Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review: Shifting the Monkey ... by Todd Whitaker

Titi monkeys

Don’t you hate it when bloggers start off a post with a cliche’ or tired, overused phrase?  


I’m starting that way today.

Get ready for the tired phrase ….

If you read only one book about human resources / people management this year [that was it] read Todd Whitaker’s Shifting the Monkey: The Art of Protecting Good People From Liars, Criers, and Other Slackers.  

I’ve written many book reviews over the years but I’ve never used the “if you read only one” line before.  However, this book earns the cliche’.  In simple, easy to understand principles and examples Whitaker will change the way you manage people.  His basic principle is this - place responsibility (the monkey) where it belongs - on the back of the responsible party and don’t allow the responsible party to move his monkey onto someone else’s back.  In Whitaker’s words, “Shifting the monkey may sound like a zoo keeper’s technique, but it’s actually a powerful way to look at leading and living” (page 7).

Throughout the book Whitaker urges leaders to do three things 1) Treat everyone well, 2) Make decisions based on your best people and, 3) Protect your good people first.  To do these things the good leader must learn “to recognize the out-of-place monkey’s and then shift them back to their right owners” page 28.  The entire book is full of examples of wrongly-placed monkeys and tips on putting them where they belong - squarely on the backs of your slackers, latecomers, and other poor performers.

In chapter 7 Whitaker identifies some common monkeys and is particularly helpful to the school based leader.  His examples brought to mind several former principals I had served under as well as instances when I had been guilty handing out monkeys. Todd gave me permission to talk about my favorite monkeys in more detail.  See if you recognize any of them.  

The Blanket Monkey -
“ We use the Blanket Monkey when we want to avoid dealing with someone directly - like the employee who never arrives at the meeting on time, or turns in sloppy paperwork, or doesn’t turn it in at all.  Instead of dealing with these people individually, we try to correct the problem by addressing an entire group and putting the monkey on everyone’s back.”

The Rule Monkey -
“The Rule Monkey … the leader creates a new policy that makes more work for those who did nothing wrong.” “Leaders who use the Rule Monkey are under the impression that you can control a person’s behavior with rules.”  

The Avoidance Monkey -
“Leaders who use the Avoidance Monkey think they can manage without engaging in any potentially challenging situations.”

The Yelling Monkey -
“The Yelling Monkey is used by leaders who deal with everyone and everything by force: by trying to be loud and obnoxious.”

The Blame Monkey -
The Blame Monkey is used by leaders who operate as if nothing is ever their fault; all problems are laid at someone else’s feet.  

The Pouting Monkey -
“People who use the Pouting Monkey become aloof or withdrawn in a silent expression of resentment when they’re upset about something.” 

The Arguing Monkey -
“The Arguing Monkey is handed out by people who are great at arguing.  They love to confront others, take exception to just about anything, and flat-out contradict others.”

Whitaker gives readers tips on how to deal with each one of these monkeys - and the ones that didn’t make my list - but you’ll have to buy the book to see his solutions - this is only a review after all.  A great resource for school and business leaders.  I highly recommend that you add Shifting to your summer reading list.  

The link below will take you to the print and Kindle versions of the book on Amazon*

* Disclosure - I was not paid for this review - I purchased my copy of the book - however, I will receive a small commission if you purchase a copy using the link provided above.  


  1. The Blanket Monkey is so frustrating. It was a favorite of my previous administrator. I love Todd Whitaker, thanks for the review.

  2. This reminds me of the ONE MINUTE MANAGER MEETS THE MONKEY by Blanchard?????



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