Managers: Can you pick the gorillas from the monkeys?

The other month we made the case for why managers shouldn’t take on their people’s problems, or monkeys, as we like to call them.

Today we’re going to suggest when you should take on your people’s problems. That’s because as in life, things in business are not always black-and-white.

As a manager, in 99% of cases, you probably view the monkeys that your people bring you as nothing more than bumps in the road: sure, it may not be a smooth ride to solve them, but you know that you’ll be able to navigate them with relative ease. Your employees, on the hand, may keep giving them to you because you’re so good at handling them or because they have no clue how to handle them. To your employees, the problem could as well be an impenetrable fortress! And that’s exactly why, with your guidance and support, they must handle the problem: So they can develop.

That other 1% of the time that an employee brings you a problem, however, it may be so unique that it becomes a gorilla! And in such circumstances it’s unlikely you could expect your people to handle such an issue, so it just means the problem has become a job-imposed responsibility of yours.

But where do you draw the line? Sometimes you might find yourself facing a big monkey, or a small gorilla. Do you take those problems on? Just as there’s no right or wrong way to manage, there’s no universal answer to the question, no prescription; every situation must be considered on its own. And for any manager to be well positioned to make the right judgment call, they will do so when they have ‘well-ordered priorities’.

If you can’t separate the *musts* from the *desirables*, if you can’t distinguish between what must be done today and what can wait for tomorrow, your judgment will suffer. And with poor judgment, you create a domino effect that can spread throughout the team (and business).

It all starts with having clear priorities, and it can happen in a situation as simple as when an employee brings you a problem. So ask yourself: Do you know how to pick the gorillas from the monkeys?

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