News & Insight
July 2003

Women in Management: Handling the 80-20 Split

It has been our observation that some women try to manage too many job-related details and fail to focus on the big picture -- their careers.

Take the example of an executive we'll call Susan. As one of only a handful of female executives in her company, Susan worked hard -- harder than some of her male colleagues -- to make her mark. She managed her staff well, kept a close eye on budgets, and put in long hours to ensure that all aspects of the job were covered.

Yet when one of her superiors retired, Susan was passed over for the promotion in favor of a man who, while producing results comparable to Susan's, had also made a point to develop relationships with several members of senior management.

Susan made the mistake of assuming that hard work and good results alone will create opportunities for advancement. The sad truth is, they won't. Something more is needed -- something beyond merit, performance and results.

What's needed is a focus on career and on handling the "80-20 split."

Simply stated, the 80-20 split refers to a division of time: Devote 80% of your time doing your job and spend 20% on the equally important assignment of managing your career.

By the time you have reached the director or vice president level, your job is really two jobs. One is the corporate function for which you have been given responsibility; the other is the management of your own career.

How do you perform a quality job by devoting only 80% of your time to it? The answer lies in prioritizing and delegation.

You can carve out the 20% of the time you need for managing your career by prioritizing tasks according to their importance and according to the level of corporate visibility they afford you. Then delegate the least important -- and least visible -- tasks to staff.

You should be able to delegate at least a third of your tasks to staff. This does not mean that you abandon interest in or responsibility for them; just let others run with the ball, keeping you informed of progress and potential problems.

You'll soon find that you've created time for the most important job of all: managing your career.

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