The Little Things Are the Big Things

I recently received a gift from a colleague, Bill Carrier, in Marshall Goldsmith’s 100 Coaches, a network of coaches and thought leaders I’m proud to be part of. It was a customized Yeti cup with my name on it.

And here’s the best part: my name was spelled correctly. 

That doesn’t seem very newsworthy, but I’ve gotten a million different spellings of both my first and last names over the years (“Linzee” being my favorite). 

I’m sure so many of you can relate to this. 

While I don’t hold it against anyone for misspelling my name (and if you’ve done so, please don’t sweat it), I always notice when someone gets it right. And the only way someone can get it right, for sure, is to take an extra second to double-check.

The joy I felt at this gift was so powerful because it wasn’t just the gift; it was that someone took the time to pay attention to the little things. And as Wilferd Peterson said in his poem “The Art of Marriage,” “The little things are the big things.” 

That matters — in your romantic, platonic and workplace relationships. 

I frequently talk about the topic of little things in my workshops for early career professionals.

New hires and newly minted managers often try for home runs – coming up with a game-changing idea or giving a knock-out client pitch. Home runs are great, but they are often few and far between.

Instead, the accumulation of base hits — all the little actions — is what I believe more often separates the good employees from the extraordinary. When you devote time and attention to all of the seemingly little basics that might not seem all that important (being on time, properly formatting documents, spelling people’s names right), you can impress people with your consistency and attention to detail, and build a powerful foundation of trust. 

One of my favorite quotes to share during my keynotes is one that always resonates with Millennials and Gen Zs: “Do the boring stuff uncommonly well.” (Not that any of my clients give their employees tedious work, but if they did …)

As we near the end of the year, here are two little choices that can have a big impact as we approach the end of the year.

Acknowledge People How They Want to Be Acknowledged

One small action that has a significant impact is simply learning how people prefer to be acknowledged. Recognizing someone in a way that sparks the most joy for them can make those interactions so much more meaningful. 

Some people, for instance, prefer a quiet tap on the shoulder because public recognition can make them uncomfortable. Other folks prefer a public celebration of their accomplishments. 

And as we approach the holidays, remember that this applies to gift-giving, too! For example, you don’t want to send Omaha Steaks as a gift to your vegan client. One of my go-to gifts is Sugarwish, because recipients can customize their gifts to their unique preferences.

Take Time to Really Listen

It’s critical to check on people, especially this time of year. The holiday season is not a joyful time for everyone. You never know what someone is going through, whether it’s their first Christmas without a loved one or they’re struggling with seasonal affective disorder.

My friend Erica Keswin has pointed out that asking “How are you … really?” can be a powerful question to spark real connection. It’s an easy way to show people that you genuinely care. (Note that managers don’t need to be therapists, but we should all know where to refer an employee or colleague who is struggling with their mental health.)

For the record, I don’t care how many times someone asks how to spell my name — I just care that they ask! It tells me that it’s important to them to get it right, and that means a lot to me. And I just want to repeat: it doesn’t upset me when you misspell my name. But wow, does it make me happy when you spell it right.

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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