The 30x Rule: How Great Managers Multiply Performance

Published: Feb 03, 2015
Modified: Jun 01, 2020


An inherent measure of our effectiveness as managers is our ability to create results through other people. As Tom Peters once said, “Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.”

Yet there is a natural conflict we’ve noticed that inhibits most managers from doing just that – and it’s different from what you’d expect.

Consider that most of us became managers by being top-performers. We created extraordinary results for our organizations by being autonomous, accurate, and adept. However, our ability to achieve, and the high standards that we expect for satisfactory work, often restrict the likelihood that we will take our teams to the next level.

Why? Because those high standards handicap our ability to delegate.

What we have noticed is that delegating is not a logical issue; it’s an emotional one. We all know there are things we are doing that someone else could be trained to do, but we don’t do it. Why not?

One reason we often cite is just not having enough time to train other people to do it correctly. Unfortunately, those managers are making that decision rooted in an old paradigm of time-management thinking that is governed more by the urgency of today than the significance of tomorrow.

But the world’s most effective managers (we refer to them as “Multipliers”) have learned to adopt “significance” thinking as evidenced by “The 30X Rule.”

The 30x rule says you should spend 30x the amount of time training someone to do a task than it would take you to do the task yourself one time. For example, if a task takes you 5 minutes per day to complete, then the 30x rule suggests you could comfortably spend up to 150 minutes training someone to do that task.

But most managers would think it's crazy to spend 2.5 hours training someone to do a 5 minute task, because they think "it would just be faster to do it myself." That is because most managers are stuck in classic “urgency” thinking of only evaluating their tasks inside of the construct of one day. In which case, it never makes sense to spend 2.5 hours training someone to do a task that they could do themselves in just 5 minutes.

The world’s greatest managers have learned to think differently, however. They realize that achieving the next level of results requires the next level of thinking. When you make the significance calculation and you think longer term, everything changes.

Multipliers know that any task that takes you 5 minutes per day * 250 working days in a year = 1250 total minutes that will be spent on that task over the course of a year. So investing 150 minutes (30 X 5) in training someone to do a task that takes 5 minutes a day is still a very effective use of time. The reason is because if you divide 150 (time you spent training) into 1100 (the net amount of time it saves you over the course of a year after you deduct the time you spent training), then that yields what we refer to as a 733% ROTI – Return On Time Invested.

To a manager who only makes the urgency calculation of today, it almost never makes sense to delegate. But to a manager who makes the significance calculation of tomorrow, it almost always makes sense to delegate.

Once you understand the 30X rule and the significance calculation, you realize the real truth to why we don’t delegate. We think, “Someone else won’t be able to do it as well as I can.”

Again though, we only carry that limiting belief when we are absent the significance calculation. Because while it is true that someone else likely won’t be able to do it as well as you the first time, or even the second or third time, when you think longer term, it changes. You realize that over the course of time, and especially with the proper training, that other person will be able to master the task – just like you did.

So what you really need is not a checklist about how to be a better delegator. You need to simply grant yourself the permission of temporary imperfect.

Thus the premise of our new book that teaches managers how to multiply their time. You multiply your time by giving yourself the emotional permission to invest time into things today that create more time tomorrow.

Multipliers realize that 70% done by someone else is always better than 100% done by themselves. Not only because it frees up their time, but because it develops another leader – which is precisely what our management function should be.

About The Author

In the last 9 years our team at Southwestern Consulting has worked with managers from over 7,000 different offices in more than 35 countries. What we are finding is that the key strengths that propel one into management usually become their debilitating weaknesses once they are there.