Little Things Lead to Big Things

Self-ImprovementLeadership

  • Author Luke Crane
  • Published March 13, 2020
  • Word count 821

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.

— John Wooden

I don’t play much golf. In fact, I wouldn’t call it playing at all. What can I say… God gave us all different gifts and passions. What I do know about golf is that once you have the fundamentals, you will spend the next lifetime refining and fine tuning your game. What I admire about golf is the ability to see your opportunities clearly. Your long game can be strong and get you to the green in 2 strokes, but if your short game doesn’t match, you will end up looking like a middle schooler at the putt putt course. Unfortunately, it is not as easy in leadership. On the bright side, with a little discipline and the right mindset, any leader can continually work on those details that will make all the difference.

A couple of months back I read a book titled "The Toyota Way". This was my first read about the Toyota company and it was my first introduction to the idea of kaizen. Kaizen is the mindset of how continuously making small improvements can lead to major changes over time.

I have often heard it said if you strive to improve 1% every day, mathematically, at the end of a year you will be 37 times better than when you started. Just by adopting some kind of change and improving yourself 1% a day.

HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

The first step in improving is assessing your strengths and your opportunities. (Yes, I call them opportunities and not weaknesses)

On a blank piece of paper answer these questions. After you have done that ask a peer or someone who knows you well to confirm/deny/add to the list.

What am I really good at?

What comes easily to me?

What do I struggle with?

What seems difficult and frustrating?

What gives me energy?

What drains my energy?

What are the top 10 skills I need to be great at what I do?

Now comes the fun part. For each answer in your list, rate yourself from 1 (least proficient) to 10 (most proficient). This will help you track your progress over time as well as give you a detailed look at your current situation.

WHAT DOES THAT EVEN LOOK LIKE? IT STARTS SMALL.

Now that you have a good list to start with, it is time to actually work on something. The key here is to start small. Remember 1% is not a lot. We are not trying to work on everything at once. That will only lead to burn out and shaking your fist at the sky. I should know… I have tried it.

Pick one thing: I would actually suggest you pick something that you find a strength in. This seems counter intuitive because opportunities generally are considered the low hanging fruit. Remember, those activities generally drain you, so let’s start out with something that gives you energy.

After you have picked, then start right away on getting better at it. Google ways to get better at it. Read an article. Download a podcast on the subject. Find a mentor. Something that will gain that 1%. If it is something you need to interact with people to do, then set up a meeting right away and go to work on it.

If you are anything like me you need variety in your life. If that is you, then pick a new skill or trait every day. This will keep it interesting. If you are more of the perfectionist, you might consider picking one thing a week. Don’t go longer than a week on any one thing. The goal is just 1% better every day.

TIPS THAT I HAVE FOUND WORK WELL:

One at a time. I already said it above, but don’t try to move the needle on everything at once. Focus on 1 thing at a time.

Write it down:

Studies show our brains do something magical when we write something down. It stays with us longer and is more likely to get done. Even if it is a sticky note on your wall… write it down.

Balance working on strengths and opportunities:

Strengths give you energy and opportunities drain you. It makes sense to keep them in balance as you work on them. Yes, working on opportunities gives you the most margin for change, but you absolutely don’t want to be drained all the time.

Get some accountability:

A great way to keep yourself accountable is to tell a buddy. Explain what you are working on and ask them if they will check in with you at the end of the day, week, month, or year. If you don’t feel good asking someone else then you can set a reminder on your phone or calendar to do a self assessment on that trait or skill on a certain day.

Luke Crane is the Owner of Leadership Cohort (www.leadershipcohort.com), a leadership coaching, training and speaking group that focuses on sharpening mid/entry level leaders for the next level.

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