I had lunch with a very successful entrepreneur last week who told me he thought he was operating at 40% of his potential. He was looking for leverage to drive that number to 80%. I’m certain the world would be quite a different place if he were twice as effective. Imagine if we were all twice as effective…

leverage |ˈlev(ə)rij, ˈlēv(ə)rij|

verb [ with obj. ]

1 (usu. as adj. leveraged) use borrowed capital for (an investment), expecting the profits made to be greater than the interest payable: a leveraged takeover bid.

2 use (something) to maximum advantage: the organization needs to leverage its key resources.

He shared a few of his observations on maximizing his leverage. It’s all about focus.

  • Know your goals/questions for each meeting, coffee and lunch ahead of the meeting. Take meetings only with known and transparent goals. Aim to end the meeting 15 minutes early.
  • Cultivate and curate your network. Build friendships and working relationships with the right people.
  • Manage your time religiously. Schedule meetings back to back. Allow yourself 4 hour blocks to do work or just to think, without intermittent interruptions.
  • Focus on 3 things each day/month/quarter that move the needle. Be open and transparent with your team about what those are. Jettison everything else. It’s a distraction.

The larger a startup becomes, the more internal communication and status updates become the norm. Google fought this with radical transparency. Everything was accessible to everyone. Apple fights this with total opacity – teams operate on a need to know basis. Such decisions dramatically change culture, but both are pursuing the same goal of maximizing leverage.

A startup’s greatest advantage is agility and focus. By focusing on few things done really well, a startup becomes highly leveraged and effective.

How do you gain leverage in your work life?


2 thoughts on “On Maximizing Leverage

  1. Tom:

    Most of the advice on gaining leverage seems appropriate. I struggle with the adage to “end meetings 15 minutes early.” Here’s why: when I am meeting with someone, it is not uncommon for the first portion to be about building rapport, the middle about the subject of the meeting, and the beginning of the end about next steps. What this predictable process runs its course, what is omitted is time for challenging assumptions, thinking creatively, proposing new problems, and generally looking for the next catalytic idea. If there’s a rush to micromanage the clock, the benefits of this structured spontaneity are lost by both parties.


    • It’s hard to keep to these principles sometimes. Have you tried telling the person you’re meeting at the beginning that you have allocated 45 minutes? If you do have the spontaneous creative discussion, you can fall back into your 15 minute buffer.

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