by Kelly Riggs
“Success in life is founded upon attention to the small things rather
than to the large things; to the everyday things nearest to us rather than
to the things that are remote and uncommon.”
Booker T. Washington
Success is the byproduct of a number of critically important steps.
There are always the “big things” that have to be conquered, and it’s not hard to figure out that if you fall short there, it’s game over.
But most people tend to identify and handle the big things – the priorities. Unfortunately, it seems like it’s the little things that create all the problems. The details. The stuff that falls through the cracks. The things you think aren’t that important.
In some cases, you may even consider them to be beneath you.
But it’s the little things that distinguish the average player from the exceptional player. It is the little things, for example, that make the difference between an average customer experience and a HOLY-CRAP-THAT-WAS-AMAZING customer experience.
There are hundreds of examples of little things and minor details that have been ignored and created disaster, but there is one vivid illustration in particular.
The story is about the simplest of parts.
More than thirty years ago now, the space shuttle Challenger embarked on its tenth mission (STS-51-L). After several delays, the Challenger finally lifted off from Cape Canaveral late morning on January 28, 1986. Sadly, just 90 seconds later, the shuttle suffered catastrophic failure.
The cause? The failure of two O-rings.
In the big picture, they were very, very small details – little things. The most obvious lesson is that, you can do everything right and miss a little thing, and your project or your sale can come undone in a hurry.
In the workplace, when employees do the little things well it usually signals the potential to do bigger things well.
On the other hand, the inability to take care of the little things can easily erodes a leader’s confidence in an employee’s ability to do the bigger things.
To the leader, the ability to pay attention to detail – to do the little things well – is a sign of discipline and discipline is a characteristic those leaders often look for in promoting people to the next level.
Which means, of course, if you want to move ahead, demonstrating the ability to identify and account for the little things is good practice. Doing what you currently do better than anyone else ever has, down to the smallest details, is almost always great news for your career.
Spoiler Alert: Sometimes, the “little things” are actually HUGE things in disguise because they don’t seem all that important at the time. They’re not URGENT. Things don’t come undone RIGHT NOW if you skip things like planning or practice.
But they will. Eventually.
Here is a simple success hack for you: If you want to move ahead quickly, just pay attention to the little things that make a big difference. Think beyond the obvious. Think about the details. Think about the things that could or might go wrong. Consider each step in the process or project and look for the little things that people often overlook.
Because there is nothing quite like an employee who shows the initiative to think, to identify and do the little things, and to do the things that nobody else really wants to do. Not surprisingly, successful people often talk about the willingness to stay late, to do the unglamorous work, to ensure that the minor details are done perfectly.
And make no mistake, it is the little things that often get employees noticed – and promoted.
Ben Johnson, a University of Kansas football player is a great example. Johnson went all seven rounds of the NFL draft without hearing his name called. However, after the draft, he was immediately signed to a deal with the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers scout with whom Johnson spoke on a couple of occasions in the weeks leading up to the draft — he heard from 19 teams overall — told the prospect he first took note of Johnson this past August while watching KU practice, because the tight end stood out.
Johnson rarely experienced such chances to shine in his final season at KU, when he caught 30 passes for 363 yards and a touchdown over the course of 12 games. While the offense only sprinkled Johnson in at times, it turned out his lack of a featured role didn’t destroy his NFL outlook.
“You know, I had glimpses where I showed what I can do. Teams see that and they know football. They’re able to notice the little things, and sometimes the little things are what they like,” Johnson said, adding game footage can be more beneficial than statistics at times. “The film speaks for itself, so I think that’s huge as far as getting looked at.”
Johnson didn’t put up big numbers. And he didn’t play for a contender. All he did was the little things.
Undoubtedly, successful people share a lot of common traits, but lurking among them you will generally find the willingness and the foresight to see a job as more than just a box to check. Instead, for a successful player or employee, the final outcome – and all the details that ensure a perfect result – are worth the extra effort.
OK, maybe you think this is trite, a bit too obvious. Good for you.
But it’s not at all unusual to hear employees complain about their lack of promotions or raises, but they don’t (or won’t) do the things that cause leaders to notice their performance.
Here’s the deal: If you want a raise or a promotion, get noticed! Your employer doesn’t owe you a promotion or a raise, and, to be perfectly clear, there is typically a limited amount of money available for raises and a limited number of advancements available for promotion, so you are competing for both.
Which means it’s in your best interest to compete. Prove to the boss that it’s a HUGE mistake not to push you up the ladder.
Do the little things.
TRAIN HARD. PLAY TO WIN.
Kelly Riggs is a business performance coach and founder of the Business LockerRoom. A former national Salesperson of the Year and serial entrepreneur, Kelly is a recognized thought leader in the areas of sales, management leadership, and strategic planning. He serves clients ranging from small, privately held companies to Fortune 500 firms. Kelly has written two books: “1-on-1 Management™: What Every Great Manager Knows That You Don’t” and “Quit Whining and Start SELLING! A Step-by-Step Guide to a Hall of Fame Career in Sales.”