Monday, March 12, 2012

The 90% Rule

If you are committed to working your way up the corporate ladder, you need to clearly demonstrate you have your job handled. However, you also don’t want to be the showboat who has all the answers. To meet that balance, the 90% rule should be part of your strategy. It is an effective way of managing relationships with your direct reports, superiors or board of directors.

Simply stated, it means that 85%-90% of your job is handled by you without input from your boss. In your next meeting with your boss, go into his or her office and say, “I have 90% of my responsibilities handled. I would like some input from you on the remaining 10%.”

This means you are not in a meeting to complain about your colleagues or direct reports. You may say this sounds like common sense. Yet, I hear stories from CEOs in big companies in sophisticated industries where the CEO says high-level people come into his office to complain about problems they had with the cell phone provider. This leaves the impression that you can be easily inundated by trivial matters. This can be the case even when you are very smart with technical expertise for your job and industry.

The same applies when presenting new ideas or proposals to your boss. If you go into the office saying you have solved 85%-90% of the project, you look like you are on top of your game. If you say that you need their input for the remaining 10%-15%, you have included them and acknowledged their brilliance.

This is not manipulation. If you go into the office with 100% of the solution, the boss may not buy into it. They may not feel they had any contribution to it. The 10%-15% they contribute is enough for them to take ownership of the project and ensure you get the resources you need to be successful.

This same strategy works when you manage your people. If you go to them with 85%-90% of a plan, you can collaborate with them to develop the remaining 10%-15%. That is enough for them to put their signature on it. Without their contribution, they may spend their time trying to prove your plan will not work.

In the past, I consulted various departments of a Fortune 50 corporation. It was amazing to see that the overwhelming majority of people in some departments said, on separate occasions, how they spent 75% of their time finding reasons an initiative would not work, if a project they do not like was thrown on their desk.

At the same time, it is important to train your people to conduct themselves in the same fashion when they have meetings with you. You are paying them to handle 85%-90% of their jobs. They should be talking about the 10%-15% that provides challenges for them. As each week or meeting goes by, they can give you quick status reports on what was already discussed. From there, they should be talking about the 10%-15% that requires your input or guidance.

Try this strategy. Your boss will be impressed with your ability to get things done. And should you encounter an obstacle that seems insurmountable in the 90% portion, let it be known as soon as possible. Never hide. With high integrity and effective management of 90%, you will set yourself and your company up to win and develop.

What do you think? 

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