Being good at solving problems and focused on doing so is a useful attitude in business. “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions” is a well worn phrase of many a manager. However, whilst taking on and resolving problems is a great approach that usually helps success in business, it can also be dangerous if you take on too many challenges that really ought to be solved by others (especially by your staff).
I was discussing this challenge with one of my clients recently and remembered a great metaphor that someone explained to me many years ago and which has stuck with me ever since. I’ve just looked it up and am shocked to discover that twenty five years ago it was being referred to as a twenty-five year old article. So it’s been around a long time, but re-reading it now I think it is just as valid as it always has been.
As usual, I’ll summarise it here and post a link to the full article. It’s interesting if you find delegation a challenge. Or, since this blog is aimed at business leaders, if one of your managers is finding delegation a challenge!
The article is quite simple really. It tells the engaging story of an overburdened manager who unwittingly takes on all of his subordinates’ problems and becomes overloaded. The metaphor is simple. Think of the problem as a monkey. When someone says to you “I have this problem boss” and you respond with “I’ll sort it out,” you need to visualise that monkey (problem) jumping from their back to yours.
That is fine for one monkey. You can manage that. It’s when you get that great reputation of being good at solving problems that it goes wrong – and you struggle to remain standing with all those monkeys on your back. Your success can become the cause of your downfall. All too often, you find yourself running out of time while others are running out of work. And you (or others) say you’re a ‘control freak’ or ‘poor at delegation’ – which is of course unfair as solving problems is good for business. It’s actually that you’re just solving too many of other people’s problems!
Wherever possible put the monkey straight back: What do you think you should do? How do you think you should solve it? What do you suggest? On the rare*** occasion you do need to intervene, make sure it’s right for you and the business that you do.
*** It should be a rare occasion. Beware your ego collaborating with their aversion to being accountable. If you solve the problem you feel good and they feel good. You are the hero who can solve the problem. They don’t have the risk of being accountable for the success of the solution. Asking them to come up with the solution helps them to think for themselves, learn and be accountable.
Written by Bob Bradley, founder of MD2MD.
At MD2MD we understand that our members and their businesses have varied needs. We have four different membership plans to choose from, each offering a unique blend of our numerous events and services.
At MD2MD we understand that different leaders and different businesses have varied needs. We have four different membership plans for you to choose from. Each membership option offers you a different blend of our varied events and services.
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