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60/30/10 Horizons Leadership: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Leading a Company of any Size

This piece is inspired by Brad Smith who teaches this method via online training (check it out here!). He talks about how his leadership team operates by focusing 60% of their time on day-to-day tasks, 30% in adrenaline junkie mode, looking for what’s hot and what’s next, and 10% on diving for sunken treasure. That is, working towards a big, wild, audacious goal that is game changing and/or market making.

I love this design and for those of us with ADD, pay attention (haha), because it works! And like most things on my Stop Settling journey, I find it extends beyond the realm of business and has practical application in my personal life. But let’s start with the business aspect.

Being a 60/30/10 Leader

60% Horizon

As a leader, start to think about and list the day-to-day operational focus areas that you must address, hold accountable, and eventually perform yourself. The 60% horizon should feel a little bit (or maybe a lot) rote and boring but provide a sense of comfort in routine. This can include emails, phone calls, meetings ad nauseam, client pitches, hirings, firings, etc. Most of your time will be spent in this horizon.

30% Horizon

Then comes the 30% horizon. This horizon should feel like a rush and little fear that comes with pushing boundaries. This percentile will include tasks like exploring new products, services, and anything that is a little bit out of the box that will bring something fresh and new that will either fit your culture or shake it up in a healthy way. The products and services that come out of the 30% are typically ancillary or complementary to what you already do really well as an organization. For those of you that are really creative about getting more with what you already have, unbundling and rebundling products and services works well here.

10% Horizon

The 10% horizon is reserved for the giant leaps. For those of us who are entrepreneurs or have entrepreneurial spirit, this is taking one of those wild ideas that have been floating around in your mind or that you hastily scribbled down on a bar napkin- an idea that doesn’t really fit neatly into the 60% or the 30% horizon- and seeing if you can make it work. This horizon feels like possibly a stretch too far. A lighthouse in the distance. It may feel like a complete and utter distraction but it is worth some of your time (10% of it to be accurate). Time, Place, and Plan are key for you to pull it off if you’re going to spend 10% of your time, energy, and resources exploring this lofty goal. Some companies call this a moonshot. The least amount of your time and energy should be spent here.

60/30/10 Leader in Your Personal Life

As I mentioned before, the 60/30/10 method has application in your personal life as well. The 60% horizon is all the chores that need to get done in our daily lives. The dishes, laundry, driving kids to and from school and activities, walking the dogs, etc. The 30% horizon here is more like redecorating a room, going from no dishwasher to having a dishwasher, taking time for yourself to meditate, doing yoga, going to a retreat, and/or reading a book. It’s about doing something mindful that is not every day. And for those of you that already do this on a daily basis, your 60% horizon is much more mindful than mine (I’m trying to get there). And finally, the 10% horizon is buying your dream home next to the ocean (not just finding it but going through with it). It’s deciding to run a marathon for the first time. You’re unprepared and unathletic, preferring your comfy couch to that of gravel under your feet. But either because you want to live a bit healthier or because you foolheartedly accepted the challenge from a friend and you ain’t no quitter, you need to prepare. So, you prepare a plan and a training regime that you have to follow to complete the marathon, to complete your moonshot.

Notice that the feelings that arise from the business context of 60/30/10 are the same in the personal context. This is also true for the sustainability aspect of it. I’ll start with the 10% horizon. It is almost impossible to sustain it for more than 10% of your time. You will run out of time, resources, and energy pretty quickly, not to mention not devoting enough time to the 30% and 60% horizons that (although less exciting) are just as important. The 30% horizon allows you to take the next steps to push yourself or your company from good to great. It ensures that you don’t become extinct. But exploration and taking leaps of faith will take you nowhere if you don’t have a solid foundation. That is your 60% horizon. These are the minimum table stakes: the bare minimum requirement to run the business and your life. Don’t neglect your base, always keep growing, and shoot for the moon.