The 1% Rule of Leading People: Grow and Change in Moderation


The 1% rule is incredibly powerful and can be applied to pretty much anything you want to change. The theory goes that you only need to shift your behaviour 1% in several areas, and big things can happen. So change will occur if this week you eat 1% less fat, you eat 1% more vegetables, you drink 1% more water, climb the stairs 1% more, do 1% more push ups, say no to desert 1% more. Because each of these tasks is more achievable, more appealing and less effortful, it makes it more likely that next week you will decide to do it again. In other words, 1% change does not only cumulate but perseverate; having enormous benefits. The alternative, often used, health swing of cutting out sugar for 2 weeks is less pervasive, more painful and ultimately might lead to all the wrong things in our metabolism. More importantly, it doesn’t shift the probable problem behaviour of being able to tolerate moderation (or maybe that is just me?). The 1% rule leads to a paced improvement that is very quickly assimilated into a habit, a routine, and therefore a sustainable change.

In people leadership, perhaps, we need to adopt the same 1% rule. We read about brilliant leaders, brilliant people theories and methodologies. We read others’ experience and advice on what we need to do to evoke true leadership/”followship”. We consume knowledge from brilliant leaders from books, podcast, TEDTalks, magazines, talks, Linkedin etc. How is it possible to implement all of these ideas?! It can seem overwhelming. Sometimes, it seems too hard so we don’t try, or sometimes we move on too quickly saying something like ‘it didn’t work’ for us/me. Can we try to adopt a grow in moderation attitude?

If you are committed to making a sustainable change that leads to lifelong growth and change for those you lead, let’s focus on the 1% rule. So, for example, rather than adopting a full mindfulness program for all staff, why not focus on bringing in a 3-minute breathing space before starting each meeting. Or instead of moving people through a design thinking program, adopt the habit of saying “yes and” instead of “yes but”. Or perhaps, if you want to become a better listener, don’t try to do everything new at once (people will think you’ve had a stroke!), leave a 1 second pause before you speak and see if that makes a difference to your ability to truly hear the other person. Or perhaps, instead of having bake-offs every Tuesday you turn them into smoothie-making competitions. Every 1% counts towards your goals.

Oh what about the purists I hear you cry? I like them too…in moderation. 

Amy is an expert in communication for influence. Join Silverlinings to get tips and tools for growth and engagement at work. Click for details of programs and download free