There are plenty of marvelous books on management and leadership suggesting the golden rules of being a success.  I provide a list of my personal favorites as part of my website at:  They encompass the BIG things to do and not do and provide plenty of examples to back up their suggestions.

The best managers spend plenty of time considering the wisdom of what they read, learn in courses and training sessions, and in assessing their own performance for valuable lessons.  They work hard to adapt their management style to the situations they face and to cultivate flexibility in the face of constant change.

But in my experience, the very best managers are also MASTERS OF THE LITTLE THINGS.  More a matter of intuition and an inherent grasp of human nature, than a product of strategic planning, “book learning”, or deliberate intent, the little things they manage to consistently say and do make a very big difference, over time, in how those entrusted to their management skills perform.

In this and the next series of articles, I will address my list of those LITTLE THINGS that I believe really matter to subordinates and which have a direct bearing on individual and team performance.  My list is in no particular order of priority, since I consider each of these little things important and largely dependent on the situation at hand.

First, there is Acknowledgment and Affirmation.   Hold the door open for someone or do someone an un-asked-for favor and what do we expect?  Some form of acknowledgement of course; a nod of the head, a thank you, some sign of appreciation.  Affirmation that we have done something of value reinforces our sense of worth, suggests that indeed we have made some small contribution, and verifies that somebody noticed.  Small though these signs of acknowledgement often are, they are important to all of us; recall the negative emotions we generally experience when acknowledgement for something we have done is withheld.

Most managers are keen to acknowledge the big contributions their subordinates make at work; the killer sale, the grand project success, the idea that turns into a rainmaker.  But every day subordinates make numerous small contributions that collectively keep things running in the right direction, yet they often receive no sign of positive reinforcement that suggests anybody was paying attention or gave a fig.

The best managers, however, intuitively understand the contribution to unit morale and individual performance that arises from paying attention to the small contributions their subordinates make and they find ways to affirm them.  Each day they are keen to provide a few pats on the back, a couple of “nice jobs”, and an occasional “well done”.

To the recipient of these small gestures of acknowledgment, the affirmation that they are not just doing their job, but doing it well, matters a great deal.  They signify that their boss is paying attention, values them and their performance, and encourages them to strive for even greater contributions.

Find those managers who people say they love working for and you generally find a manager who pays attention to, and acknowledges, both the big and the little things they observe every day.

Categories: Learning Managers, Managing People, Self-Management

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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