SOME LEADERS BELIEVE that their focus should only be on the “big things,” and don’t concern themselves with the “little things.” We disagree. We have a saying in the Marines, “The little things take care of the big things.” Mission accomplishment becomes nearly impossible if we lose focus of the details.
In the military, we have very specific rules and regulations as to how we wear our uniforms, how we cut our hair, and even how we lace our boots. That type of daily attention to detail may seem excessive, but we know that it is the details that often have life-or-death consequences. If we can’t trust a young Marine to lace his boots left over right like he has been taught, we can’t trust that Marine to call in an accurate grid of artillery when our position is being overrun by the enemy.
Simple details can have huge consequences. A football wide receiver breaking out of his route one yard too early or too late can be the difference between a game-winning touchdown and a game-ending drop. A defender in lacrosse not paying attention to her scouting report and knowing her opponent’s tendencies can lead to her giving up a game-winning goal in overtime. A misplaced comma in a financial statement could lead to the loss of thousands or even millions of dollars.
Too often, leaders focus on these details only when mistakes have already been made and the consequences paid. The football coach, furious with his player for running the wrong ...