Be a more effective & productive leader with one simple rule

Robby Miles — №33 with Laura McClellan

Leadership tools and planning methods are wide-ranging, but one rule has the power to exponentially increase your team’s productivity and efficiency while giving team members greater ownership in the process.

The 1/3 — 2/3 Rule

The rule states that leaders should spend no more than 1/3 of the time allocated for a mission or project on the planning phase. The other 2/3 is devoted to individuals and teams working in their strongest areas.

Leaders work with tight schedules and complex situations. We likely do not have the detailed expertise to accomplish every sub-task on our own. The team is what makes us successful, but the leader must provide motivation and direction.

Implement The Rule in 4 steps:

  1. Analyze the project for non-negotiable deadlines and create a project timeline.

  2. Divide each project or task into thirds.

  3. The first third of each project or task:

    • Develop your plan and communicate your goal/or end-state to your team.
    • Set clear expectations, guidelines, deadlines, and assign responsibility for specific tasks.
    • Answer questions from the team and make sure they understand the desired result.
  4. The second two-thirds:

    • Give your team space to work and time to take action. This is their chance to creatively solve problems and demonstrate their expertise.
    • Trust your team. They are more capable than you think, so give them a chance to prove it!

This rule is fairly simple and allows you to do your job as a leader: supervise.


  1. Greater freedom: Who likes having their boss hover over them micromanaging every step? You guessed it. No one. Team members will cherish having the freedom to work on each project in the ways they know best.

  2. Higher quality: Assigning individual tasks also assigns responsibility for completing the task. With responsibility comes accountability and higher quality products. People do their best work when they are given clear expectations and a chance to prove themselves.

  3. Ownership: Each team member should understand how their task fits in with the overall goal. They should feel they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. This rule gives them an opportunity to learn and try new methods to solve problems. Let your team members bring their unique skill-set to the table and share their talents.

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” — General George Patton, US Army

The 1/3 — 2/3 rule allows you to define project limits. Provide a basic outline and timeline, then let your people do their best work.

You will have the freedom to supervise and focus your energy on the one or two elements that need your attention most.

Photo: Flickr / Marco Comparato CC BY 2.0

Robby miles

Robby Miles

Robby is a husband, a dad of four, a college prep teacher, a freelance writer, and an Officer in the Army National Guard. After hours, he runs a Mission Mindset project to help people like himself stay on top of things.

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