The 1988 film “Rain Man” was based on the story of a real person, an American savant, named Kim Peek. Kim Peek, at a very young age, was able to read books using one eye to read a page on one side and the other eye to read the other page. He was able to read a thick book within an hour; in fact, retaining 98% of what he was able to read.
The story is told about him that when attending a performance of William Shakespeare’s “The Twelfth Night.” Towards the very end, he got up and shouted “Stop it. Stop it. You can’t go any further.” And with that, the actor stopped. The actor had skipped the second to last verse of the play. And the actor said “I didn’t think it would matter. It was so similar to the last verse.” And Peek said “It mattered to William Shakespeare. It should matter to you.”
Little things that he was able to pick up obviously made a big difference to Kim Peek. The challenge for you as a business leader is not to just see the big things but also to be mindful of the little things.
Earlier in my career one of my rotational assignments was in “Operations.” The plan was to develop general management skills, navigate personnel issues, manage a budget, meet or exceed customer service metrics, etc. Up until now, I had never managed more than 4 people. Now I was responsible for 300 people, with the majority of them represented by a union. One day a rumor was going around that a layoff was imminent. There was no foundation to the rumor. As I asked around, I discovered the shocking truth. When I arrived at work that morning my demeanor was different; more stoic and quiet than normal. Maybe our newborn child kept my wife and I up all night. Maybe it was a tough commute into the city. Regardless of what it was, I behaved differently than the staff had come to expect. They read into it that something was wrong. I must be harboring bad news. I cleared the air with the staff immediately. It was here that I learned that your reputation, what your name stands for, how you carry yourself, instilling trust and keeping your word, were the most important and powerful elements for success.
The little things make all the difference. The words spoken to a person. Perhaps just the time listening to a person. The gesture that one can offer to a person. Those things are what will allow you to grow. Perhaps you’ll never fully realize the impact those little things make. The effect is felt far past your imagining. The little things matter, not only to William Shakespeare, but to the people in your lives and to the leaders you strive to become.