing a new wheel.¬†

To give you an idea of where I personally fall short (big fat looks in the mirror, and many partners giving feedback ‚Äď these are some of my areas of necessary improvement).

  1. Giving assignments and forgetting to follow up.
    • For some forsaken reason my mind works really well in the present tense. When we talk about principles/concepts ‚Äď I totally get it. You want to talk strategy or theory, I‚Äôm your guy. Along those same lines, my mind does not spend much time in the past (assignments I‚Äôve given or received, things to follow up on, etc). I need a good system that won‚Äôt allow me to forget or hit ‚Äúsnooze.‚ÄĚ ¬†And not nearly enough time making specific plans for the future (Maybe I need to get checked for A.D.D.)
  2. Not setting clear expectations/Vision
    • When we talk vision I get excited and I‚Äôm able to get others excited about the big picture but when the details come into play there can be a lack of continuity on my part (or as partners may see it, Mark talks a good game but doesn‚Äôt ¬†follow through with what he said he‚Äôd do, or things never materialize according to plan because everything falls through the cracks)
  3. Justification
    • On occasion I let people off the hook with a great excuse. This goes back a bit to setting clear expectations, but If I don‚Äôt do numbers 1 and 2 above I can‚Äôt possibly hold people accountable properly.

I know that there is not a quick fix for these issues, but I would love to be able to develop a strong system that can help offset my weaknesses and give me the structure I need to be an effective transformational leader… Any ideas are welcomed.

Observation: Talk about humility/trust!? ¬†It’s a very rare leader and a very rare organization where being that vulnerable is not just OK, but expected. ¬†Usually our EGO gets way in the way and we can’t show weakness … and therefore we don’t improve. ¬†Impressive.

Email #2:
(My Response)

I feel your pain.  You sound like me at Desert Sky and the start of Victoria.  Almost word for word.

For me it took experimentation. ¬†I gave the franklin planner a good few years. ¬†I went paperless and tried everything Outlook and then the mac had to offer to get organized. ¬†Lots of trial and error. ¬†I’ll tell you where I’m at today because I’ve found a system I love. ¬†No guarantee this will work for you.¬†

There are 5 important aspects to my work that I consider ‘blocking and tackling.’ ¬†These are the organization and follow-up responsibilities that I have historically struggled with that are somewhat related but different enough in how I prefer to experience them that I haven’t found an all-in-one solution.

  1. Calendar/Appointments/Follow-Ups
  2. Ideas/Creative
  3. Journal
  4. Calls to return
  5. Tasks (Long-term & short-term)

¬†Here’s how I manage each …

 1 РCalendar/Appointments/Follow-Ups

I use iCal on my mac and iphone. ¬†Here’s what I love about this. ¬†My wife’s computer is also a mac. ¬†We have a mobileme account that syncs all of our contacts and calendar items. ¬†I can make different calendars that I can click on/off depending on what I want to see. ¬†The homerun is that Jess can see my work calendar which helps catch things (travel/meetings) that I failed to communicate. ¬†I can also flip on the kids’ calendar for sports, practices, activities, etc. when I make my plans so I can arrange to be there more if possible. ¬†The calendar syncs with Ensign’s Outlook server so I can send/accept meeting invites from it too which is clutch. ¬†Having the reminders/alarms on my computer and phone is necessary for me. ¬†If this were paper based like it has been in the past, I’d miss half my appointments and conference calls. ¬†The image below is of my calendar for this week. ¬†You’ll notice the checked and unchecked calendars on the far left panel. ¬†The blue is family stuff and that is basically Jessica’s calendar.


