“ have the skills and the power within you to help other imperfect people accomplish amazing things even when those people are led by an imperfect leader.”

- Rory Vaden

I have been a little surprised by how many of the leaders I work with are perfectionists at heart.  As a person who struggles with perfectionism and control, I shouldn’t have been.  I think it has something to do with the spoils that seem to attach themselves to senior leadership.  

Most leaders got to their position of authority because they were more “right” in the things they thought and did than others.  If they weren’t the “smartest person in the room,” they were certainly the most confident, persuasive, or tenacious.  As we rise professionally, it is more and more challenging to see beyond our own opinions and ideas.

As we become more successful, the number of people who feel they have permission to disagree and challenge our opinions starts to shrink.  Increasingly, what we think and how we think things should be done, is the assumed right way.

The reality is, however, that the people immersed in the day-to-day of the things that we are merely overseeing know more about those things than we do.  And even though most of us would intuitively agree with that, actually weighing their opinions equitably and turning over decision making and leadership to them is extremely difficult.

Not feeling like others can do things as well as we can, or make as good of a decision, keeps us from delegating and producing the kind of margin we need for strategic thinking as senior leaders.

Rory Vaden, says that one of the key things in the way of leaders mentoring others is related to the..


Permission to be Imperfect.


He says that it is true; when you turn over a task to another, they likely won’t do it as good as you…the first time.  But like you, they will improve with each iteration.  And by the time they are doing it the dozenth time or the hundredth, like you are, they will not only be doing it as well, they will likely be doing it better in some ways that only they uniquely can.

He employs a 30x rule that says that you should be willing to spend 30 times the amount of time it takes you to do a task to teach another to do the same.  Most leaders will just choose to do the task themselves that only takes them 5 minutes.

“It will take me longer to teach them than just doing it myself.”

The 30x rule says that you should spend up to 150 minutes (2.5 hours) to teach the task.  Sounds crazy, but if you were to spend that 2.5 hours to teach that task, it will save you 1,250 minutes a year or almost 21 hours.  You likely won’t have to spend 150 minutes to teach a 5 minute task, but you get the point.

Giving others the permission to be imperfect; to learn to do a task or make simple decisions on their own, is the path to having the margin of time, strategic bandwidth, and freedom you really want (and need) as a leader. 

Interestingly enough, this works just the same at home:  How many Saturday hours of freedom will teaching one of my kids to mow the lawn buy me?

  • What are some of the time wasters in your daily schedule?
  • What tasks are you doing that you shouldn’t be?
  • Which ones should you be employing the 30x to and getting off your plate?
  • Who do you need to permission to be imperfect?