Volume 3, Issue 1

January 2014

Blue Ridge Conference

The Little Things

I earn my living as a training professional. While working with my team on business writing essentials, we discussed the importance of proper comma placement. A colleague sent me an image of a witty t-shirt that read:

Let’s eat Grandma

Let’s eat, Grandma

Commas save lives!

I chuckled dutifully and as the days passed, I kept thinking about how such a little thing could impart so much meaning. In essence, that is the theme of leadership: the little things often have more meaning than we may realize.

As the annual odometer flips over one more year, we tend to get self-absorbed, whether it’s with the holidays, our resolutions, or the long days between now and Memorial Day. We need to make sure as leaders, however, we don’t forget our influence on those around us.

After attending the Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership, we leave the mountain motivated and invigorated and many of us take that enthusiasm back to our off-the-mountain lives, at least for a short time. As much as I recharge when I attend the Conference and as much as I revel in what I’ve learned from the amazing sessions and keynotes, I also reflect on the little things. These little things include observing a smiling attendee holding a door open for another, the passing of bottom buddies in Heaton Hall, friendly and responsive team members in the YMCA dining hall, friendly waves from participants whenever Cameraman Pete is filming, and there are many more.  Are these little things? Perhaps. Are they examples of leadership in action? Absolutely.

In the year ahead, I need to perform more of these acts of kindness. I need to remember that a friendly smile, a kind word, or even saying good morning can have a bigger impact than I might ever expect. The converse is also true. Small slights, even unintended ones, can have a huge demotivational impact. Forgetting to say good morning to a team member who has come to expect it can be devastating. While we may have meant no slight, little actions can have significant consequences. Think about a time when the motivation of praise was undermined by the inevitable inclusion of a "but".

I conducted an informal survey with team members and other colleagues on the most motivational little things:

  1. Smile - It is contagious.
  2. Ask for others' opinions - If your team members don’t have good thoughts and ideas, why are they on your team?  If a thought or idea doesn’t resonate, use it as a coaching moment, an opportunity for self-reflection, or both.
  3. Listen – Don’t, in the words of Quentin Tarrantino, "wait to talk".
  4. Hold fewer, more focused conversations - This increases touchpoints and reduces the risk of mixing positive and constructive feedback.

As insignificant as some of these things might seem, I see their positive impact on a daily basis. Precisely because they are so small, they’re much easier to do every day. So, I task each of you who tends to forget about the little things, try to incorporate them into your daily leadership practices. We might not save as many grandmothers as commas will, but we will grow as leaders and human beings.

Here’s to a happy and fulfilling 2014!

Anthony Koch

Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership Board Member
Director of Training
W. S. Badcock Corporation


A quick reminder:
  1. Please like us on Facebook at:

©2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 Blue Ridge Leadership Conference. All Right Reserved.