Regarding the related item of ‘following up’ … I’ve learned to take a page out of the Monkey doctrine for this. ¬†And, it has made a HUGE difference for me. ¬†Anytime I can assign my responsibility of following up to someone else, it gets done. ¬†For example, I asked “Virginia” (name changed for the blog) here at the service center for help in setting up CEO-in-Training (CIT) weekly call guest speakers. ¬†I spent 30 minutes with her mapping out who I wanted to talk on the next dozen weekly calls. ¬†I then gave her the task to contact all those people, send them the calendar invite (and to copy me) and to send us both reminders on the Friday before. ¬†What used to sneak up on me each week has turned into something much more meaningful for the CITs. ¬†No dropped balls. No “dangit, I forgot about the call.” ¬†Just another little example … during yesterday’s CIT call, I decided to have the closest to the pin competition again. ¬†Whoever gets closest to their projected EBT wins a dinner for two. ¬†The old me would have taken the responsibility on myself to take note of everyone’s projections on the 31st (I would have to put a reminder on the calendar to do that) and then check the actual EBT results when financials came out. ¬†But, yesterday I said to Mike in CO, “Mike would you run the competition for us this month?” ¬†He said, “Sure.” ¬†Will it get done? ¬†Yes. ¬†He already sent the email to everyone requesting them to send their projections to him at the end of the month — passing the monkey down the row!! ¬†I love it. ¬†Off my plate. ¬†Assigned to someone else. ¬†Bingo. ¬†

Remember the 2 rules for monkeys: 

1) anything you assign yourself or accept from a subordinate that you don’t do is PROCRASTINATION. ¬†Anything your supervisor (and you could make the argument, your cluster partners) gives you that you don’t do is called INSUBORDINATION. ¬†

2) An inferior job done by a subordinate is infinitely better than a superior job procrastinated and never done by you. 

Therefore, I also give the responsibility to follow up on things my subordinates. ¬†Meaning, if I give an assignment that I need to follow up on I will also assign the subordinate the time and place for them to account for their work. ¬†“Great. ¬†Thank you so much. ¬†Will you let me know on Thursday by the end of the day how it went?” ¬†I then put a reminder on my calendar at 3:00pm to call/email F/U the issue. ¬†I can’t talk about Assigning work/To-do’s (below) without talking about monkeys. ¬†The more you have time to just work on your stuff, the more effective you’ll be. ¬†If you find your subordinates checking on your commitments, you’re working backwards. ¬†Whoever says, “How’s it coming?” is the supervisor!¬†

I handle the next 4 in a bit of an unconventional way …¬†

2 – Ideas/Creative

3 – Journal

4 – Calls to return

5 – Tasks (Long-term & short-term)

I love my Moleskine.  Pictured below at Amazon.  I use it for all 4 of these parts of my work.

 

4th Quarter Projects/To-Dos/Monkeys I’ve accepted, given myself, or been given on the left page. ¬†Calls to return on the right page. ¬†I will recreate this several times per book.

 

Idea, brainstorming generation … In a previous moleskine I have the notes, drawings, etc. that formed the eprize. ¬†I treasure some of these a-ha moments and I’m stoked I have them all in one place.

 

My personal life and work life interact all the time. ¬†I use the moleskine for both. ¬†Below is a song I wrote Jess. ¬†Here’s what I love about mixing work, personal, and church note-taking, brainstorming, tasks, etc. all in one. ¬†This is the ultimate journal. ¬†Yes, I write formal journal entries about my life in here too. ¬†But, it will show my kids/grandkids more than just what I wrote about my life. ¬†It will show them what I did. ¬†What I worked on. ¬†Who I supervised and who supervised me. ¬†It will show what I dedicated my time to. ¬†It will show them a creative/professional side to me that they don’t see as just their dad. ¬†And, it is an awesome record for me to keep of my life for all aspects of my life as well. ¬†At the end of the year, I look back page by page and reflect and lift my sights and set goals. ¬†Having one notebook like this also makes it easy to not forget it. ¬†I take it with me everywhere. ¬†And, it’s way skinnier and lighter than a franklin planner. ¬†Also, the free-form vs. day by day approach is better suited to me. ¬†I never liked the day by day franklin format b/c there would always be some days where I would need to take 7 pages of notes and then weeks without needing the notes section at all.

 

I really hope this helps in some way for numbers 1 and sort of for number 2. ¬†Unfortunately, I’m an expert at #3 as well …

This one is more personal. ¬†It’s less about tools and more about a shifting of mental/emotional/leadership gears that I was forced to learn the hard way. ¬†The reason I let people off the hook was, looking back, more about me than about them or results. ¬†I wanted to be liked. ¬†Very much. ¬†Not wanting to hurt feelings b/c I wanted to be liked. ¬†Not holding people accountable b/c I feared I would lose their admiration or lose them altogether. ¬†Ironically, that philosophy/practice is incredibly undermining and ineffective at getting people to like me. ¬†With each subsequent facility I ran I became more and more rigorous with my standards and expectations and accountability. ¬†And, again ironically, I would venture to say that each subsequent facility ‘liked’ me more than the last. ¬†I stopped worrying about myself and whether or not people liked me and instead focused as much as possible on results. ¬†That creates an environment that people really appreciate and respect. ¬†Letting people off the hook isn’t for them, it’s for me. ¬†I stopped doing that b/c I realized that I was hurting them and myself as a leader. ¬†It’s not easy, but it’s become very natural now for me to be frank, direct (you can still be kind and encouraging), and¬†quick¬†in my feedback and/or correction. ¬†

