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Focus on little things for big results

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Part of the challenge for any coach is conveying simple, easy-to-implement instructions to the team. If you overload people, they may disregard what you say or struggle to follow through.

John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, liked to focus on a handful of what he called “little things.” By emphasizing the importance of certain details, he helped his players perform at a higher level.

Wooden’s consistent attention to detail—like double-tying shoelaces—led to better results. He also schooled players on accurate passing and catching of the ball by conducting rigorous practices with the goal of turning “a learned skill into an instinctive habit.”

Other great performers share Wooden’s fondness for “doing a few things well.” Baseball great Ted Williams realized that his bat worked better if it met his precise specifications, such as having eight to 10 grain lines per inch.

As a result, he took extra care to ensure his bats were crafted to meet his exacting standards. Touring the Louisville bat-making facility, Williams asked workers using the lathe to integrate “any little pin knots in wood” into his bats. Those pin knots hardened the wood, adding extra power to his bat.

Wooden understood the value of a tiny burst of extra effort. He urged players to expend that added bit of concentration to outlast rivals.

Wooden’s coaching philosophy aligns with motivational speaker Sam Parker’s message that a tiny bit of extra effort can produce disproportionate gains. Parker notes that water is hot at 211 degrees. But at 212 degrees, it boils and creates steam that can power a city.

— Adapted from Coach Wooden’s Greatest Secret, Pat Williams & Jim Denney, Revell.

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