06/12/2020

BY CADDY JURICA, SENIOR MANAGER

If you think the band Blink-182 had it all figured out in the 90s, you’re not wrong. I’ve noticed throughout my career that all the small things really do make a big difference.

I began my career at Sendero directly out of college. Over seven years later, I’m a Senior Manager and have learned a few things—both through personal experience and observing others.

One of the biggest lessons to date has been the realization that the small things in my job are huge drivers for making the big things successful.

So first, what are the big things in a corporate setting? To me, they’re explicit deliverables we are hired to create, the deadlines we are held to, the critical relationships we hold with our coworkers and clients. It’s easy to get laser focused on these big things – they’re what stand out if you look at your job description on paper.

While the big things are important, what I’ve observed is that the small things—the intangibles that live in the space between the initiatives or deadlines—are what take your work from good to great.

Researcher, author, and speaker Brene Brown highlights this concept in a marble jar analogy from her book Dare to Lead. She explains that things like trust are built “slowly, over time, and in small moments.” Each small moment is a marble—good acts are marbles added to the jar, and acts that erode trust are marbles removed from the jar.

Over time, the contents of the jar reflect the quality of your relationship with another person. Your relationships with people ultimately help nurture happy work environments, secure future work, and build a reputation over time. On their own, the small things fly by unnoticed. Collectively, they establish the real value of a job well done.

While the big things are important, what I've observed is that the small things—the intangibles that live in the space between the initiatives or deadlines—are what take your work from good to great.

Regardless of your title or rank, here are three ways you can add value through the small things:

Utilize Soft Skills

Take time to connect

When a meeting appears to have a jam-packed agenda, it’s easy to fall into the tendency to dive right into your items. When appropriate (note: it’s not every time!), take a moment to catch up with attendees. Looking back at strong professional relationships, it’s amazing how they are built by years of small interactions. Over time it becomes easier to navigate complex situations with these individuals if you’ve built a strong personal base with them.

Dig deeper

Understanding a co-worker’s true needs and expectations is easier when you take time to ask questions – not solely relying on what they’ve provided unprompted. Questions are powerful tools that unlock information lying just beneath the surface. Many times, what people had in mind doesn’t translate perfectly to the recipient. Asking a simple follow-up question to help you understand the request at a deeper level, or reiterating what you heard helps with both parties understanding of the clear next steps, leading to a greater likelihood of success.

Develop an Eye for Detail

Notes done right

Notes that are captured well and sent out on time can help transform momentum on an effort with a large group of people. They demonstrate your organization skills and a sense of wholistic understanding. Note taking isn’t only reserved for entry-level employees. I’ve observed leaders at every level demonstrate this skill successfully. Bonus tip: if there’s a designated note-taker, it can still be a powerful tool to capture notes yourself for your own understanding and organization.

Focus on the details

Attention to detail goes a long way. Have you ever been distracted in a meeting because the layout on the slides is misaligned, the titles aren’t in consistent places, or the flow of information seems messy? Just me? Little formatting mistakes can be distractions. You want to ensure your audience is focused on your content, not the vehicle used to present it.

Put a Marble in the Jar: The Power in Perspective

Gather input

Often to accomplish our tasks, we have a choice to make—work independently or gather perspective from others. While this can be an obvious choice in some situations, in other situations the decision is grayer. When time allows, taking the extra step to gather perspective from others may drastically change the outcome of the end result, and build trust through transparency in the process.

Follow up

Ensuring there’s follow-up after a conversation to “close the loop,” is another example of demonstrating care and professionalism in a relationship that helps add a marble to the jar. Shooting someone an email with a task update can be a simple way to demonstrate that you haven’t lost sight of an item that’s important to someone. Whether you’re in an operational role and your stakeholders are in your own company, or in a client facing role where your stakeholders could be from multiple companies, with every interaction you’re doing something with a marble. What do you want to do with your next marble?

There’s a lot of emphasis on accomplishing big things well in a corporate setting, and rightfully so! But rarely do the big things spring from nothing – Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. Small things done consistently add up in the long run and are key to manifesting a successful career. Imagine how refining simple actions in your day-to-day could unlock opportunities down the line!

Small things done consistently add up in the long run and are key to manifesting a successful career.

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