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Stop the attack of Upward Jumping Monkeys!

Stop the attack of Upward Jumping Monkeys!

May 18, 2017

Upward Jumping Monkey, Noun. a project or job that moves from a team member of lesser responsibility and experience, to one of greater responsibility and experience, thereby exhausting and depleting the latter team member. 

Each day, when employees come to you with problems they can’t resolve, they are taking the “monkeys” from their backs and letting them jump onto yours. Issue after issue, problem after problem, the “Upward Jumping Monkeys” pile up and keep you from moving forward.

Sounds familiar?

We’ll if you’re like nearly every leader I’ve met, I can guarantee that this affects you to some degree or another.

So how do you keep those “Upward Jumping Monkeys” from landing on your back?

Maybe you're thinking “monkey repellent”. Lock yourself in your office and spray away. Just ignore all of the issues piling up on you or simply dump them back onto your employee and run.

Let me tell you, it won’t get you very far.

The only way to solve the attack of upward jumping monkeys is through mastering one skill with your team: The Art of Accountability.

Download your free ebook, Mastering the Art of Accountability and learn the 6 steps to creating a sense of accountability, ownership, and urgency with your team. 

Here’s the place to start. It’s actually you.

See, Upward Jumping Monkeys have a favorite food. It’s called Learned Helplessness. If your team member knows that they can depend on your to solve their problem at the slightest hint of a pickle, you’ve created “Learned Helplessness”.

Think about this. How can one control an elephant? Adult elephants can carry up to 9,000 kilograms (19,841 lbs!) The answer starts when there a baby. Elephant trainers tie the baby elephant to a post. The baby elephant tries to pull away, but the chain is stronger than he. Eventually, the elephant stops trying.

The elephant grows up, but because it’s so ingrained in him that he can’t break free, he doesn’t even attempt to rip the puny peg out of the ground. (Which, of course, he could easily do.) This is the power of Learned Helplessness.

How does Learned Helplessness happen in business? It’s the Pitfall of the Uber-Responsible.

When you’re growing your business, you’re the main go-to guy. You can fix any problem and you’re the address for every question. The bottom line depends on you, so you take more responsibility than anyone else. If you’re helpful by nature, watch out, you may set yourself up for a monkey cage without even knowing it.

A common mistake many leaders make is that they allow themselves to be so helpful that they become enablers, forging dysfunctional, co-dependent relationships. When parents do their children's homework for them, when families of alcoholics make excuses and handle their responsibilities, or when you, as a leader, solve all of your employees’ problems, you aren’t enabling growth and learning.

Instead, you are communicating that you like being wanted and needed. For some leaders, this is the result of arrogance, while for others, it’s insecurity. Either way, it doesn’t work. The name of the game in the workplace is to focus on the two C’s: shifting control and improving their core competence.

David Marquet, author of Turn the Ship Around: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders, put it very well:

“The leader who gives up control gains more power and influence than the one who keeps it.”

Can You Say No to “Upward Jumping Monkeys?”

Yes, you can - if you are ready to dump your ego. Your ego is not your amigo. You can begin by telling yourself again and again, ‘I will not shoulder everyone’s problems,’ ‘I will not shoulder everyone’s problems.’ Remember, the more people become dependent on you to solve their problems, the less initiative they will take.

Your employees are quite talented people. You hired them, right? They can shoulder their own responsibilities at home and at the office as well. Let them. And give them feedback.

Download your free ebook, Mastering the Art of Accountability and learn the 6 steps to creating a sense of accountability, ownership, and urgency with your team. 

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,