I wish to do something Great and Wonderful, but I must start by doing the little things like they were Great and Wonderful – Albert Einstein
We all want to accomplish great things in life and work. As a sales leader, one of the areas I try to instill in my team as well as myself is to focus on the fundamentals and the little things first before thinking and focusing on the big stuff. I feel that we need to be able to do the little things well and master the basics, before trying to move on to bigger things. Usually, when we focus on the fundamentals and execute well on the little things, the success we achieve is extraordinary because of the many little things we did well, that prepares us for the big wins.
The best way to visually describe it has been shown in countless martial arts movies where a character is jumping up and down, doing fancy kicks and amazing acrobatic moves, but his opponent landed a single fundamental punch and knocked the guy out cold. At work many of us waste lots of additional energy and focus on busy work, with hands flapping around, looking uber busy, but nothing gets accomplished. The actual value added work is in the details, the grind, the dirty work that needs to get done, and done well. The true measure is the result you deliver, not the fancy kicks and dancing. Are you the guy doing roundhouse, backflip kicks and running out of breath, while your colleague does the work that needs to be done to get results? Results that matter? Or does it just look “good?”
The great John Wooden believed in the Fundamentals and was one of the elements for his Formula for Success. He believed in Conditioning + Fundamentals + Unity. You can read more in his book “Wooden on Leadership.” This formula mix gave him 10 National Championships with this approach. His concept of focusing on the basics, the fundamentals was where he started every winning season, with the meticulous practice on how to put on your socks. Imagine the eyebrows he must have risen when asking his team to do that. The reason behind this was to reduce the development of blisters, allowing his team to be healthier and in better condition for the season. He focused on the things that others would easily overlook because it seems insignificant, but with an intentional emphasis on the details and fundamentals, he was able to build a solid foundation in every detail, which resulted in a year over year winning team, in a competitive sport.
This concept reminds me of one of the greatest sales team I was fortunate to be part of and lead, where we were outnumbered and up against more sales representatives in the market, as well as going against embedded market leaders, but like in the Movie 300, we were well trained, conditioned, unified as a team and the fundamentals was coached to them, even when they hated it. We were pound-for-pound, better sales professionals than our competitors and guess what our team name was? The Spartans! And we delivered consistent winning results!
I implemented this foundational approach with my team and over time, we were able to achieve extraordinary success, again and again. But it wasn’t easy to introduce this concept to the group initially because the seemingly insignificant actions I asked of them didn’t seem as important as the bigger tasks. Some who left my team probably thought I was ridiculous. As time passed, I still get random calls from my old team members, or I would call them, and we all share the memories of doing the great work that we truly enjoyed. Work that we did in extremely competitive markets, but we felt a sense of accomplishment and true joy for our profession. My hopes were that they learned the concepts to take to their daily work, to continue with that “Spartan” spirit. With your job, ask yourself, “What are the basics?” Put this on your calendar as a reminder every month, and focus on the little things to achieve extraordinary results.
Wooden on Leadership is a book I highly recommend for leaders and individuals as it makes you want to be a better leader and a better professional in your chosen field.