The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers

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Pattern 4: Differentiate Using the 20/80 Principle of Performance

“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”
-- William James

Most people know of the 80/20 principle, the observation of Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), that in many situations it’s the first 20% of the effort that contributes 80% of the benefit. Focusing first on the 20% of your customers that are most desirable often yields 80% of the profit.

The tasks and objectives that are required as a part of business careers are not all glory. In fact the 80% of our jobs that offer little chance for differentiation are usually narrowly defined and on the surface quite inflexible.

It is the ability to get beyond merely achieving what others want you to do, and break through to deliver unanticipated impact that will give you – and your company – the most return, creating results that can truly distinguish you.

Unlike the 80/20 principle, in business it is usually the last 20% of what you accomplish (beyond your predefined objectives), that allows you to truly differentiate yourself. The fourth pattern of extraordinary careers is the 20/80 Principle of Performance – keeping the 20% of what you can define foremost in your, and your boss’s mind, and it is the successful application of this principle that allows you to play and win the majors in your career.

How is it that some professionals stand out from the pack and others just don’t?

It’s a factor of the 20/80 Principle of Performance.

The reality is that you can do what you are told at work – and do a good job of it - and still not have success or security in your position. Although you should absolutely seek to meet the objectives outlined for your job, you should have no illusion that this is enough. Nearly everyone believes he meets his goals. In fact, 95 percent of the professionals participating in our survey for this book said they “consistently meet their objectives”.

The Value of Changing the Assumptions

Successfully applying the 20/80 Principle of Performance requires that successful executives “Aim” extremely high, with the goal of dramatically increasing the rate of positive change within an organization.

In the unstable and constantly changing world of business today, leaders able to positively redefine performance expectations are critical to achieving and maintaining market leadership. These astute professionals de-emphasize or eliminate make-work tasks such as preparation of non-influential reports and presentations or process approval steps created years ago that have lost their relevance. Professionals who are able to focus energies and stress opportunities that may materially impact growth, profits and brand are highly rewarded.

Focusing resources directly on the real, but often hidden problem/solution at hand can help to change the assumptions – and positively impact how you are valued.

Read onto Pattern 5!

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This extract is taken from
The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers by James M. Citrin and Richard A. Smith, published by Random House. Order your copy now!

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