How the 80/20 Leadership Method Could Level-Up Your Career

80 20 Leadership rule

The 80/20 rule states that 80% of outcomes are determined by 20% of input. When applied to management, though, according to best-selling author Richard Koch who wrote a book on the technique, it’s the secret to working less and achieving more.

In a nutshell, the ‘80/20 manager’ strategy is to focus only on the issues that really matter, achieving exceptional results and feeling successful every day while working less hard in fewer hours.

Jonathan Shroyer, Chief CX Innovation Officer of Arise Virtual Solutions, a fan of the method, describes it as focusing on the 20% of tasks or activities that yield 80% of the results. The result, he says, is that you become a more effective leader.

Image: Getty Images

“It can and should be applied by all business leaders, but can be used by anyone in both their professional and personal lives,” he says. “It better allows us to allocate our time and resources effectively. When we use this approach, we can better focus our efforts on the most important projects or tasks that will have the greatest impact on our lives.”

Ahead, Shroyer breaks down the ‘80/20 manager’ technique into five steps.

Spend 80% Time on 20% of the Most Important Work

“As a leader, it’s essential to discern the tasks that have the highest impact on the organisation’s success,” he says. “The suggestion here is that leaders should devote the bulk of their time — 80% — to those critical 20% of tasks or strategic initiatives. By doing this, they can drive significant results with focused effort.”

Spend 80% Time Listening and 20% Speaking

“This principle speaks to the importance of leaders as listeners,” says Schroyer. “To understand team dynamics, uncover innovative ideas, and make informed decisions, leaders should spend more time — 80% — actively listening to their team members and less time — 20% — speaking. This fosters a culture of inclusivity and mutual respect.”

Spend 80% Time Coaching Your Top 20% Performers

This guideline recommends investing most of your leadership development resources and time in nurturing the top performers who are likely to contribute disproportionately to the organisation’s success explains Shroyer.

“It’s not about neglecting the rest, but about ensuring that high-potential individuals get the attention and development they need to thrive,” he says.

Spend 80% Asking Questions and 20% Providing Answers

“Leaders can often fall into the trap of believing they need to have all the answers,” he says.

“This principle turns that notion on its head, suggesting that leaders should spend most of their time soliciting insights, opinions, and ideas from their teams and less time providing answers. This encourages a more collaborative and learning-focused environment.”

Spend 80% Time Praising and 20% Being Critical

Finally, while constructive feedback is vital, this principle underscores the power of positive reinforcement in leadership, Shroyer says.

“It suggests that leaders should spend most of their time recognizing and acknowledging the good work of their teams, creating a positive and motivating work environment,” he says. “The remaining time can be devoted to constructive feedback, which is crucial for growth and improvement.”

Related: Ever Wondered What Career Coaches Do (and If You Need or Should Be One)?

Related: How Can You Use the Latest Career Trend ‘Rage Applying’ to Your Advantage?

Read more stories from The Latch and subscribe to our email newsletter.