The 30-70 Rule in Leading and Managing

July is quickly coming to an end. When I looked at my calendar earlier this week, the 07.30 numbering for today triggered a thought: I have not yet told you about the 70-30 Rule in managing and leading, have I.

‘Rule’ is a short, compact, easy word to remember and so that’s what we call it, but it is more of a guideline, and a goal Alaka‘i managers will commit to achieving. It goes like this:

A manager will both manage and lead. They will be most effective at achieving results which matter when 30% of their time is dedicated to leading, and 70% of their time is devoted to managing.

We manage and lead every single day. What constantly shifts is the amount we will be working at each one, devoting X amount of time to managing, and Y amount of time to leading.

When we feel we are compelled to curtail our management actions a bit and start leading more, we are beginning to get impatient ”“ the good kind of impatience (in contrast to the not-as-good impatience of micromanagement.) We have an idea about something, and it is about how we want the future to be different in some way than how things are right now.

Something else has happened as the idea grew in intensity: We can no longer come up with any good reason to wait.

Leadership is Why and When

We have spoken of the differences between management and leadership at length (as we define them in our Managing with Aloha ‘Language of Intention’). As we think about the 30-70 Rule, let’s keep within the context of what we have most recently discussed here:

Leadership is Why and When: Leading is about acting on your good impatience for a new idea, one you fully realize will lead to change. Dedicate 30% of your time and effort to this leading.

Management is What and How: Managing then, will be about the execution of what it takes, and how it must be done for your visionary idea to become our new reality.
Dedicate 70% of your time and effort to this managing.

Learn to measure effort

I’m guessing your first question might be, “Why 30-70? How did you come up with that?”

Very early in my management career it became crystal clear that I had to learn to measure using a variety of expected business metrics. Many of us will learn to measure results (sales reports, profit and loss, ROI) and we will learn to measure work performance (annual performance reviews, incentive and commissioning programs). However there was always a lot of frustration woven in all these systems and processes of fairly standard business measurements for me. It is a frustration I see play out over and over again across industries and at all managerial levels within organizational hierarchies. We measure what we are expected to, not fully understanding why we bother, and how it can really help us.

We learn these metrics connected to financial results and work performance as industry or corporate rules and conventions: They are given to us as expectations. However we will rarely learn enough (if anything) about the cause and effect chain reactions which lead up to the results we get: The frustration stems from feeling that so much ends up happening by trial and error.

Worst of all, that trial and error is often packaged up and dismissed as learning we must attend to as part of “paying your dues.”

Well, it took me a while (I paid those dues), but I eventually figured out that to be effective with achieving GREAT results and work performance, what I had to learn to measure was the effort put toward making them happen correctly. I also had to qualify that effort. So I qualified it as the “great business calling of Managing with Aloha” and I categorized that calling as both managing and leading by specific, values-based definitions.

I then learned that those categories would best complement each other in a certain proportion over years and years of tracking them within my work performance teams. 30-70 evolved as our golden rule for the best reason: It consistently delivered the best results when it came to our vision of what Ho‘ohana (worthwhile work) should be.


Start by knowing where you stand

Greatly improve your effectiveness by doing more leadership (creating energy) and less management (channeling energy). Management matters and will always be necessary to a certain degree, but the constant goal of the Alaka‘i manager is to lead more and not less.

How to Stop Micromanaging, Part One

Most of us will manage way more than we lead, regardless of our position on that conventional role progression from supervision to middle management, to upper management and owner/director leadership. Even the guys and gals at the very top of the org chart lead too little and manage too much, regardless of the industry or sector they are in.

President Obama is a highly visible example to watch right now: He led a lot during his campaign, talking about his ideas for the future constantly so he could share his vision and get us to buy in, and say so with our votes, but most of what he does now is manage. His day-to-day managing includes repeated statements of his leadership intentions, but now into the 7th month of his presidency, he is not yet back to the consistent new idea generation we spoke of in “Leadership is Why and When” for he has found that more management is being required of him. He must delegate it, or do it himself.

The practical application of “learn to measure effort” is that you must also come up with how you “qualify that effort” and then “categorize it” too: As I asked in my last post, “Who is in charge of you?” That’s not to say that you can’t get help, but be deliberate in making your choices. You can use what I suggest by way of the Managing with Aloha sensibility for work, and the leadership/30 ”“ management/70 categories/metrics, or you can come up with something on your own, but you must make it tangible and measurable, and meaningful to you, so that at any given moment you know where you stand.

Once you know where you stand, you know where you need to go.

Because I have clear definitions for management and leadership (as my Language of Intention), I can measure the specific activities I associate with each one. Who cares if the dictionary, or a new business book by a famous management or leadership guru says something different? What is important is my own definition if I execute and act that way, because I then have a consistency of actions I can measure, knowing which one goes in my leadership/30 bucket, and which one goes in my management/70 bucket.

At the end of each week I look at my calendar (as it actually happened), and I assess in a very simple way: I use a green highlighter for my leadership activities, and a pink one for my management activities, then I look at the ratio of hashmarks now color-coding where I stood in my week’s effort: Was it the 3-7 I need, or did I come in at 2-8 or 1-9 instead?

Next, plan ahead for better

Now that I know where I stand, I need to adjust, and move toward where I should be going. So I look at next week’s calendar and measure the ratio I have already penciled in: Will each appointment be about a leadership initiative, or about a management one?

I look at the available blocks of time I have left and can proactively plan better with: How do I fill them in to get the most out of my efforts?

  • If they are at 20-80, I need to lead more to achieve my 30-70.
  • If they are at 40-60, I need to manage more to achieve my 30-70.

Management and leadership get so much guru-speak tied up in them, and they begin to seem unreachable. They aren’t.

The 30-70 Rule in Managing and Leading gets them to be activities that you have qualified in the way that matters most to you (as your Leadership Why and When) and that achieves the best results (as your Management What and How.)

I like practical and useful, and I’ll bet you do too.

Let’s talk story.
Any thoughts to share?

Photo credit: Work Tools by stryder10464 on Flickr.

For those who prefer them, here are the Talking Story copies of the links embedded in this posting:

Article originally published on Say “Alaka‘i” July 2009
The 30-70 Rule in Managing and Leading