Here’s another question to think about… do you find yourself doing other people’s work?  If your answer is yes, you might just have a monkey on your back.  Realistically, this happens to all of us – we frequently take on the “monkeys” or the problems of the day from other people in the workplace!  So if you are busy taking the monkey and other people’s work on each day, when are you getting your own work done?

Now picture this scenario … someone comes into your office or catches you in the hallway and asks you a question.  What do you do?  Let me take a guess … without even thinking your first instinct is to answer their question, give them advice or better yet solve the problem for them, and maybe even add something else to your to-do list.  You are an expert after all, and sometimes it is just easier to do it yourself!  So who is really working hard in this scenario?

If this sounds familiar you are not alone!  Getting the monkey off your back requires a fundamental shift in thinking around how we develop people for the future, moving from a managing mindset to a “coaching mindset” in the workplace.

A coaching mindset focuses on transferring the ownership for problem-solving and the development of solutions back to the employee.  Transferring the ownership is like giving the monkey back, as well as the responsibility for thinking and problem solving.

Managers with a coaching mindset spend more time facilitating the problem solving in others versus doing the problem solving.  These developmental conversations support people to think, learn and develop solutions for forward action through a questioning process.  This approach not only contributes to building capability in others, it takes the pressure off the manager to be the expert and solve all the problems of the day.

What I hear most often in the coaching skills training sessions that I deliver is that manager’s don’t have time to coach.  The training explores the impact of taking the monkey which can lead to more work for the manager, increased dependency of the employee, lack of creativity and new ideas, and lack of ownership, buy-in and engagement.  The most significant however, is the lack of learning, growth and development for the employee.  The coaching mindset builds capability for the long term.

In his book Quiet Leadership, David Rock makes a great point related to this concept.  He says that “doing the thinking for other people is not just a waste of our own energy; it also gets in the way of other people working out the right answers for themselves.”  

Adopting a coaching mindset requires that we think differently about our role in developing people.  Here are some tips towards adopting a coaching mindset and holding developmental conversations in the workplace:

  1. Acknowledge the person as capable of solving their own problem (Hold them capable!)
  2. Ask the person for their thoughts, ideas and solutions
  3. Engage the person in thinking, learning and developing solutions by asking more questions
  4. Transfer the ownership for action – Don’t take the monkey!

In summary, I will close with the motto from Cheryl Smith, Master Certified Coach (MCC) and Co-Founder of Leadscape Learning“Make the coachee do the work!”

Check out the EXPEDITION Coaching Program training options:  Upcoming Training

Further reading:

Shana Ring

Shana Ring is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), President of Destination Leadership, and Founder of the EXPEDITION Coaching Program. She focuses on providing leadership coaching, coaching training, and consulting in the area of coaching and culture change, succession planning, leadership development and organizational effectiveness.


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