Last week I shared with you how the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, has influenced my life. I promised that in this week’s posting I would share how the 80/20 rule has impacted our design and delivery of LEAD 365 and beyond.

The 80/20 rule impacts our design in a fairly simple way. We continuously try to identify the vital few things that could make the greatest impact with the leaders of West Michigan and then try to help them grow in these key areas. If we succeed at this over time, say ten more years, then West Michigan will become to leadership what Silicon Valley is to technology.

It’s that simple.

In doing this, we will have to intentionally work NOT to get caught up in pursuing the 80% of possible content that would only make up the final 20% of impact.

The Pareto Principle is the first philosophy that has a big impact on how we designed, and continue to design, LEAD 365.

A second philosophy that has driven our work has to do with how people really grow. I’ve come to believe that information doesn’t change people. It can lead to real change AND it often doesn’t. We can learn even the most amazing information and then let it lay dormant, existing in our minds and not finding its way into our practices.

About twenty years ago I heard Ken Blanchard say something like this: The gap between what we need to know and what we already know is much smaller than the gap between what we already know and what we actually do. I believe he was right.

He was referring to something we call traction. One of my mentors often used an expression I like: “Big engine, no transmission.” He would say this when referring to someone who had a lot of knowledge but didn’t get traction on it. We strive to be an organization that has a big engine with a great transmission. Getting real traction, where the rubber meets the road, is what we strive to be all about.

Let me share a simple formula with you: The value our clients will receive is good information (“big engine”) multiplied by traction (their changed behaviors based on that information). Information x traction = real value.

One of the common comments we receive from LEAD 365 participants goes something like this: “This stuff isn’t rocket science, it’s just common sense, but I’ve never really thought about it.”

Our job is simple: to help you become aware of some vital, common-sense thinking (the 20%) and then help you act on it (traction). This is the real personal change that will lead to significant leadership change in West Michigan, one leader at a time.

My belief is that a one-week executive class at Harvard or the University of Michigan, or wherever, is where you will get the absolute best content (though that can always be debated at length by the best academics). On a scale of 1 to 10, they will give you information that is likely a 10. Right here in West Michigan, we believe we can also deliver good content, but certainly not as cutting-edge as those other places. I believe we can deliver content that is about an 8 out of 10.

But because we are located with you in West Michigan, we have a huge advantage on the next piece of the formula. We can help you get traction on that information in ways that aren’t as possible for Harvard or the University of Michigan. Because of this, we are heavily focused on traction.

In most intense one-week classes, you receive amazing information, packed into your brain day after day. Then you go back to work and dive into all of the tasks that were waiting for your return, and life starts to overwhelm you again. Research suggests that if you don’t use your new information within 72 hours of learning it, it will likely fall dormant. That notebook of amazing information that you brought home sits on your shelf and begins to collect dust. It’s not one’s intention NOT to use it; it just works out that way.

This is why our program is a year long, so we can repeat key information and keep it alive in you.

This is why we don’t throw a lot at you in one session.

This is why we have assignments for you in between sessions.

This is why we have two hour, one-on-one coaching between sessions.

We do all of this to focus on the traction factor: content x traction = real value.

In my estimation, LEAD 365 is approximately an 8 out of 10 on content and also an 8 out of 10 on traction (and we are continuing to work on raising that to a 10). Therefore, the value we provide is 64 units. A week at Harvard’s executive education school provides content that is about a 10, but I believe the traction is more like a 2 out of 10. Therefore, the actual value is only about 20 units.

So in summary, there are two key philosophies that have driven our design of LEAD 365.

We are focused on identifying the most vital aspects of leadership and being world class at delivering traction on that content. If we do this well, then our dream of West Michigan becoming recognized as the hotbed of great leaders will come true.

Lastly, as a way to continue to increase your value and propel West Michigan to becoming the Silicon Valley of leadership, we want your LEAD 365 experience to continue throughout the remainder of your career. We will do this in several ways that we are still exploring. One is through this weekly blog. As some of you know, more avenues to connect throughout your career will unfold in the coming year.

Please keep pursuing your growth this week! Keep getting traction on those vital things you know you can do to be a great leader. We look forward to hearing from you from time to time to learn how it’s going.

Make it a great week!

Image by bogenfreund. Used under CC by 2.0 license.