HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW

Management Time: Who's Got the Monkey?

The Idea in Brief

You're racing down the hall. An employee stops you and says, “We've got a problem.” You assume you should get involved but can't make an on-the-spot decision. You say, “Let me think about it.”

You've just allowed a “monkey” to leap from your subordinate's back to yours. You're now working for your subordinate. Take on enough monkeys, and you won't have time to handle your real job: fulfilling your own boss's mandates and helping peers generate business results.

How to avoid accumulating monkeys? Develop your subordinates' initiative, say Oncken and Wass. For example, when an employee tries to hand you a problem, clarify whether he should: recommend and implement ...

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