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The 20-50-30 rule

Submitted by on Tuesday, 17 December 2013One Comment

The 20-50-30 rule

There’s a rule of thumb in leadership that John Maxwell (the management guru) has come up with called ‘the 20-50-30 rule’ and, in a nutshell, it goes like this:

 · 20% of your team will support any efforts or initiatives that you propose

 · 50% of your team will be undecided or ambivalent towards any efforts or initiatives that you propose, and…

 · 30% of your team will resist any efforts or initiatives that you propose.

The 20-50-30 rule understood

Now we’re not for one moment suggesting that the 20-50-30 rule happens all the time. We’ve seen some teams with very high engagement and alignment levels. It’s simply a rule of thumb.

The 20-50-30 Rule

Here are three important considerations to have when confronted with resistance and ambivalence as a team leader.

The first is the Japanese saying that ‘you can’t smile in 8 directions’. You can’t keep all your people happy all the time – it’s as simple as that – so if you’re a new leader there’s no need to stress when confronted with ambivalence or resistance.

The second is that resistance may be the result of something you haven’t seen. In this case you may want to probe and elicit perceptions without necessarily pushing back at those resisting you straight away. Acknowledging that resistance is a good way to start, and those resisting the hardest may volte face into passionate advocates. Communication in this way is a key engagement driver as we have seen before here.

The third is that there may be a talent mismatch or skills gap somewhere – where someone may not feel readiness for an initiative or a resonant fit in that role.

Leadership Challenge Workshop

So it’s important to bear these considerations in mind before we look at other ways to deal with resistance to change when it happens.

How to deal with the 20-50-30 rule

Maxwell advises us not to waste your time trying to convert non-believers – it’ll only backfire and make them resist you even more. Instead, court the 50 percent who are undecided and use the 20 percent to help convince them that your effort to drive change is positive.

However there is also a school of thought that says resistors can be valuable allies if they are passionate in their resistance – since that passion shows that they care.

Another important approach is to inspire your followers or to instil in them a belief that their efforts will result in a valuable reward or outcome. We have seen the importance of hope in a previous post here.

Develop your leadership skills with this…

If you would like to give your leadership skills a boost, then have a look at The Leadership Challenge Workshop, or contact us for more details by following the link below…


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One Comment »

  • […] Typically, change programmes rely on getting the ‘leaders’ on board and driving through the desired change. But, as management soon discovers, these leaders are little less than ‘rulers’ who use power to achieve their ends, and get stymied by the 20-50-30 rule. […]

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