By Greg Thompson
“Shoes?!? Are you kidding me?!?”
A co-worker had just emerged from his annual performance review. He got great marks on technical accounting, he was well spoken, and had led his new team well. Then the zinger: “Areas to work on: Your shoes need to be polished and you should consider starch in your shirts.”
He was really upset. He did the work exceptionally well, and had built a great team. In his mind he got “everything right” and yet got dinged on something as petty as not shining his shoes. He was livid. He could not believe his manager cared about something so trivial and had the audacity to put it in writing.
Truth is, his shoes weren’t just a little scuffed—they were awful. It seemed pretty clear he had not touched them since they left the shoe store a long time ago. I noticed them every time we interacted, but got used to it.
Two lessons hung with me in this interaction—and they have little to do with shined shoes and starched shirts.
- Little things matter, especially when you are leading. Anytime you are in a position to influence others—regardless of your position on an org chart—people watch you differently. They want to know if they can trust you. Do your words match your actions? Do you pay attention to details—especially the visible details—that influence how you are perceived by others? If your manager sees sloppiness in your appearance or personal life, it may be more difficult to trust you with parts of the business. Even worse, if you are sloppy with the details, chances are your team will be sloppier.
- Be the role you want, not the role you have. My friend’s manager was trying to do him a favor. He was essentially saying, “If you want to get promoted, act like you care.” True at work, true in life. If you want something more than what you have, go the extra mile every time you can. Do what others won’t do. Make your manager’s life easier. Volunteer to take on extra assignments, stay later, or come in earlier. Dress, act, and talk in such a way that promoting you will be easy for the hiring manager when the time comes.
It turns out it ALL matters—little things, big things—it all paints a picture of who you are. How you behave and show up personally and professionally communicate whether parts of the business can be entrusted to your care.
If you are a leader (or want to be a leader), your game needs to be a step ahead of your team. People are watching. Act like you expect them to be watching.
If you have to ask if something matters, the answer is simple.
Yes. It matters.
Greg Thompson is a financial executive in Charlotte, N.C. He has been an active Bible teacher and leader for years.