These aren’t quick fixes like you said. ¬†I’m stoked you’re looking hard in the mirror on these things though because I believe that these make up the ingredients needed to fill the gap between new leader and game changing CEO. ¬†I’ve see it in myself and countless others here at Ensign. ¬†Good luck hermano. ¬†Let me know if I can help with anything.

Dave

Email #3

Dave,

Worth the wait. Thank you. As you can imagine, I didn‚Äôt wait in taking action on these issues as I have really felt the pain and want to bring relief asap. I am attaching my first attempt at being able to keep myself more organized and structured on a day to day basis. In reading up on time management techniques recently (including re-listening to Monkeys) I determined that I am only going to focus on quadrant I and III with the things that I even allow to get to my list. So I start each day by bringing forward my quadrant I and III from the previous day and new additions. I type in the new items from yesterday and remove items that I accomplished yesterday. I print this out and put it in a binder that I have labeled with days 1-31 so I can track day by day what I‚Äôm accomplishing as well as when something that was supposedly urgent AND important hit my quadrant I and why it is still there. I have a column for assignments/monkeys so I can follow up on assignments I have made as well. I keep this binder open on my desk and hand write in new additions and check off accomplishments. It has been a little slow going since my initial list of Q I and QIII have accumulated for quite some time. I find that I am having much more success making assignments and avoiding ‚ÄúProcrastination‚ÄĚ then I have done in the past. This is not a perfect system, but so far it is really helping me know where I am and where I need to be.

I LOVE the idea of integrating the home/work calendar. My wife uses the Mac and this could help me both at work and at home.

Moleskine: I‚Äôve been using disposable notebooks and transferring the info that I accumulate, but I can see real value in preserving and reviewing from all aspects of life. I think I will find myself incorporating that one as well ‚Äď dig it.¬†

#3 ‚Äď Work in progress still. I relate very much to your statement on this one. Not holding my team accountable is a ‚Äúme thing.‚ÄĚ ¬†I‚Äôm resolved to change ‚Äď some of my team have already commented about a few little things with me. Its encouraging. There will be more pain I think, maybe even some rebellion. I‚Äôm getting kind of excited and looking forward to it ‚Äď that might sound kind of sick, but I‚Äôm ready to take it on and stop running in circles.

Thanks for this ‚Äď I‚Äôll be touching base on it. I‚Äôd love some follow up ‚Äď you can put it on your people to email list for a few weeks/months down the road.

Several takeaways for me from this exchange …

  1. Without humility and vulnerability on the leader’s part, his growth is stunted.

  2. Without a culture that makes it safe to be vulnerable and reach out for help, the leader’s and organization’s growth is stunted.

  3. Self awareness & humility is often the differentiator between those who get second and third chances and those who don’t.

  4. Managing time is impossible.  It marches on no matter what you try.  We can only manage ourselves.  We need to take it seriously and experiment until we find what works with our unique personality.

I hope this helps you get a better grip on how you organize and manage yourself.

Idaho Healthcare Association Annual Meeting

What a great, warm, friendly group! ¬†I love the providers in Idaho. ¬†This was my second time I got to speak to this group. ¬†Last year I spoke on creating a unique culture within your facility/company. ¬†This time it was about the ‘Leading Cause of Death’ of new leaders … monkeys. ¬†It was a fun 60 minutes. ¬†I really enjoy sharing the {monkey business} time management¬†philosophy¬†that completely saved my career. ¬†And, I’m happy to speak to individual companies too.

I’m on my way home from Iowa & Nebraska. ¬†I was there for a couple weeks to assist with the cultural integration of our organization with the acquisition of 9 facilities. ¬†Our approach is not to come in and say ‘you will all be like us and do things the same way.’ ¬†Rather, we empower facility leaders to create their own goals, strategy, and vision. ¬†It was a blast to see lights turn on in their faces as the realization hit them that they are more empowered than they have ever been in their careers.

