An Office Full Of Monkeys

This article is a practical explanation of Empowerment in action

Excerpted from an interview with Are Traasdahl, CEO of Tapad, an advertising company.

“When you’re a manager and you have a lot of people working for you, they’re often coming to your office with problems. They have a monkey on their shoulder. Your only goal as a manager is that when they walk out of your office, they’re going to take their monkey with them.

In the beginning I would say: “Of course, I’ll help you with that. Let me take your monkey.” Before you know it, your office is filled with monkeys. You feel you’re helping your employees by taking all their monkeys, but you’re not, because you want to empower them.

“Have you thought about it this way? Maybe this person over here can help you. Should I give you more resources? Should I help out with removing some roadblocks?” If you empower them to solve their own problems, they will grow, and you will avoid having an office full of monkeys.

I’ve had some supersmart people who were first-time managers, and I would ask them, “How many monkeys do you have in your office?” They’d say: “Oh, now I remember. I have so many monkeys. I’ve got to get them out of my office.”