Monkey at the top

“Once upon a time, there was an uprising in the jungle. All the animals revolted and decided that there has to be a democracy to decide who should be the king. Elections were held and all the animals together elected “Monkey” as the king of the jungle. The lion was shown the door and Monkey was placed on the throne. Everyone was happy and contented with the outcome. 

One fine morning mamma deer lost her child, she was worried and looked everywhere but could not find him. She consulted her neighbour “the rabbit” who suggested that she should go to the king and ask for his help to find the child. She liked the idea and went to the Monkey and said -“O king – My child is lost, you must help me find him as you’re the king”. Monkey, on hearing this started jumping from one tree to the other. He would climb up and down the tree, jump from one branch to another repeating this for many different trees. This continued till evening, finally, the mother was fed up and inquired what he was doing while her son was still lost. Monkey replied…..

“Sure your son is still not found however I am doing the best I can. There’s no dearth of efforts on my part.”

Mother fainted..”

This story is not a comment on the democracy but the selection of people at the top. In many organizations today we find a similar situation where we have the Monkey at the top. How does it matter? think of the lost child as the “Problem statement” facing the organization. When you sit and discuss the lost child, Monkey at the top will either refuse to acknowledge that the child is lost or get involved in the multiple activities unrelated to the problem statement. The mother (The organization) will eventually faint ( loose)

How do you identify whether you have a Monkey at the top?

Monkeys are sweet talker, that’s how he became the king in the first place however they are clearly identifiable by their actions. Many of these actions are actually liked by the mother without realizing that they are causing harm in the long run. The signs to look for to identify that you have a Monkey at the top are

  1. You have a Monkey at the top if there are multiple review meetings. In some organization this is considered to be a very good practice, more the number of reviews more it is viewed as a sign of professionalism. In reality, they are nothing but the Monkey jumping from one tree to the other without any result.
  2. You have a Monkey at the top if the solution to all the problems is an MIS or dashboard. This is a classic, 5 people are called to a meeting to discuss a specific problem and after 2 hours of discussion, all of them come out with 2 MISs each to make. This is Monkey’s way of showing the mother how hard he’s trying.
  3. You have a Monkey at the top If there are multiple iterations but no closure. This is the ultimate test of a leader i.e. “decision making”. A Monkey at the top will never make a decision on a proposal, especially when it comes from below. Most of the times he won’t say no but will frustrate with multiple iterations and suggestions until the other person gives up.
  4. You have a Monkey at the top if he doesn’t listen and thrusts his own ideas. If there are 100 people in the organization, all of them have something to say. A Monkey at the top will make sure that they lose their voice and only listen.
  5. You have a Monkey at the top If the organization is not generating breakthrough Ideas. This is a long term impact of having a Monkey at the top as it is not easy to kill the thinking ability of an entire organization. Above points have to be practised by him for a long time to reach this stage.
  6. You have a Monkey at the top If your organization feels that jumping and dancing together on Friday will lead to employee engagement and retention. More Monkeys more dancing occasions. Employee engagement has never been a factor of how many HR events you conduct in the organization but how you value each and every employee. The best way is to respect and appreciate them for their Ideas. Such organizations have better employee engagement than the one conducting most Friday events.

Having identified Monkey at the top, what should you do? If you’re above the Monkey, replace him immediately and if you’re below him, change the organization. That’s what the animals did in the jungle, they threw the Monkey out and brought back the Lion. 

I’m told that the baby deer is found and the monkey is doing just fine..

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