Leadership—Are You Using the Most Effective Ratio?

80/20, 50/50, 30/70—what’s the right ratio? 

Leaders engage in a number of related activities including managing and leading, discovery and delivery, as well as giving and receiving feedback. 

How much time should you spend doing each activity? 

Of course, it depends on the situation. There is no one approach (ratio) that can be used in every situation. Versatility is key. You must determine what’s required to achieve your goals.   

Managing and Leading

How much time do you spend managing vs. leading?  

Managers use current methods, procedures, and resources to get the work done. They want stability.

In contrast, leaders want change. They influence and inspire others to make changes to improve the status quo. 

You need both stability and change in your organization, but in the right combination.

Too much stability and not enough change isn’t good. If you aren’t changing fast enough to keep up with the demanding, dynamic marketplace, you’re in trouble.          

On the flip side, too much change can produce chaos and confusion. It can be overwhelming for employees. 

In what situations do you need to spend more time managing (pursuing stability) or leading (initiating change)? 

Discovery and Delivery

How much time do you spend on discovery vs. delivery? 

Ron Shaich, the former CEO of Panera Bread, believes the two essential requirements of operating any successful business are discovery and delivery.  

Discovery refers to the actions you take to identify new products and services. Delivery refers to the actions you take to more efficiently deliver your products and services.  

When you focus too much on discovery and underemphasize delivery, you may create great products that are poorly delivered. 

At the other extreme, if you only focus on delivery you may end up delivering the same old products that customers may no longer want. 

Do you need to spend more time on discovery (creating new products) or delivery (improving the process of getting products to customers)?  

Giving and Receiving Feedback

How much time do you spend giving feedback vs. receiving feedback?   

People need precise and timely feedback to improve their performance. Some leaders provide little or no feedback. That’s not helpful.    

In addition, you need feedback on your performance. The best leaders set a positive example by asking their employees and colleagues for suggestions on how they can improve.

Do you need to spend more time providing feedback or receiving feedback?

Other Related Activities

Finding the right ratio applies to many other leadership activities including:

Action and reflection—Many leaders readily admit they don’t spend enough time reflecting and learning from their successes and failures. How about you?  

Hard data and soft data—To what extent do you consider both the hard data (facts and numbers) and the soft data (your feelings) when making a decision? Do you have the proper balance?

Present and future—How much time do you spend discussing present problems vs. future opportunities? 

Talking and listening—What is your talk-to-listen ratio? Are changes needed in some situations? 

Task-focus and people-focus—How much time do you spend focused on the task vs. the people? Do you spend enough time building and strengthening relationships with your employees?    

Finding the right ratio doesn’t mean moderation in all things. Rather, it means doing what’s most appropriate, including cranking up to the maximum setting if that is what the current circumstances require.   

Like all great leaders, you need to read the situation and make adjustments to achieve the best results.    

Action Items

Some actions you can take to improve your ratios include:  

  • Observe other leaders. What’s their ratio?  For example, how much time does your boss spend discussing current problems and future opportunities? How much time do your peers spend managing vs. leading?

  • Ask for feedback. Develop a group of trusted colleagues and mentors who will provide suggestions on how you can better balance related activities in specific situations.

  • Reflect. Spend some quiet time thinking about one of your current ratios. What adjustments could produce better results?

  • Identify one or two areas to work on. Keep tweaking your approach until you find the ratio that produces the best results.   

Using the most appropriate ratio in each situation will make you a more effective and impactful leader. 

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