Leaders Really Do Need To Do This Sometimes
Most entrepreneurs and leaders tend to be big picture thinkers. They are full of ideas and thoughts about how the world could be different and how they want to change how things are done, but are the little details important?
I think there is an argument for “not sweating the small stuff”, like is setting goals. Sometimes you don’t need to know exactly “how” you are going to do something before you set a goal to do it. If you knew how to double your sales, then you probably would have already done it. In this case, the setting the goal pushes you to go figure something out, but does that mean detail is never important?
My simple answer is “no”. Sometimes sweating the small stuff is critical to your business’s success and here is why.
In 1982, James Wilson and George Kelling wrote an article where they discussed the “Broken Window Theory” which basically states that “signs of disorder will lead to more disorder”. In the article, they discussed how if in a neighborhood there is a building with a broken window, and if that window is left unrepaired, people will begin to believe that no one cares. After a while, the neighborhood will eventually be filled with graffiti and the crime rate will go up. It discusses how over time a system will gradually erode, if little things are not addressed.
So how does this apply to your business?
Over the past couple of years, businesses have been disrupted due to the pandemic. In fact, we all have. We have gotten use to things being a little different. People have come to expect that there will be disruptions and that maybe the customer service they had come to expect, isn’t quite there. They have been okay with delays and missed deadlines, but this will come to an end, at some point.
What has happened, in many businesses, is some of the systems have suffered from a broken window and as leaders it is our job to make sure they are getting repaired (maybe not all at once, but at least they need to be on the list!).
Let me share with you a couple of real-life examples:
- Staff haven’t needed to be there to open up in the morning, so start times have gotten a little lax. It started out with people being just on time, to eventually being a couple of minutes late (no big deal), to now being 10 to 15 minutes late. Everyone thought as soon as customers were back, the behaviour would correct itself
- Casual wear, such as sweatpants and flip flops, had become the pandemic dress code for many. Now that things are starting to open up, some of the comfort of the casual wear has crept into the everyday wear of employees.
- Calls were once returned before the end of the day and now have extended through to the next day and in some cases two days, with excuses that they are waiting on information, or someone is not available.
In all these cases, it isn’t that the employees don’t care, it is because these things have gone unchecked over the past year and a half, now they believe they are no longer important. No one was sweating the small stuff.
In reality, some of them may not be. In other cases, they could become extremely important as your business comes back online. While I have referred to the pandemic as being the culprit, this same thing happens all the time in business. A deadline gets missed and before long deadlines don’t mean anything. A cup gets left in the sink and before long you have a sink full of dishes. A defect is let through and before long you have a recall issue. As a leader you may not like to “sweat the small stuff”, but there is small stuff that keeps your customers coming back to you.
Sweating the small stuff today, allows you to think of the big stuff tomorrow!
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