That’s the comment I have heard from countless agents bemoaning the fact that they work harder than anyone else in the agency, they are there earlier and leave later, and that they are always busy but never seem to see the end of the projects and problems.
I commiserate with their situation because it is shared by many business owners, including myself. It is so easy to be sucked into every situation and problem that occurs in your business. You want to know and keep control of all of the issues, problems and opportunities. But you would like to keep control with a light touch, reassuring yourself that your competent staff is developing the opportunities and pursuing each issue and problem to their logical conclusions.
Instead, you are often handed the problem instead of being told what the employee is doing to fix it. Many of us invite that hand-offs using our care and concern for our client as the excuse for assuming the work effort. Of course we have other excuses as well. The employee is overworked, we’re not sure they can do it, and the old stand-by: I can do it better and faster than I can teach others to do it.
What we lose sight of is that every time we assume a task that should be accomplished by others, we are eating into our own productive time; time that could and should be spent in more productive and more global management issues to make our businesses better.
One of the problems is our lack of internal management. We often come into the office in the morning with no agenda, no list of the projects and tasks that would be the best use of our time during the day. We look for a routine and for things to do. My employees have often told me that they appreciate when I am on consulting assignments to help an agency or to speak to a group. They first tell me that it makes the money that keeps the company solvent and growing. But they also admit that they can better do their jobs when I’m not sticking my nose into their projects and tasks. They know that they can always reach me for a question if they are unsure of their course. But they know that when I’m with an agent or a group, it is the wrong time to try to hand off an issue or problem.
We all share the common problem that our employees may not have that reluctance to hand off problems if we are sitting in our offices. They don’t know what we’re doing at the moment, and that minute they want to discuss an issue is often the primer for a Monkey Transfer.
Monkey Transfer is a game I used to play as a child with my friends in which we formed a circle and would hand off a ball or an object until the music stopped or time was called and the “monkey” that had the item when the time ran out had to do something with it.
We want to train, help, and coach and counsel all of our employees to handle all situations properly. We shouldn’t appreciate any employee who is communicating the issue to us with the intention of “transferring the monkey.”
Long ago, when I realized that this situation was occurring to me, I created a game called Monkey Transfer. I purchased a stuffed monkey – a large one. I gathered my employees and explained the game to them. I told them that, unlike the children’s game that kept the monkey moving around a circle, everyone in our agency had their assignments and responsibilities. I was certainly available to them to teach them if they didn’t know how to accomplish their tasks. But I was NOT there to accept the Monkey from them. I would help them but I should never be doing their jobs. Whenever they purposely or inadvertently tried to “Transfer the Monkey” to me, they would get back the task – and would be the host of our large stuffed monkey for a while.
Whoever had the monkey was clearly identified as someone who had tried to move a responsibility to me. Conversely, because I was so prone to saying, “just give it to me – I can do it better and faster,” I told them that whenever I did that when all they were seeking was advice, they could get the monkey from wherever it was and bring it to my office. I was now its keeper for a while I didn’t mean to embarrass myself for anyone else. But I wanted a visual indicator of when I or any of my employees were not doing the jobs for which we were being paid.
This program worked so well that I have continued to use it in my consultancy to teach agents and their staffs the difference between learning and guiding and “transferring the monkey.” I invite you to use this program to teach yourself and your employees how to leverage your time to its most productive use and how to make sure that everyone does what they were hired to do.