A New Look at the 80/20 Rule

There are many versions of the 80/20 rule. One that intrigues me is from the Gallup Organization. Their extensive research revealed that the very best managers spend 80% of their time with the top 20% of their performers. They have learned that the highest return on invested time comes from their best performers.

Now, if you are not one of the top performers in your organization, this may upset you. I wouldn’t worry. In the work that I do, I’ve discovered that there are precious few managers who actually put this into practice. Most spend the majority of their time putting out the fires set by their lower 80%.

A more interesting exploration would be to consider how you can become one of the Top 20 performers by applying the Gallup findings to your work, even if you are not a manager. This investigation might begin with the following question:

What if you made it a point to spend 80% of your focus on the top 20% of the performers you rely on at work?

If you want to take your work to a level of deep satisfaction, spending time with your Top 20 is a quick and sustainable way to do so. Let’s face it, most of our attention is on what (or who) isn’t working. This focus keeps us in varying stages of frustration and annoyance. When you stay focused on the non-performers, you very quickly begin to feel as if you are surrounded by incompetence.

If, on the other hand you focus with appreciation on the Top 20, you begin to experience being in the flow—things are working and you feel as if you are surrounded by supportive and highly competent people.

Hmmmm. What might this all look like?

• When someone delivers what you want, you take the time to stop and acknowledge it, preferably with a big grin on your face.

• When someone doesn’t deliver as expected, you acknowledge that you’ve hit a bump, allow a flash of frustration and then ask yourself or them, “What do we need to do to move forward as planned?”

• When your body is telling you that negative emotions have taken hold, you stop and ask, “What percentage of my day is going well and who has helped to make that happen?” Most of the time, if you’re being honest, it will be a majority percentage and you’ll gain perspective. You’ll recognize that members of your Top 20 have come through again. If instead you realize the majority of your day is not going well, take a time-out and do what you need to get back into the flow.

• Go on a rampage of appreciation for your Top 20—often. These are the people who make work a pleasant experience. The more you appreciate them, both in your mind and to them verbally, the more productive you will become. As a bonus, work will be easier.

When you make a decision to focus on the Top 20 in your work, not only will work become much more satisfying, you will get much better at what you do and ultimately earn your way into your boss’ Top 20. There are a few reasons for this:

• You’ll become a more positive person and data shows that workers who are easy to be around earn more money, promotions and opportunities than those who negative employees.
Your Top 20 will do more for you because you are appreciative and so easy to work with. The more they do, the better your work.

The Law of Attraction says, “You attract more of what you focus on.” By focusing on the top 20% of the performers who help you do your work, your experience will be at least 80% positive and 20% less so. There’s an 80/20 rule we could ALL easily live with!
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