The Lost Art of the Little Things

I confess – I lean toward being a big picture kind of person. I get frustrated with details. I dream, I vision and I get going on making them happen. I look to others to sort out the technical and minutiae.

Over the years I have let go of so many little things I thought were important because they caused me a lot of stress. But there are some things that just shouldn’t vanish. They are the small details that make life better.

These are the top 5 little things I pay attention to:

  1. Don’t I know you? – The older and busier I get the easier it is to forget someone’s name to which I’ve been introduced. Others will always remember you when you remember their name. If it helps, when introduced, actually say their name aloud to help you recall it next time.
  1. Courtesy at all costs – A simple thank you goes a long way. Respect along with acknowledging others for their efforts is the cornerstone for leaders. Not only do you get what you give – it is simple kindness.
  1. Mind your manners – This was a big deal in our family when bringing up my girls. The result has been a lot of doors opening for them as others want to be around those who take care to behave appropriately.
  1. Edit your emails before you press SEND – Sounds obvious, right? But when I receive an email I always remember the writer who didn’t take the time and effort to do a quick pass by of their exchange. As much as I would like to think it doesn’t really matter. The truth is – it does.
  1. Never leave the house with chipped nail polish – Sage advice from my father. What it really means is, have pride in your appearance and remember that the small details are what people will remember about you.

For those of you who think this is just a little etiquette advice, think again. In the corporate world these details still apply. I have experienced many senior leaders who excel as visionaries, strategists and are results oriented (absolutely necessary in their role). What sets the exceptional leaders apart from the good ones is their attention to this kind of detail. Think of a time when someone did or didn’t step up with a nod to the little things. How did you feel? And what did it make you think about this person?

Here’s where the details made a difference for me. I once had a boss who rarely ever thanked or acknowledged my efforts. Did it make it more meaningful when she did? Not really. It left me feeling taken for granted. I once received a resume and application with spelling and grammatical errors. Is that someone I wanted to hire? Unlikely.

But when someone remembers me and goes the extra mile on my behalf, I feel appreciated. It almost certainly ensures that when given the chance, I will reciprocate wholeheartedly.

As a leader, consider how you pay attention to the smallest details. Need a tune up? Try doing a 360 assessment. Feedback from those around you, especially your staff will give you insights and examples of what you are doing well and which details may need a little more of your attention.

In the meantime, try saying thank you a little more often.

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Comments (3)

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    Veronica

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    Perhaps these are points of etiquette – but to me they’re also indicators of professionalism. “The little things” do indeed count in all aspects of our lives. Thank you for the reminders, Eve.

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    Jamee Tenzer

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    Eve – love the post – especially what you said about acknowledgement. It is amazing how far the slightest acknowledgement will go. Whether it is for a spouse, colleague, child or someone who works for us – taking the time to notice and acknowledge comes back to us 10 fold + Thanks for the reminder!

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    Patti

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    Thank you Eve for these little reminders! Yes, I agree the small “thank you” makes a huge impact. ….and I smiled when I read about the chipped nails – a big no no in my world, thanks for sharing!

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