How To Break the 80 20 Rule: Getting Past Pareto For Better Results

How to Break the 80 20 Rule: Getting Past Pareto For Better Results

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. If you’re like many managers I meet, you might be tempted to throw up your hands and accept the Pareto Principle as a given. After all, you’ve got your rock stars, and others seem to be interested in doing just enough to keep their jobs.

Of course, your performance management structure counts on these slackers to make for a nice bell curve. So if your goal is to maintain a performance distribution for an easier stack rank, you can let Pareto win.

But if you want to really win well, buck the Pareto principle by engaging the rest of your team and smoking your results.

Here’s the thing. If the 80 20 rule is true, you could be leading more effectively.

You can debate with HR on performance distribution on the back-end. You’ll have an easier argument when your results are on fire.

The 80 20 Rule: How to Beat the 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


If you’ve stumbled upon this post, you’ve found some of my earliest writing. You may also want to check out some of our newer writing or download some of our FREE tools to support your leadership journey.

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