My wife and I were recently quite nicely entertained by the movie Knight and Day starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. It’s not for everyone, but we like action movies and there was plenty of it in this fast-paced film. During a lull in the movie Diaz asks Cruise what makes him so successful as a secret agent: “I pay close attention to the little things,” was his response. His answer made me think about “the little things” in my life and the impact they have had on me and those around me.
When relating to people, it seems I have always paid attention to the little things. Maybe it goes back to when I was a kid growing up in a Salvation Army Officer-parent home and observed my folks always going the extra mile to help people or undertake one of their many acts of kindness – neither of which were intended to elicit any type of response or reaction.
Or it might have been the Stephen Covey seminar I attended several years ago “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” I learned a lot during that week, but what has stayed with me the most is the lesson on the Emotional Bank Account. It teaches that if you keep a healthy balance of positive deposits in people’s emotional bank accounts, interpersonal relationships with those you work with, friends and family members can be a whole lot better.
Have you ever worked with or for someone who seems to always be pointing out the things you do wrong while ignoring your positive contributions? I have, and it’s not any fun. These are the individuals whose emotional bank accounts with people are always awash in red ink, and like a regular bank account, things will catch up with them eventually.
I have found paying attention to the little things is really effortless and the upside can be quite substantial. I like to send handwritten notes or cards to people with a simple note of congratulations or recognition for something accomplished….maybe even a thank you where none was expected. Donors love this attention (well, most of them do, anyway) and believe me, although they may not say anything, they do remember your thoughtfulness.
I also think it is very important to do the little things when dealing with your staff or co-workers. In the fundraising business we are usually under a lot of pressure to perform and don’t always take the time to offer a “Kudos” or well-deserved pat on the back. If you are a manager, praise of a direct report for a job well done, either one-on-one or in a staff meeting, can make all the difference in the world. When I was the head of a large team a few years ago, I always ended our monthly all-staff meeting agenda with a topic entitled “Share a Kudos.” I enjoyed sitting back and listening to staff expressing their appreciation for the efforts of others within our department. There is no doubt in my mind that this activity was partially responsible for creating an harmonious atmosphere for our team.
Let me close by suggesting you don’t forget your family when contemplating the little things, especially your children. In my opinion, contentment in one’s life is dependent upon an harmonious balance between work and home, so make certain you are paying attention to the little things at home just as much (if not more) than at work.
“The little things” – they’re easy to do and bear little to no financial cost. But engage in them consistently and the benefits can be priceless.