The 20% Rule

How much room do you give your employees to make mistakes? 

Among the many pages of wisdom in Tim Ferriss’ latest book, there is an insightful story about Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and often dubbed “Oracle of Silicon Valley.” When making decisions, Reid advised his Chief of Staff...

“In order to move fast, I expect you’ll make some foot faults. I’m okay with an error rate of 10 to 20% … if it means we can move fast.”


Reid recognizes a simple leadership truth: When leaders are responsible for making every decision, things move slowly. Giving your team room to make decisions not only allows you to stop funneling everything and move faster, but it also gives employees a feeling of ownership and autonomy. It looks a lot like trust.

Giving employees a 20% error rate doesn’t just mean you trust them to do a good job, that kind of trust is fairly common. It means you trust they will also make mistakes. In Reid’s mind, occasional mistakes are the price of speed and autonomy. That kind of trust from leaders is much more rare and something we can all learn from.