The Magic of Thinking Small

30 May

All around us we celebrate people who dream and achieve big. We stand in awe of great leaders such as Steve Jobs, our fellow colleagues who are doing really well in their careers, our friends who have miraculously achieved great physical transformation so on and so on…

However, the reality is that high performance is achieved through the identification and perfection of small but relevant details – all those little things which are done really well. In the corporate/personal life, I see a lot of folks who want to do and can do really well but lack the self-discipline and perseverance to focus on small things which matter. Some examples:

  • I want to work on the most exciting projects and don’t like routine work but I haven’t spent time getting into the details of understanding the deeper details of my routine work.
  • I want to/need to learn this new technology/language but done have the time either in office or at home. I am just too busy – but not too busy getting distracted by continuous stream of facebook and whataspp notifications all through the day. Focusing on something deep even 30 minutes a day is just too difficult.
  • I want to be in good physical shape but do not have time. One day…

Jeff Weiner in one of the blog posts captured this thought really well in terms of quality of people with whom he enjoys working with. Getting shit done is a major element which is related to being grounded in the ground level execution details.

Coach John Wooden, the great American basket player and coach in his book ‘Wooden on Leadership’ has highlighted the importance of little things in making big things happen. As a coach, he focused on the minutest details which can impact a player’s performance such as the shoe size, the way shoestrings were tied, the color and design of their t-shirts.

As a leader or a manager, it is important to make sure that sloppiness is not tolerated and high standards around the execution of fundamentals are properly understood, communicated, and reinforced. These are the foundations on which effective leaders are able to build highly productive organizations.

Making excellence a habit and being grounded in smallest level details is the key to success. Bigger things are achieved by toiling hard every day rather than a magic bullet which will suddenly appear one day.

Jeff Olson in his great book ‘ The Slight Edge’ has summarized this beautifully:

“The truth is, what you do matters. What you do today matters. What you do every day matters. Successful people just do the things that seem to make no difference in the act of doing them and they do them over and over and over until the compound effect kicks in.”

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