I’ve shared in a previous post that one of my favorite educational authors is Todd Whitaker, so it’s no surprise that I pre-ordered and immediately read his latest book Shifting the Monkey: the Art of Protecting Good People from Liars, Criers and other Slackers. If you’d like to read an educator’s reflection on this book, you can find one here written by Justin Tarte.
After I read Todd’s book, I was so excited to discuss it with others that I organized a Twitter chat on it and asked Todd to join us (just another great example of how great twitter is). Unfortunately, the twitter spammers jumped into the conversation and we didn’t get to chat for the entire hour (apparently the title “Shifting the Monkey” can turn into an entirely different conversation by spammers with other interests). Due to this unfortunate turn, it wasn’t worth archiving the chat, so I’m going to include some of the tweets from the conversation here:
The term “blanket monkey” refers to a message that is given to everyone that is really intended for one or two people. For example, if one or two people are showing up to work late, then don’t tell everyone in a staff meeting that they need to come to work on time. Your good people will worry, “that day I had a flat tire I was 5 minutes late, now I feel even worse” and your slackers will be thinking, “so many people are late to work, no big deal.” Instead, address those individually that you have a concern with.
A few more tips from Todd on addressing concerns individually:
The same idea applied in the classroom:
Whitaker states that “negative, poorly performing people tend to get a disproportionate amount of power, attention, and empathy. They continue to behave obnoxiously and unfairly because they’re rewarded for doing so. Who is shifting the monkeys in your building?
Everyone hates it when a new rule is made that is really intended for the one person that did something stupid. Don’t make decisions based on those people, Whitaker says to make decisions based on your best people, to treat everyone well, and protect your good people first.
As educators and leaders, Whitaker reminds us that we should constantly ask, “who carries the burden of the policy or practice?” Whether you’re in the classroom or leading an entire school, we need to pay attention to where the monkey is when we’re thinking about students, parents, and staff. As colleagues, we can help each other out: