top of page
  • Writer's pictureBrett Jaffe

3 Ways to Give Back the Monkey

Being a valuable resource for your direct reports can be critical to successfully managing your team. It can also be a time waster of epic proportions.

I was recently working with a company on a major time management issue. We discovered the root cause of the problem was not only the abuse of the “open door” policy of the leadership team, but the fact that, in many cases, they would simply “take the monkey” from their direct reports and assume the burden of the task because they thought that was most efficient.

In most companies, everybody is busy. It is natural for people to seek the path of instant gratification and least resistance, but this was coming at the expense of key leaders being able to focus on company growth and goals they had set.

We decided on a three-pronged approach to begin to push back on these interruptions without impacting morale:

  1. Question. Answering a question with a question will re-frame the context of the request. Simply telling your direct reports to “bring you solutions and not problems” can come off as abrasive. However, answering “How do I fix this problem” with “What have you tried so far?” can empower your employees to seek answers themselves.

  2. Coach. Take the time to meet with your direct reports to find out how you can really help long-term. This could simply be a result of a training issue or confidence problem. Ask deeper questions and listen to their responses. Invest the time up front.

  3. Set boundaries. If you are in the middle of a project, heading into a meeting, or have other important items to address first, let them know. Ask them if it is critical or if you can shelve the ad-hoc request until later. You may find that having to wait for an answer drives resourcefulness.

The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you've made a hiring mistake. - Jim Collins, Good to Great

If you have tried the above and still have the same issues, you may find that you simply have the wrong person for the job. If you have people who are not self-motivated and continue to bring you their monkeys, it is time to make a change.

Brett Jaffe is a business coach, mentor, speaker, and EOS Implementer. He can be reached at


Commenting has been turned off.

About Six Keys Group

We take businesses through a process of Vision, Strategy, Execution, and Impact through a combined approach encompassing meeting facilitation, teaching, 1-on-1 coaching, and consulting.  There are some key business tenets found in major operating systems including Scaling Up and EOS along with unique needs of each business where we draw from various strategic sources.



bottom of page