How to Invest Time in Your Team

Jesse Maddox Build a Team

You might be looking at your business’s team and wondering where to invest your time—how to identify the people you should be spending the most time on. As a head football coach managing a wide range of personalities, talents, and people, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer developed what he calls the 10-80-10 Principle, described in his book Above the Line.

The top 10 percenters, he says, are the nucleus of the team. They give everything they have, every time. They’re leaders. Self-disciplined. They have tremendous self-respect, and a relentless drive to improve. He calls the top 10 percenters the elite.

Then there are the 80 percenters. That’s really the majority of every team. They go to work and do a good job. They’re relatively reliable, trustworthy, and dutiful—but they don’t have the same drive and will as the top 10 percenters.

Finally, Meyer identifies the bottom 10 percenters, which he calls “Coach Killers.” These people are disinterested, and even defiant. They coast through life without caring about reaching their potential or honoring their gifts.

The leadership challenge that Meyer offers is to move as many of the 80 percenters as possible into the top 10 percent. You should spend most of your time on the 80 percenters, because the top 10 percent are going to motivate themselves, and the bottom 10 percenters are not worth wasting your energy on.

He has four keys to moving the 80 percenters into the top 10 percent:

  1. Master and Belief. Joining the elites requires increased commitment and effort, so players must belief that it will be worthwhile. Position coaches put pictures of NFL players they’ve coached on the wall to serve as reminders and motivation. They send a clear message: “This could be you. All you need to do is work, train, and live above the line. Be as fully committed to getting better as the guys whose pictures you’re looking at.”
  2. Harness the Power. As a general rule, most people keep the company of like-minded people. So your 10 percenters are largely going to hang out with other 10 percenters. Your 80 percenters will spend most of their time with other 80 percenters. Meyer’s solution is to pair the elite top 10 percent with 80 percenters as often as possible, in meetings, drills, and workouts. That’s how he harnesses the power of the elites within his team. For example, one of his players came in and lifted every single morning by himself at 6 am. Meyer told this player that he couldn’t do that anymore—unless he brought someone else with him. The elite members of his team aren’t allowed in the weight room unless they bring an 80 percenter with them!
  3. Building Ownership. Team members, whether they’re football players or employees, give maximum effort when they feel like they have an ownership stake in what’s going on. Give your 80 percenters more ownership. Include them in important meetings, calls, etc. The more someone shares ownership, the more loyalty and commitment they’ll show.
  4. Positive Peer Pressure. Meyer makes it clear that everyone is pushing his players to get better. If someone is just going through the motions and staying in the same place, there’s a good chance someone else is going to move right past them!
Will Adams

Will Adams

Will Adams is the GM for Small Business Services for Will leads the company’s efforts in serving small business owners and their employees through consulting, software, education, employee training, and advocacy. Will is also the co-founder of a successful Software as a Service (SaaS) business that currently serves small museums and family offices throughout North America. In addition to his business interests, Will serves on the board of Atlanta Children’s Foundation, connecting individuals, organizations, and resources to meet the needs of children in foster care.