If you’re a women over fifty, I’m guessing you’ve already heard several variations of the 80/20 rule: you wear 20% of your cloths 80% of the time (so watch out for those super expensive, special occasion purchases), finding a job is 80% who you know and 20% what you know (so be sure to spend 80% of your time networking), etc. But I just learned a new 80/20 rule that really struck home with me. I just had to pass it along.
A friend of mine was doing some organizational development work with a large firm. As a method of breaking the ice and promoting a more informal exchange of ideas, the various OD consultants were seated around large tables with representatives from the organization.
After the initial get acquainted chitchat, the conversation turned to business issues. My friend was seated at a table with all women except for one older gentleman. She already knew that he was a senior executive and played a key role in strategic planning for the firm. At first, he sat quietly and listened to the concerns of the women employees. However, after a few minutes, he offered an extremely interesting observation.
The executive remarked, “I’ve been hearing your frustrations and analyzing the reasons behind them for some time now, and it dawned on me that there’s a fundamental difference between how most men approach business challenges versus how some women handle them.
You are often smarter, make better leaders, and have greater communication and people skills than men. But when asked to do something new, you’ll often focus on your lack of experience and appear insecure. It’s like the old 80/20 rule: if a guy only knows 20% of something, he’ll act more like he’s 80% sure of his skills and experience, while the reverse is frequently true for you. In my opinion, this is one of the major drawbacks that keeps women from achieving at higher levels within an organization. It’s not so much the glass ceiling anymore, it’s the 80/20 rule.”
When my friend told me this story, it really got me to thinking. How many times had I held myself back from challenges because I only felt 20% sure of becoming successful? How many times did I actually know 80% of the needed skills but focused on the 20% I didn’t have? Could I have gone 80% further in my career had I not dwelled on the 20% I may have lacked?
I encourage each of you to think about your own, internal 80/20 rules: are they moving you forward or are they holding you back? If the latter is true, how can you reframe your thinking, refocus your energies, and pursue your goals—going after them not with 20%, not with 80%, but with 100%! If you do, you might well find yourself going 80% further in just 20% of the time!