Taking Care of the Little Details Brings Big Rewards

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”  Legendary UCLA Men’s basketball coach, John Wooden


There’s no denying that business … and life … seems to be moving at the speed of light these days. And, even though this writer was born just on the dividing line between being a Baby Boomer and a Gen-Xer, this isn’t going to be an old man rant on Millennials. I’m not going to drone on about how it was better in my day … or how you “kids” need to put your phones down and interact with other humans face to face … and then end it by yelling at you to get off my lawn. Instead, my experience allows me to pass on one piece of advice to Millennials as they start their careers: The people who are most effective in life and business, pay attention to the details. (Of course, this applies to EVERY generation as well!)

At work, it’s about doing the little things correctly and consistently, day in and day out. Not forgetting an appointment. Responding quickly to your boss’s request. Making sure all the complexities of an order are covered. Re-reading your email one last time before you send it. (Boomers call that—“dotting all your i’s and crossing your t’s.”)

It’s about thoroughness, focus, concentration, care and attention. On a personal level, it’s about pride in the way you perform your job.

People will notice when you pay attention to the details of a job

I’m reminded of a recent experience buying a gift for a friend at a small local shop. The clerk handled the gift I’d purchased gently, as though it was much more expensive than the $40 I’d spent on it. She spent more than a few minutes meticulously wrapping the box in beautiful paper and making sure the silk bow was tied in just the right way. The receipts were double-checked, assembled and stapled. And, with a final, sincere“thank you,” the clerk looked at me with a smile in her eyes—the kind you give to a lifelong friend.

This shop has been in business for 75 years. The clerk was the original owner’s granddaughter. A coincidence? I don’t think so.

Sure, you need to worry about big-picture issues like long-term vision, deadlines and goals. But don’t make the mistake of thinking the details are trivial, inconsequential or unimportant. Not managing the details can breed mistakes, snowball into greater problems, break down your integrity and end up causing more headaches than more obvious errors. Take a moment to think, what am I missing?

Paying attention to the cleanliness of your workspace, the quality of your correspondence with others, how quickly you attend to customers’ or co-workers’ needs, your actions “when no one is looking”—these are the little things that make a big difference to your ultimate success.

What can YOU do today?

Today, re-commit to taking care of even the smallest details of your responsibilities faithfully and see what happens:

  • Keep a checklist for everyday tasks, covering details that may be overlooked
  • Standardize your procedures and follow them exactly
  • Take notes when discussing any type of task, including immediately jotting down recaps of conversations, meetings, phone calls, etc.
  • Perform routine work with mindfulness
  • Review all written documents—from business proposals to e-mail—for accuracy and completeness
  • Stop losing things by getting more organized

The most successful people recognize the importance of managing the details. Take a lesson from Steve Jobs. His attention to detail—from the clasp on a cord to the packaging of a laptop—is legendary.

More power to the i-dotters and t-crossers of the world!


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