We talk in terms of the three-legged stool: quality product or service, happy customers & employees, and financial stewardship. ¬†Instead of ‘corporate’ people pulling puppet strings, we empower all of our local leaders to totally own their operation. ¬†These guys will do great!

What I wasn’t prepared for was the staggering amount of corn! ¬†Amazing. ¬†Plus, the flooding of the Missouri River. ¬†Crazy. ¬†Some other great discoveries. ¬†I truly loved the heartland. ¬†Looking forward to coming back soon. ¬†Great people.

#1 Cause of Death or Monkeys: A How-To

I recently trained many of our leaders on Monkey Management.

I’m convinced that this principle is the #1 cause of death in new leaders.

So … how do you recognize the problem & overcome it?¬† Let’s go through it.¬† Unless, of course, you don’t have the time ūüôā

Take a minute to look at this To-Do List.¬† It’s not uncommon from many leaders’ lists.¬† It contains things that came up today (on the left) and things to do from yesterday and before on the right.¬† Normally, one’s list is spread out on Post-it Notes, 3×5 cards, Notepads, Computer To-Do lists, Calendars, and email In-boxes.

To-Do List

Do you see the MONKEYS?!¬† They’re all over the place!¬† Remember, ‘a monkey is whatever the next move is when 2 parties end a conversation.’¬† Whoever has the next move has the monkey.¬† If you have to respond to an email, memo, or voice mail, you have a monkey.¬† If you’ve agreed to do something for someone else (buy, research, analyze, look into, make, meet with, write, etc.) you have a monkey.¬† Unless you’re paranoid about attracting monkeys, you likely have A LOT of them …

Monkeys!

Remember the Monkey Gospel Truths:

Procrastination vs Insubordination
Possible Insubordination = Getting work done

Hopefully the reasons why you must destroy monkeys from your plate before they destroy you are obvious.¬† But, in case you’re skeptical.¬† Let’s reason together …

  • If you are doing work others could/should be doing, then you are, by definition, NOT DOING work that only you can do.
  • Monkeys keep you from working on what Steven Covey illustrates so masterfully in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as Quadrant III stuff (next slide below).¬† The Non-Urgent/Important quadrant of our to-do list.
  • Regardless of your motive, you are stunting your direct reports’ ability to grow and develop by doing things for them.¬† Stop it!¬† Let’s see if they can sore.¬† If they fail (which is practically guaranteed eventually), teach them and help them grow.
Monkeys laugh when they keep you from Quadrant III

Take your ‘Total Plate’ which, again, includes your to-do lists, post-it notes, voice mails, emails, projects, etc. and strike a line through everything that doesn’t ABSOLUTELY have to be done by only you.¬† Look at my list below and notice in the next 2 slides how I identify other people’s monkeys that landed on my back and how I returned them to their rightful owner.

What can you – AND ONLY YOU – do?
Kill the Monkeys before they kill you

Wow.¬† Compare my list now (below) to my original list.¬† FREEDOM!¬† Freedom to finally lead.¬† Freedom to run my operation instead of being run by it.¬† If you don’t take a stand against monkeys and commit to a discipline of spotting them before they land on your plate and deflecting them, you will NEVER get to quadrant III.¬† If you’re too busy for quadrant III then, SOONER OR LATER, you will fail.¬† You will get burned out.¬† You will be frustrated.¬† You will remain miles away from your potential.

Making TIME TO LEAD

One last thought about Monkeys.¬† They hate you.¬† They will only be happy when they not only destroy your professional life, but your personal life as well.¬† Talk about Non-Urgent/Important!?: date night with your spouse, being home for dinner with your kids/family, family vacation, personal fitness/health, reunions with friends, community/church service, etc.¬† All these things are, to a degree, sacrificed when we lack the discipline and understanding to treat monkeys as the enemy they are.¬† You could have all the talent, charisma, & smarts in the world.¬† But, none of that matters if you’re spending 75% of your time on monkeys others should be doing.

Remember …
Managers Do Things Right.  Leaders Do The Right Things.

Take Monkeys personally.¬† If they could, they would spit in your mother’s face.

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?

No.

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.