Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I was recently talking to the people I manage about how they need to help their project manager to keep the "Monkeys" of his back.
Help get the Monkeys Off your manager's back
This idea of "monkeys on the manager's back" comes from an article published by Harvard Business Review. It is one of their most requested reprints.
The article talks about tasks as "monkeys." The manager is trying to get the Monkeys off his back and onto the backs of those who work for him. Some people who work for him might try to get him involved again (like by asking him to review their work, or asking him for guidance) which puts the monkey back on the manager's back.
A helpful worker will try to keep the monkeys off of the manager's back.
The GROW Model:
We have this GROW Model of Coaching that stands for "Goal, Reality, Options, What Will you do." The GROW Model says we can tackle issues by first looking at the Goal, then looking at reality (what are the issues?), then listing the Options (what different things could be done to tackle this issue?), and then deciding What Will I do (which option is the one I propose to take). I've used a similar technique for years to encourage people who report to me to provide me with solutions (rather than problems) and their recommended path to solve the issues. If you put yourself in the position of your manger, wouldn't you want people to come to you with solution options and a recommended path?
The Freedom Ladder:
We also have this concept of the Freedom Ladder. The idea is that you need to take on more responsibility to get tasks done and be more independent. At the bottom of the ladder we have a worker who waits for instructions. The next "rung" of the ladder is a worker who asks for work. Then we progress to the next level where we have a worker who Recommends a solution and then acts on it (see the GROW Model above). The next level on the ladder is a worker who acts (does the work) and then advises the manager what was done. The top level is someone who just acts! Put yourself in your manager's "shoes" and think about which type of worker you would want working for you.
Link: http://www.chriscrofttraining.co.uk/pdf/leadership/thefre_1.pdf
It applies to email too!
I explained to this person I was coaching how these concepts also apply to email. Some people copy their manager just to show that they're getting work done, or to give the manager a FYI (For Your Information). But, managers already get so much email. One idea that I use is to think about what it's like to be my manager getting copied on my email. Does he want to receive email about this now, or would he rather that I wait until it's resolved and then get a copy of the last email in the thread so he can see the solution and closure? Or, does he need to even see this at all?
Another help for my manager: spreading around my questions
I learned a few years ago that I don't always have to go to my manager for help. I can ask others to help. By spreading around my questions, I am able to interrupt my manager less often. It also helps to make sure that my manager is not a "bottle neck" where everything needs to go through him.
But, keep in mind "balance" in all things
We also have to remember that all these things are not "hard and fast" rules that must be followed all the time. Sometimes it makes sense for all involved to ask the manager for assistance. A good example is an issue the manager can solve in 5 minutes, but if you were to go to others, or figure it out on your own, it might take hours of your time and the time of others. Clearly, in this case, it would be best to just ask your manager.
What have you found to help your manager?
Please comment or recommend this article to others. I'd like to hear how you've found ways to help your manager.

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