Friday, June 22, 2007

Small Stuff

Have you ever wondered what makes the difference between individuals with equal levels of skill in determining who is going to be more successful. In some cases it can be a team or an individual with a lesser amount of talent winning or outperforming a group or an individual with great talent. What is it? What makes the difference? John Maxwell published a book that I recently read in preparation for a meeting called "The Difference Maker," in which he refers to the "difference maker" as attitude. This makes logical sense in terms of deciding between two equally skilled individuals when making a hiring decision or in similar circumstances, but I personally believe there is one more attribute that truly separates leaders or performers from one another. In my opinion, and in addition to attitude, it is the effort that is put forth in seeing to the details that will truly differentiate between performers. It is like the old saying goes, "The small stuff always makes the difference." This can reveal itself in various forms such as who is conducting and participating in training on an ongoing basis, who is putting forth the extra effort in perfecting their skill set outside of "game-time" and in many other forms. When I was an outside sales representative in my first job at a group of local community newspapers in Southern Illinois I was asked by my manager at the time why I was able to take a territory that had been traditionally the weak spot for the organization to a top-performing territory. My answer was that I make sure I am seeing to the details and putting forth the extra effort to do what it takes to be successful. Even when it was in the high 90's and the humidity was at 100 percent (the kind of day when the steering wheel burns your hands) I was making my final four calls of the day. Managing my own performance was a big part of my personal success as a sales rep and it was the effort I put forth in executing the small stuff or the extra effort that it took to accomplish my own personal goals that truly made the difference.

In leading a team to higher levels of success it is important for the leader to demonstrate that they are willing to exude this trait in terms of their commitment to the team's success. The best way to breathe life into this quality is to invest personally in the development of your people. Invest extra time aiding in the improvement of a skill, talking about your experiences, guiding, coaching, and mentoring your folks to higher levels of success. Your efforts will be repaid with higher levels of performance, loyalty, and (in the presence of a quickly emerging passive job seeker labor economy) retention.

There is another saying that goes... "Don't' sweat the small stuff." This might be true if you can live with less than the best in terms of your results, and while I am all about prioritizing time and efforts, you simply cannot afford to ignore the small stuff if you are going to build a "world-class" organization.

What "small stuff" will make the difference in your leadership or your teams, or in your team's ability to execute at higher levels of performance?