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Leadership Lessons—The Little Stuff

One of the books that my wife, Mary Kay, has in her library is “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff … and It’s All Small Stuff.”

I was thinking about this during the Patriots/Broncos game a week ago. The game determined which team would play in the Super Bowl against the Carolina Panthers. (Which team am I for? Still the Packers—I guess they will only be at the game in the stands. Rats!)

There has always been one play in football that was automatic. The extra point. For the 2014 season there were only eight extra points missed.

Fast forward to this football season. The rules changed so extra points are now hiked from the 15-yard line instead of the two-yard line. This, in effect, makes it a 33-yard field goal—not a 20 yarder. It also took the extra point away from being “automatic.” In fact, there were 71 extra points missed.

There was no one bigger miss than the attempted extra point from Stephen Gostkowski for the New England Patriots in the AFC playoff game. He is a great kicker—evidenced by making 532 consecutive PATs—going back to his rookie year in 2006 when his attempt was blocked. It went wide right. He missed.

With 12 seconds left in the game, the Patriots were down by 8 and driving. (It would have been 7 had Gostkowski made the PAT.) Brady finds Gronkowski (Gronk) in the end zone draped by two defenders. Brady flicks the pass and Gronk grabs it to bring the difference to 2 points. There still hope for the Pats to take it to overtime and make it to the Super Bowl.

If this were any other game Stephen Gostkowski would drill the extra point and they would go to overtime. With no chance of this happening because of the miss, they go for a two point conversion … fail … and the Denver Broncos will be in the Super Bowl this weekend.

The little stuff.

Leaders understand this. They understand their worlds are comprised of little stuff. They monitor and measure. They watch overtime. Look at facts and figures. They compare their monthly spend versus their budget. Little stuff that most people take for granted.

When we read this account of the game, we realize what could have happened if Goskowski was now at 534 consecutive PATs instead of having his string snapped at 532.

Leaders understand why it is so important to order the right windshield. One person on vacation in a company’s operation is okay. But one employee on vacation and two more sick, can be crippling. If we promise someone we are going to be there at 9 a.m., leaders understand why it is so important that the tech call even if they are going to be 10 minutes late. The best owners preach this, teach this and make sure it becomes part of their culture.

There are millions of people who cheer for the Patriots and will watch the game next weekend and say, “what if?” They’ll talk about how good Brady is. They’ll say they had such a better chance to win with Brady than the Broncos will have with an aging quarterback named Manning.

No doubt Gostkowski will bounce back as a stronger kicker. He’ll focus like he has never focused before because of one incident.

Use this example in your own business while you examine the little stuff that happens every day. Use this example with your techs—they’ll get it when you show them what the little things can mean.

Don’t sweat the small stuff? Yes, it is all small stuff!

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