Book:  The Little Big Things

Author:  Tom Peters

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Peters, T. (2010). The little big things : 163 ways to pursue excellence. New York: HarperStudio.

Three Big Takeaways

  • If you can figure out how to go to work with a smile today, not only will I guarantee that you will have a better day and your performance will improve, but also you will infect others. (pg. 64)

  • The four most important words in management are "what do you think?" We obsessively ask "What do you think?" We understand that we rise or fall on the engagement and intelligence and constant contributions of 100 percent of us. It screams: "you are an invaluable person. I respect you. I respect your knowledge. I respect your judgment. I need your help." (pg. 156)

  • Keep people informed/overinformed 100 percent of the time. We can almost all deal quite well with just about anything that comes our way...but we all deal very poorly with uncertainty. Tell me it'll probably be a 90-minute delay and I'm fine. Total silence? I'm on edge, pissed off as hell - irate, in fact. (pg. 205)

Other Key Ideas

  • If you are really, really good at "basic stuff" like taking care of people, listening intently, overreacting to even the tiniest screw-up, and apologizing like crazy when you make even a wee boo-boo, a lot of good things will come your way - in good times and bad! (pg. 23)

  • Two observable attributes of resilient organizations are managing by wandering around (knowing what is actually going on in real working conditions) and transparency (keeping everyone in the know and no one in the dark). (pg. 48)

  • You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. (pg. 83)

  • Any public speaker can earn megapoints by appreciating someone else's turf. A speaker should attempt to form a common heritage with the audience by finding a way to reference something that makes a connection with that audience. This is hard, conscious work. These cannot be implemented off the top of your head - they must be studied and worked at and practiced. (pg. 98)

  • One CEO would call 60 CEO's in the first week of the year to wish them Happy New Year. I'm not suggesting false sincerity here, but I urge you to develop some sort of ritual. Then establish a habit of making these connections. The fact that you made the effort is the big deal. Even better is a handwritten note! But not an email - that goes for millennials as well as us old buggers. (pg. 100)

  • One famous leader claims that you have 7 seconds to make a first impression. The bottom line is: pay mindful attention to how you engage! It is as important as "content" - like it or not. (pg. 117)

  • As is reported in Psychology Today, our memories are very selective. In particular, no matter how extended an event, we form our view and make our evaluation based - with a dramatic skew - on the "most intense moments" and the "final moments." (pg. 119)

  • Everything passed through your finance department, so you must begin in earnest to build a network in the department. Of course, the primary "trick" is to ask questions, even simplistic ones - it shows that you want to learn and you wish for them to be your teacher - what greater mark of respect? Everything passes through finance - their business is your business. Stop pissing and moaning about their world and invest appreciation of their world. (pg. 127)

  • A positive comment - a small plaque, a pin, a celebratory banquet (or lunch!) at the end of a small but successful project, a smile, a "thank you" or two or three. The evidence is clear - people don't get much positive reinforcement! Because you and I, as leaders, don't offer it up. I repeat: Sheer lunacy! You must constantly offer recognition for the tiniest steps in the right direction. (pg. 151)

  • A retired US Navy Captain would send letters to the parents of his crew members. Putting himself in those parents' shoes, he imagined how happy they would be to hear from the commanding officers that their sons and daughters were doing well. "Leadership is the art of practicing simple things - commonsense gestures that ensure high morale and vastly increase the odds of winning." (pg. 153)

  • A genuine apology is of the utmost personal and strategic importance - and worthy of the label "magical." An effective apology is far more than a "bullet dodged." Not only is a problem cleared up, but the apology brilliantly solidifies a relationship and carries it forward. (pg. 159)

  • A former GM plant manager caused a local revolution by walking the shop floor daily. The prior plant manager - in contrast - didn't once travel to where the action was in a half-dozen years. (pg. 263)

  • The employee's satisfaction or dissatisfaction with his first-line supervisor is the clear & unequivocal #1 factor in his state of mind about his job, and hence his performance. (pg. 273)

  • By nodding and taking notes when you are listening to someone you are showing respect to what they have to say. And by note-taking, you are indicating that what is being said is so brilliant that is is worth immortalizing. Both nodding and taking notes say "You are important and interesting - I must capture for eternity the pearls of wisdom you are imparting. (pg. 327)

  • Swallow your pride (especially if you are top boss) by asking questions until you understand. The "dumber" the question, the better! Bosses are prone to falling into the trap of not admitting when they don't know the answer or have trouble with the concept. Fact is, we should readily admin when we do not know something, but also actively seek out things we do not know. (pg. 346)

  • Do you bend over backwards to go a "little" beyond the rules to help students, staff, and families? Do you authorize/encourage everyone to break the rules a little bit? This can be tricky because you want to demand excellence yet you want to be open to your employees breaking the rules for students, staff, and families. Creating a culture that's loose and tight simultaneously is no walk in the park. In fact, dealing with, rather than avoiding, this paradox is one of management's greatest challenges. It is said that if you avoid this topic, there will be a dangerous drift towards more "safe" rule-following and less people taking the initiative to break the rules. Therefore, the paradox must be addressed proactively. (pg. 390)

  • A lot of times we say "I can't wait until (fill in the blank)!" Don't allow yourself to fall into the "I can't wait until" trap. Give yourself a verbal slap in the face when the "can't wait until"... thought crosses your mind. Instead, the goal should be to make the absolute most of the moment. Never say "I wish this trip were over" so I can get back home. Instead, focus on the moment of being here, not there. (pg. 464)

  • You should hire for enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the ultimate virus - its power is stunning. Measure this trait in hiring and promotions. If someone has low enthusiasm you should not hire them or give them the promotion. Ever. (pg. 467)

  • Here is a hiring criteria for 100 percent of jobs: Would you like to go to lunch with him or her? We must test "personable" in every serious candidate for any and all jobs. You do not need to "fall in love" with the candidate, but good chemistry matters. After all, it is the social glue that leads to a team's success. (pg. 469)

  • The "business" of effective leaders is first and foremost relationships. The best are obsessive students of this game - some take notes on everyone they meet. Never go in "cold" even to the most informal of meetings. Instead, see every contact as a "strategic" opportunity. (pg. 471)

  • The boss gets, on average, two serious promotions decisions a year. Suppose you're in a job five years. That's no more than 10 promotion decisions. Those decisions more or less determine your legacy. At the end of a career, you most important "product" is the people you develop. The bottom line is obvious - you cannot put too much effort into these decisions! (pg. 476)

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