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Posted on 4, November 2016

in Category Decisions, leadership

We all know that this is the rule most of us live upside down – instead of getting 80% of results for our 20% of effort, we generally expend 80% of our time getting 20% of what we want.  Derived from the Pareto Principle where Vilfredo Pareto noted at the beginning of the 20th century that 20% of the population received 80% of income in Italy, this translates in number terms to meaning 80% of your outcomes come from 20% of your inputs.

The Pareto PrincipleAn interesting study carried out at the Institute of Psychiatry for Hewlett Packard in 2005 found that productivity was impaired by excessive checking of emails – employees distracted by emails and phone calls suffered a fall in IQ that doubled that found in marijuana smokers. This doesn’t seem like a productive use of time so a tip – set your email checking to once every 2 hours so you maintain focus on the tasks that make that 20% really productive.

If we think about this in terms of give and take, we want to give 20% and take 80%.  This sounds a bit selfish really.  So let’s turn it around for a minute.  If you’re taking 80% you need to get someone to give it to you.  They need to be seeing the value of giving it to you.  So spreading the value is a good start.

An example in business terms; at Smart Coaching & Training we produce a great many resources for our customers.  We will give these to you, and you, and you, and you…….. We will then receive from one or two of ‘you’ enough interest in what we do to start having a conversation about doing business together.

But!  It is not that easy.  Our resources have to be worthwhile, useful, insightful, valuable, compelling, so that you and you and you and you…. will WANT to have them.  That requires us to be thoughtful and creative about what we put in to our resources.  We need to make those 20% inputs work for us.


How does that work for leaders?  How do leaders implement an effective 80/20 rule?

Here are some tips:

Focus on the activities that give you the best outcomes. 80% of your time should be spent on the important stuff, not the panic things or the diverting things or the stuff that someone else could do better.  Determine your priorities, delegate appropriately and define your leadership focus.

Spend 80% of your time on gathering the information you need and 20% of the time in making the decision. (Most good decisions don’t need to be 100% proof in terms of data collection – there is inevitably going to be the element of ‘unknown’ and ‘instinct’).

Listen for 80% of the time. Listening gets you the information and knowledge you need to take the right actions.  Keep the talking to 20%, learn to be concise, authoritative and commanding.

 The thing to remember about the 80/20 rule and the Pareto Principle is its value in reminding us that we truly need to focus on the 20% that will make the difference.

Next time you have a leadership challenge, try a Pareto Chart.  Don’t know how and want some help?  Get in touch with us and we’ll give you a hand!