When Less is More: Achieving Higher Performance Leadership with the 85% Rule

Getting Started with the 85% Rule in High-Performance Organizations

Going back as far as 1908 Yerks and Dodson study first documented this principle. It’s often forgotten and overlooked by senior executives and leaders but as any leader of a high-performance organization knows, it’s essential to get the most out of your team.

The age-old adage of “maximum effort equals maximum results” is quickly becoming outdated and research has shown over and over that this isn’t true when trying to achieve peak performance. The 85% rule is an effective way to help managers get the most out of their teams without creating burnout and other negative outcomes.

In the pursuit of peak performance, a groundbreaking revelation challenges the traditional belief that pushing ourselves to the limit at all times is the key to success. The story of sprinters serves as a vivid illustration: when instructed to reach their maximum effort too soon, they paradoxically experience a decrease in overall race performance. This notion aligns with the wisdom shared by Olympic champion Carl Lewis, who dismisses the outdated adage of “no pain, no gain.”

Lewis advocates for sensible training that emphasizes the importance of rest and recovery over relentless striving. His coach, Tom Tellez, underscores the significance of relaxation, advising athletes to relax their jaw, face, and eyes to prevent tension from adversely affecting their performance.

The key with this rule is about finding the balance between working hard and realizing when it’s time to back off and give your team a break. The goal should be to work at or near 85% capacity, while still pushing.

When it comes to developing high-performance organizations, executive coaches and leadership development professionals can help leaders to learn to apply the 85% rule to reach peak performance in a sustainable way.

These professionals are experts in helping organizations identify the areas of their operations that need improvement and work with teams to create strategies and systems that increase productivity without sacrificing team wellbeing.

Ultimately, the 85% rule is an important tool for managers looking to get the most out of their teams while avoiding burnout. By understanding how it works, and partnering with executive coaches and leadership development professionals, managers can create top performing teams without burning out their employees.

This doesn’t mean, however, that managers should avoid pushing their teams to perform at a high level. On the contrary, managers should be able to identify when their team is operating near 85% efficiency and use this as an opportunity to push them to higher levels of performance. This balance between pushing for peak performance and preserving team wellbeing is essential for creating high-performing organizations.

By understanding the 85% rule, managers can create high-performance teams without burning out their employees. Working with executive coaches and leadership development professionals to apply it within their organization will help them get the most out of their teams while also ensuring they’re not overworking them. This is a key element of successful leadership and can make all the difference in an organization’s success.

Building a high-performing team while preventing burnout requires implementing several strategies. Establishing a clear “done-for-the-day” time can prevent decision fatigue and diminishing returns. Encouraging employees to work slightly below their perceived maximum capacity can actually enhance overall performance.

Seeking feedback from employees on how managers can reduce work-related stress helps identify and address potential issues. Promoting the acceptance of 85%-right decisions can alleviate unnecessary pressure and keep the team moving forward. Mindful use of language that avoids high-pressure rhetoric can prevent undue stress, and concluding meetings 10 minutes early can provide much-needed breaks.

With the right combination of knowledge, experience, and guidance, managers can use the 85% rule to reach new heights in their organizations and create high-performance teams that stay productive without burning out team members. This is essential for any leader looking to build a successful business and interestingly, the 85% rule can be applied to learning, sports and host of other activities.

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