One hundred and seven years ago, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto put forth the idea of the 80/20 principle. In his time, this principle was applied to land ownership and even pea pods. Infamous time hacker, best selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek and life guru, Tim Ferriss, has applied Pareto’s 80/20 principle to productivity, efforts and time wasters. According to Ferriss, 80 percent of your productivity comes from 20 percent of your efforts. Does this mean that one is not truly productive 80 percent of the time? Not entirely, but it does mean that a manager must survey his team to determine what part, if any, the 80/20 principle is applicable to organizational and team successes. It would be great if all organizations could achieve their vision in just 4 hours a week, but most require a traditional 40-hour workweek and the requisite environment that goes with it.
Highly functioning organizations can harness the best efforts and productivity of the team by stoking the embers of the already high-functioning 20 percent. This requires leadership of the transformational variety, a clear vision of the end result by all team members and the best abilities of the manager to implement it without completing ignoring the other 80 percent. With very few exceptions, any successful 21st Century organization requires a “brain” type atmosphere and mentality. A brain type atmosphere should not be confused with groupthink. When best applied, a brain type atmosphere is the fostering, nurturing, and development of ideas among talented, dedicated employees, and is paramount to the survivability and success of any team and organization.
In keeping with the 80/20 principle, 20 percent of an organization must be led and the other 80 percent must be managed to ensure any kind of organizational success. Twenty percent of the team can also take up 80 percent of the manager’s time in a negative way. Properly applied leadership can negate these negative effects and enhance the productivity of the many without regard to the issues of a select few. As one of our nation’s finest leaders, Colin Powell, advised, never be afraid to fire those who are not a good organizational fit or are detrimental in nature.
How does a modern-day manager and leader in training manage the possible benefits of 107-year-old theories and life experts like Tim Ferriss? Regular self-assessment of your managerial and leadership styles, successes, and failures, serve as a viable means of accountability and measurement. The best that any leader can hope for is to have made a difference in the lives of those who work for them. The greatest success for any leader is to have inspired one of their subordinates to become a better leader than them and continue the mentoring relationship. As with anything in life, leadership is a work in progress with many victories and lessons-learned.
Make everyday as a manager and leader an opportunity to add chapters to your own best-selling, life changing, 4 or 40-hour workweek. I’m sure Tim Ferriss would welcome the competition and company.