Be Brave Engage :: Engage in NOT Throwing Monkeys

October 29, 2018

This week: Engage in NOT Throwing Monkeys > don’t just get the monkey off YOUR back.

Have you heard the saying, “Getting the Monkey off Your Back onto Someone Else’s?” It’s not that monkeys, well real-life monkeys anyway, aren’t a good thing. I take this saying to mean you’re just getting the monkey, or the work, off your back and onto someone else’s.


You may be thinking right now, “I don’t do this!” Although I agree you’re probably well intentioned, but unbeknownst to you, you throw millions of little monkeys, or at least 100’s of them, each week. Don’t believe me? Check the number of sent items in your email from yesterday. (Full disclosure, I have 78 sent items.) Admittedly, that’s a LOT of monkeys I threw out there. If I were to carefully scan these emails, I bet at least a third of these could have been sent in an email that included a few items instead of one, or better yet, I could have picked up the phone and talked to someone. And my inbox currently? Well, I can’t even begin to get a hold of all the monkeys currently sitting in there nattering away at me to respond.

You may know that I’m fan of engagement, you know, really connecting with people. I’m convinced if you started engaging with your coworkers and clients in meaningful conversations, you’d be better respected and the monkey throwing would slow down. So, how am I managing the monkeys? Here are three things I’m working on:

YELLOW LIST: grab a yellow notepad. For colleagues or clients you work with, write their name down and then start jotting down the things you need to connect with them on. Once you get three or more items on your list for them, items that aren’t incredibly time sensitive of course, send an email with the items giving them the opportunity to respond via email or to have a quick chat. If you could cut your sent items AND your inbox down by 1/3, wouldn’t you love that? Less monkeys! (BTW, Juliet Funt has an incredible company called White Space at Work which is amazing and where the Yellow List idea came from)

2-DIMENSIONAL and 3-DIMENSIONAL CONTACT: “You’re getting a transfer!” “You’re getting let go.” “Your house is burning down.” These are examples of 3 Dimensional (3D) or very important topics, but so many times, we resort to 2 Dimensional (2D) forms of communications like email, a text, or a staff memo. “Can you pick up milk?” “Don’t forget to get the tires changed!” “There are cookies in the staff room.” These are 2D topics or less important and we don’t necessarily need 3D forms of communications like holding a staff meeting, having an in-person meeting, or hosting a stakeholder engagement session. Consider implementing 2D conversations for 2D topics, and 3D conversations for 3D topics. Prioritize these dastardly little monkeys.

YOU WANT SOMETHING? TALK TO THE PERSON: on a project I’m working on, I needed some key players of the organization to provide some information to me. The issues?

  • these people are busy!!!
  • I was only able to give them limited amounts of time to complete the project.
  • I didn’t want to have to herd cats and send reminder email after reminder email after….

In contacting each person, I explained what I was looking for, asked permission to send them the request, and confirmed that my timeline would fit into their schedule. I connected with 15 people and it took me no more than 30 minutes. The fun part? Some people were blown away that I had picked up the phone, explained the project and its importance, and asked if they could fit this in to their lives. It was so easy. And the best part? I’m at a 90% return rate from these busy professionals sending in their information. It’s not magic, it’s just not throwing monkeys.

If we can all resort to less monkey throwing in the weeks ahead, we’ll better engage with our colleagues and clients, and we’ll have more time to plan, prioritize, and think about what we need to accomplish. Happy Monkey-free Monday!