How Many Monkeys Are You Carrying?

  • How Many Monkeys Are You Carrying?

    How Many Monkeys Are You Carrying?

    I was engaged in a leadership coaching session and suddenly became aware of how sad the person looked as he talked about his life at work.  His frame was hunched over, his eyes had lost their sparkle, and his speech was slower than usual.

    Monkeys On Your Back

    My image was of a chap carrying a full size army rucksack full of bricks around on his back.

    leadership behaviours He had regrown his beard.  This was something that we had talked about previously. The beard acted as a natural self-defence mechanism. This was a way of hiding from the world, or at least keeping it at a safe distance.  But what was causing this change in leadership behaviour?

    His conversation was fixated upon the negative aspects of his working life.  He loves his work. It’s the people around him, and the environment that seemed to be undermining him.




    Focusing on the Positive

    We took time out to look at the issues that were on his mind. The interesting self observation was that he estimated that the negative feelings took up about 30% of his thinking time leaving the other 70% for positive more satisfying activity. And yet in the previous hour he had talked about little else.

    Further reflection established that in fact these thoughts were running in the background most of the time.  Fear and self-doubt figured large in his field of view.  This sapped his energy and lead to unrest and disquiet in other key aspects of his life and affecting his leadership behaviours.

    Even the positive aspects of the dialogue were tinged with negative thoughts. He was stuck! His inner game was truly at work.

    I took a moment to explain Tim Gallwey’s notion of the inner game about self talk and the opponent inside his head doing its level best to undermine his good work at every turn.  This resonated with him. I noticed a faint glint of realisation in his eye.

    His awareness raised we moved on the conversation on to focus upon the “70%” and began to reflect upon what he had control or influence over in his work, and how much he contributed that was strong and positive and influenced his approach to leadership.

    leadership values

    Permission to Act

    That moved us on to the ground of authority and permission to act.  He began to explore what was possible, and what scope he had to act to change his perception about his environment. As he did so his frame began to expand, he became more animated, and he began to smile.

    The smile was infectious. It impacted the vocabulary that he was using and the energy with which he was engaging in conversation with me.  He was now taking responsibility for his own sense of direction.

    There was clearly a growing realisation that he was indeed in control and that he could silence his inner critic. In so doing this gave him a sense of renewed confidence to take on his programme of work and make choices, and take decisions that gave him more autonomy than he initially believed that he had in his role.

    Self Belief

    This was a transformation of thinking and belief in a short space of time.

    A sense of ease and accomplishment came across in his tone, and his body language.

    One by one he had lifted the weight of bricks from his metaphorical rucksack. He was now travelling light.leadership

    A renewed sense of purpose and a simple and clear plan was all that he needed to give him the commitment that he needed to act upon to change his leadership behaviours.

    We help business leaders to align their own values and behaviours to grow successful high performing businesses.

    Supporting Change

    How many bricks are you carrying in your rucksack today? To find out more about how we can help you with your challenges contact us


    We help individuals and teams to purposefully reflect upon their current challenges, identify practical and pragmatic ways of getting balance back into the demands upon your life, and deliver positive results in life and work.

    Our one to one support will help you to cut through to the nub of your personal, and organisational challenges and help you to facilitate a way forward that will give you: –

    • Clarity around the key business issues that you are facing and a clear plan to tackle them
    • New capabilities, and capacity to meet future challenges 
    • Greater personal job satisfaction
    • Strategies to deal more effectively with difficult people or situations in your working life