Sweat the Small Stuff

We’ve all read about or been told not to “sweat the small stuff”. Yet, in our technology-driven, fast paced, uncertain world, it’s the little things that matter most, which distinguish a good boss from a great leader. It’s those unexpected acts of kindness, gratitude, and caring that deepen our relationships both professionally and personally – the difference makers that our colleagues, friends and family remember long after the “generous” act has passed.

Below are my top 7 servant leadership behaviors – small in nature, big in impact.

1. Saying “Thank You” - For a job well done, working overtime to complete a project, doing something outside of one’s job responsibilities, etc.. Don’t wait for the BIG accomplishment or the extraordinary to acknowledge your staff. Writing a “thank you” note to a team-member leaves a lasting emotional impression that you truly care. When it matters, pick up a pen vs. typing an email or tapping out a text.

2. A Long Weekend – You know that you’re disconnected from those you lead when one of your team members comes up to you and tells you they’re going to take a “mental health” day (or just doesn’t show up to work and calls in sick). If you’re seeing signs of stress and fatigue in your high performers, extend to him/her a “comp” day and allow them to relax and recover over a long weekend. The message you’re sending is that you care and that they matter – beyond the work, beyond the job.

3. Fully Listen – Nothing new right? Well, when’s the last time someone fully listened to you – not only with their ears and mind but with their heart? A true and deep connection without distractions? People know when they have been heard, when they have been fully understood, without judgment, without being given advice or being asked to repeat themselves.

4. Getting Out of the Way – Often times, the best intentioned leaders do things or don’t do things that make performing one’s job more challenging than is necessary. Periodically, ask your colleagues what you need to stop doing, start doing, change a bit, and/or do more of. I guarantee you that if you listen with an open mind and act on what you hear, you will engender a higher level of trust and commitment from your team.

5. Clear Expectations – “If you were unclear, why didn’t you ask?” Or “You’ve worked here long enough, you should know what is expected of you!” Sound familiar?? Lack of clarity of what is expected, priorities, desired outcomes, and/or changing the “rules of the game” lead to distrust, frustration, disengagement and even turnover of key members of your staff. Be concise, over communicate, and seek for mutual understanding when setting expectations. Don’t make assumptions.

6. Following Through – Commitments and promises are made multiple times throughout the day to one another – both big and small. Heck, that’s the easy part right? Makes you look good in the moment, makes the other person feel that they matter, that you care. What happens next is what really matters. As a leader, as a person of integrity for that matter, following through on our word is where the “rubber meets the road”. Make that introduction, schedule that appointment, show up early, meet that deadline, read that report, send that email, etc… We all respect those in our lives that consistently do what they say – an act that is becoming rarer these days given our hectic lives.

7. Smile - Have you ever caught yourself frowning or having a serious look on your face for no reason? Or been asked “What’s wrong?” and were genuinely surprised by the query? What unintended message are you sending to those in your “path” in that moment? Get in the habit of smiling as you walk about at work and in life and watch the reaction you create in your co-workers, friends, family and strangers. A smile is an invitation to engage with you, and to return the favor. 

In summary, remember that leadership is getting results through others. And it’s in our actions and words, the everyday acts of kindness, gratitude and caring that truly make the difference with those we work with and have the privilege to lead.

Maya Angelou said it best: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”