28th July 2016

Cultivated Laziness

Marshall Goldsmith wrote an excellent book entitled “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”. Unsurprisingly the central premise is that the attitudes, skills knowledge and behaviours that get us to one level in our lives probably won’t get us to our planned or desired goals. It is quite astounding how often what smooths the way in one part of our lives actually gets in the way in another part of our lives.

The entrepreneur who is an absolute self-starter, who doesn’t need any help, who just seems to make things happen can find himself stuck as his business grows and those tactics need to be replaced with a far more collaborative style when he or she needs to delegate successfully.

I find that one of the most common traits is the dedication to work, to doing stuff, to getting things done. It is difficult to imagine a successful person who isn’t committed to the necessary level of graft, but once again what smooths the way in one part of our lives can absolutely get in the way in another part of our lives and the business leader who is an out and out grafter may find themselves stuck, trapped by the very traits that worked for them earlier on.

The impatience and drive to get things done can often turn into an attitude of ‘leave it to me. I will sort it’, thereby leaving all of the onus on the leader’s back and not enough ownership, commitment or engagement with the other team members. They can quite innocently (and maybe sometimes deliberately) let the leader quickly burn out while he endeavours to do everything himself. So, it was with interest that I read the following quote ‘Exceptional progress flows from combining cultivated laziness with intelligent thought and extreme ambition’.

These words come from Richard Koch in his best seller ‘The 80/20 Manager’. You will know that the 80/20 rule, also known as Pareto’s Law, says that 80% of our results comes from 20% of our effort, which when you do the maths means that some things are 16 times more profitable, productive or effective than others. It recommends knowing which things they are and doing more of them and much, much less of the 80%. It is difficult for me to think of laziness as a virtue and that is why Koch calls it cultivated laziness.

I wonder how many of us could usefully cultivate laziness to be more effective leaders.