New Questions For Managing Monkeys

You end up overwhelmed, under-appreciated, and angry, if you own other people’s monkeys.

Someone walks into your office with an issue – a monkey. Make sure they walk out with their monkey.


Pronouns explain ownership. Don’t use ‘we’ when you mean ‘you’.

3 pronouns:

  1. ‘You’ – The monkey stays in their zoo. They own the issue. Responsibilities are theirs.
  2. ‘We’ – The monkey is shared. “We will fix this.” Responsibilities are shared. Beware of adding unnecessary layers of complexity by sharing too many monkeys with team members.
  3. ‘I’ – The monkey moves to your cage. You own this issue. Responsibilities are yours.

Useful endings:

The end of a coaching conversation is the moment to clarify goals, deadlines, and responsibilities. Who does what, by when?

An office manager taught me how to structure questions around responsibility.

  • ‘What do you need to do to move the ball forward?’ (The monkey is theirs.)
  • ‘What do you need from me to move the ball forward?’ (Shared ownership of the monkey.)
  • ‘What do I need to do to move the ball forward?’ (The monkey is yours.)

“The way you structure a question determines the response.” Brandie Moroskie

Accountability question:

‘What do you want me to ask you the next time we meet?’

  1. Write their accountability question down.
  2. Modify their question, if necessary. ‘I’ll also ask about … .’
  3. Ask it during your next coaching conversation.

How might managers and leaders manage their monkeys?

How might leaders clarify ownership and responsibility?