The Big is in the Little

In leadership, little things can bring BIG results…

In the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, we learn that slow and steady wins the race. A similar analogy can be made in the case of leadership: The little actions are most often what create big results. In the same sense that faster isn’t always a better way to get where you’re going — bigger isn’t always the best way to get the outcome you want.

The problem is that, as leaders, we often seek to make big changes and large strategic shifts in our approach. We frequently lead with big, bold steps when in search of big, bold results. When one reviews the latest leadership advice from The NY Times bestseller list, the impression we get is that results are created through programs to foster major changes and through the implementation of new strategies. Yet often when researchers talk to individuals in organizations, we continue to re-learn that it’s the smallest behaviors, when done consistently, that can have the most meaningful impact with people and that can really drive results. The flip side of this point is that consistently using the wrong little behaviors (i.e., what we sometimes perceive to be little and insignificant behaviors) can also leave people uninspired and demoralized.

What are the right little things to do that will create big results? They are really quite simple and often related to the “how” we would like to be treated (you know, the Golden Rule):

* Treat others in a courteous manner. (Be friendly; say good morning
rather that rushing by with your head down straight into your office.)

* Commit yourself to the moment. (Whether it be a 30-second conversation
through to a one-hour meeting, put the Smartphone down, turn away from
your computer and engage the person.)

* Be consistent with both your intent and actions to build trust in your team,
no matter what the issue. Often, this transparency is reciprocated and
leads to stronger teams and effectiveness.

* Seek to understand someone’s perspective, issue or concern before
acting or judging – you don’t need to solve every problem – just support
your team and show empathy.

* Remember that we manage “things” and lead “people.” Find out what
your teams needs to feel valued, supported and motivated, and then
deliver it to them on a regular basis.

Recently, when working with a team of technologists, we had an opportunity to conduct a 360° debrief of their current leader. Many of these individuals described how one little behavior of their leader – the checking and responding to emails on his Smartphone during face-to-face meetings – left them feeling inconsequential. In other words, this leader said that individuals were important, but acted just the opposite by focusing on emails and texts when dealing with team members.

Strong leaders seize the little moments to engage and interact with their teams. The result, through genuine engagement, is that team members feel like an important part of the organization and are more confident when called upon to contribute directly and honestly. The opposite behavior will often silence them and push the team to minimal interaction and correspondingly weaker results.

Use the soft skills we listed previously. Listen to your people. Commit to the moment. Thank your team when appropriate. Treat them well and they will be motivated and engaged, which will allow them to deliver amazing results. Let team members know that they are a priority for you because when you help them succeed, it directly drives your own success. It’s clearly a win/win situation.

As leaders, we invest an incredible amount of time to achieve success and to reach our desired outcomes. Harness that energy and remain focused, but remember that sometimes the “Big is in the little.”


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