How to Break the 80 20 Rule

According to the 80 20 Rule, 20% of your team is carrying 80% of the load. If that’s the case, 80% could do substantially more. Have you come to accept the Pareto Principle as a given?

Of course, your performance management structure counts these slackers to make for a nice bell curve. So maybe it’s easier to just let it go. If the 80 20 rule is true, you could be leading better. You should be leading better.
 Buck Pareto.
Break the 80 20 Rule.
Engage the rest of the team.
Smoke your results.

Debate with HR on performance distribution on the back-end.

5 Ways to Beat the 80 20 Odds

1. Dig deep into the top 20%

  • Understand the source of their commitment
  • Recruit your rock stars to inspire the rest of the team

2. Create a Passionate Rally Cry

  • Connect everyone to the vision
  • Put everyone in the game
  • Do the math, determine what you need EVERY person to do.
  • Communicate what you need from every member of the team.

3. Understand What Works

  •  Observe best practices
  •  Look for specific nuances
  •  Share stories
  • Model and Celebrate behaviors

4. Spend Time With the Outliers

  • Identify the skeptics
  • Understand their fears
  • Observe their behaviors
  • Celebrate turnarounds
  • Turn skeptics into teachers

5. Develop Skills and Confidence

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Posted in Results & Execution and tagged , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.


  1. Awesome list!!!

    Here are a couple things that can help after a leader has done what you suggest here.

    Stop asking in meetings for volunteers to take on task/assignments. I’ll often talk with an outlier before a meeting explaining an idea I have. I’ll ask if we decide at the meeting to move forward, would they be comfortable if I put them in charge.

    In group settings, rarely will I say, “What does anyone think about that?” I’ll say directly, “Jim, what do you think about that?” I keep mental “score” of who has contributed in a meeting and who hasn’t.

    I need to keep working on this though. I really want to keep studying this list for awhile. There is a lot here I need to improve on. Thank you for this post, it’s absolutely stellar.

  2. Great post, Karin!

    I completely agree with understanding what drives the top performers and recruiting them to motivate the team. I have had great success with top performers being the ambassadors of the vision.

    I think another aspect of this is adjusting your leadership on the individual level. You can have greater success when you develop relationships with individual team members and at some level “cater” to their style. Don’t misunderstand this. I’m not recommending that leaders cater to every wish of the employee. However, if a leader shows interest in the individual and is willing to bend on small things in their favor, the return on that investment can often deliver great results.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Stephen, thanks so much for joining the conversation! Great to see you here. Totally agree with you… meeting each person where they are is vital

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  4. Poor old Vilfredo, I don’t think he meant this rule to apply to everything 🙂

    I’d be a ‘plus one’ for point 4, ‘Spend Time With the Outliers’
    ,,, and with a particular focus on ‘Turn sceptics into teachers’.

    The more passionate the sceptic the bigger the reward when you ‘convert them’ in my experience delivering major change.

    I also like under #5, ‘Recognize every little win’.
    Emotion is the key to success and positive emotion is attractive. Its also healthy for us (which is also attractive) thus creative a virtuous cycle.

    (what a great time I’ve had via your posts today Karin, many thanks)

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