The Art of Delegating – don’t take the monkey!

Ground Rules for Handling Monkeys

George has come to me for help so I'm going to have to give it to him. I say, "What can I do for you?" And he says (shoving that card toward me), "Fred, I've worked for two hours down in my office trying to figure out whose pile this card goes in. Which pile do you want me to put it in?" (What happened to all the “reflex training” I gave you? Look! The monkey is poised in mid-air!)  

I push that card back away from me. (I want to demonstrate to you the super-human quality I acquired that Saturday morning when; by divine intervention, I became a professional manager ­which enabled me to overcome my curiosity as to what was on that card.) Then I say to him, "George, if I'm going to be of help to you, I think you have to understand the ground rule that I received by revelation on Saturday morning. It is this: that at no time while I am helping you with your problem will your problem become my problem, because the minute that your problem be­comes my problem, you will no longer have a problem, and I can't help a man who doesn't have a problem. And I love to help people! Is that understood, George?"

He says. "Yes, Sir." I say, "Fine. What can I do for you? I have all day, and my brains are at your disposal." He shoves that card at me a second time and says, "Fred, which pile does this card go into?" So I succumb to my curiosity as to what's on that card. When I pick it up and look at it, I smile. I don't know which pile this card goes into either; so now that's two of us! So I say to him, "George, you wouldn't believe this: I don't know which pile this card goes in, either." So he says, "Stancombe, does that mean that you cannot help me?" I say, "George, it means nothing of the kind. Now while I don't know any more than you do which pile this card goes in, I do know which pile I would deal that card into if I were in your shoes. Rightly or wrongly I would deal that card into your pile." He gets up, picks up the card, and with a sigh of relief, he says, "Stancombe, thanks so much. There I was in my office for two hours trying to make this decision, and here I am in your office for only five minutes, and we've got that decision made. Thank you!" And I say, "Wait a minute, George. Wait a minute! We decided nothing! All I said was what I would do if I were in your shoes. But I want to remind you that I am not now in your shoes, and I have no immediate career plans in that direction. So I cannot wait until tomorrow morning with baited breath to see which pile you will deal that card into."

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