Imagine the next person that walks in your office with a complaint has a monkey on their back. Maybe it’s a cute little guy that makes cute little monkey sounds but it’s totally distracting its owner.  Or it might be a big hairy, smelly ape that’s stinking up the room and crushing the owner under its weight.

Either way, the owner of the monkey wants nothing more than for that monkey to jump of it’s back and on to your desk.  And if you’re not careful, that monkey will jump off the desk and on to your back. Most likely, you have enough monkeys on your own back so that one more would turn you into a zoo.

An effective leader gives people the power, the tools, the skills, and the courage to take care of their own monkeys. If not, you’ll soon have everyone’s monkey on your back. Some managers like that, but good leaders know better.

  • Some of those monkeys are other people.  I heard one leader remark that 80% of leadership is trying to keep people from killing each other.
  • Some of those monkeys were inherited.  A person taking on a new role inherits the monkeys that have been roaming that part of the zoo for quite some time.
  • Some of those monkeys came from the outside. Keeping personal problems out of a professional environment can be challenging.
  • All of those monkeys will jump on your back if you let them.

When someone tries to get you to take the monkey on their back, you have 3 basic choices:

  1. Ignore their monkey
  2. Be the hero and take their monkey from them
  3. Give them the tools to take care of their own monkeys

Monkeys are only cute from a distance.

I took the photograph of the above Colobus Monkey in Arusha National Park in Tanzania

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