Characteristics of Successful Employees: The Small Things Matter

I find myself listening to a speaker to reading about a person who has been very successful. As much as I hate to say it, sometimes I find myself thinking how they are so gifted they must have just fallen into success. The reality, like anyone in a career, rarely does success come on instantaneously. It is usually built over long hours managing the smallest details. Those just entering the workforce do not have the appreciation of building a reputation, learning the details, navigating the politics and delivering results year in and year out.

A key characteristic of a successful employee is found in the parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10).

“Imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbors: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.”

We learn in this parable the importance of the small things or in this specific story the one coin. When we pay attention to the little things, like the one coin, we have a better chance of being successful in the bigger things. If the woman had only paid attention to the nine coins, she would have lost one coin and been poorer for not caring. When we don’t care about the small things in business, we will also be poorer.

I had a manager that was a stickler for spelling on presentation slides. If there was a period out of place or any word spelled incorrectly, I had to fix it. Even if it meant re-printing the whole packet. In my manager’s mind, the one spelling error ruined the whole presentation. Instead of the person paying attention to the information they were being told, they would instead get distracted by the spelling or grammar error.

I know that seems like a silly point to bring up, but apply it to any situation in business and it becomes clear that the little things matter. A decimal point on a financial statement or a check can be significant. A wrong number on a customer order or a manufacturing run can have big consequences. The wrong skill in hiring a person can cost the company thousands. Pay attention to the small things and success will naturally follow. This does not mean only pay attention to the small things. Clearly the big things matter as well. However, long term success is built over time and keeping an eye out for the one coin will make a big difference.

What are your thoughts? Any stories you care to share?


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