the next small thing

I suspect that too often we are waiting for the next big thing when we would really benefit from looking for the next little thing. It is the little things that can make the biggest difference in our lives.

Buying groceries is about as mundane as it gets yet the grocery store is great fodder for the subtle differences between getting it right, getting by, and screwing it up. This weekend, after waiting forever in the checkout line I noticed that there wasn’t a bagger helping out the cashier. Yet there was a bagger standing around talking to the next cashier over whose line had just emptied.

An A-player would have looked over, seen that there was work to do, and gotten the groceries bagged as quickly as the cashier was scanning them. Instead, this bagger chose to wait until all the groceries were scanned and I was paying for them to come over and help the cashier bag everything up. The total time difference to me was probably about three minutes. Not a big deal, yet I left the store irritated at the indifferent service. And, multiply three minutes across all the shoppers and it’s no wonder the lines had been moving slowly.

Did the groceries get bagged? Yep. Did the bagger do their job? Good enough to stay employed. But keeping an eye out for the next opportunity to serve would make a big difference and take almost no more effort. The sad thing is they probably think they are doing a good job and will never understand why they aren’t getting ahead.

When we wonder why our businesses, departments, or teams aren’t as successful as they should be, when we wonder why our career seems to have stalled, is it possible that we are overlooking the simple things that open the gap between average and outstanding?


A-player opportunities rarely come to B-players. The best opportunities come to those who are already doing a great job.  And it is typically the little things that separate good from great. A question to be asking is, “What could I do right now to make things quicker, easier, or more pleasant for my customers?”

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