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Little Things Matter

Little things matter.

According to Google, there are more than 2 billion references. I guess little things are a big deal.

It’s easy to overlook details. Just ask any person to read a proposal AFTER it was submitted. No matter how many times it was checked, reviewed, and double-checked, it’s likely there is a mistake somewhere. You know how hard it is to check your own content;  what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads. Some people say that errors will slip by readers or clients who know you will forgive a small mistake. After all, they know you are human and have experienced your professionalism and creativity on projects. Others think that you can NEVER have a mistake. Still, details matter and you should do what you can to avoid sloppy work. Give yourself time to proof.

Good manners are timeless. Please, thank you, and you’re welcome go a long way, especially when everyone is busy and overwhelmed. Write out your email, and take a minute to reflect on the tone and words. Add please to any request and say thank you when the message is complete.

Give complete instructions. When you have a request, provide all the details so the other person doesn’t have to ask questions. The military calls this “completed staff work;” you give the other person all the information needed so the task comes back to you in full. For example, give the date due (time, day, date), length (number of paragraphs, pages, etc.), format (Word, PDF, .jpg, InDesign, etc.), and explain how the information will be used so they have context, in addition to the requirements. Provide your availability before the due date for them to check in with questions or concerns.

Listen actively to avoid gaps. When you work with other people, use active listening to make sure you’re both on the same page. Avoid thinking about your response when they’re talking. Listen closely with you eyes, ears, body posture, and mind. Use affirmative prompts, such as uh-huh, and nod your head in agreement which clues them that you understand. It sounds clunky, but an amazing active listening technique is to find the opportunity to pause the conversation. “Let me say back to you what I think you’re saying just to make sure I’m understanding” is a brilliant conversation builder.

Details matter. Notice when you’re so busy that you begin to take shortcuts that can hurt the quality of your work or relationships with your colleagues and clients. When you’re feeling pressured, take a breath. Use the pause to remember that little things are a big deal.

Leadership sometimes seems like the pinnacle of success. Experienced climbers know the trail isn’t always straight and sometimes there are false summits that slow down the trip. Instead of focused on the end, using a “Learn | Do | Master | Teach” approach sets professionals up for all types of experiences that build their leadership skills and insights.