Are You Too Small to Make a Difference at Work?

Too small to make a difference“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” The Dalai Lama (XIV)

What a wise (and funny) reminder that each of us can and does have an impact on the world around us. For me, reading this quotation lifts my spirits when the world and all of its issues start getting the better of me. It helps me focus on the things I can control, one issue at a time, and small steps.

In the context of running a small business, there is even deeper meaning. You see, literally everyone in your organization makes a difference, every day. And the bigger your company gets, the harder that is to remember. Because there’s only so much time, it’s easy to lose track of what happens in the day-to-day business. Unless an employee does something remarkable or makes a spectacular mistake, we just don’t notice.

And that’s dangerous in two ways.

Don’t Minimize the Impact of Any Employee

First, when you stop noticing the little things people do every day to make a difference at work, they may no longer feel valued. And in my experience, it’s that feeling of being part of something special—a vital cog in the important machine that is your business—that helps you attract and retain great employees.

Not money, not titles, not authority—just being valued. Too often, we get so busy dealing with big problems or celebrating big wins that we miss 98% of the little stuff that’s worthy of a genuine “thank you,” or a visible pat on the back.

The second danger is what I like to call “It just doesn’t matter,” which allows me to quote both the Dalai Lama and John “Bluto” Blutarsky in the same blog. As you become more distant from the people “in the trenches” of your business, you start forgetting that they ARE capable of amazing things. They can make a huge difference in your business—good and bad.

This becomes clear when a leadership team doesn’t see the value of Level 10 Meetings and Rocks at the “front line” of the business. They don’t understand how a machine operator, or a technician, or a customer service agent gets value—and delivers value to the business—by setting Rocks or solving Issues.

They forget that—every minute of every day—these people are connected to the customers being served, to the parts being produced, and to the services being delivered. They can see things earlier and more clearly than anyone else in the business. Including its leadership team.

That means the Issues they solve and the Rocks they set just might be MORE important than yours, not less. And even if they’re tactical and trivial most of the time, there is immense power in engaging and valuing everyone in your business.

Even the mosquitoes.

Next Steps


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