CUNA Corner

'The Little Big Things'

April 26, 2012
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"The Little Big Things" by Tom Peters is a rousing call-to-arms to American business to get "back to the basics" of running a successful enterprise.

The book's main message: Excellence is the result of many small tasks, all of which can be practiced and mastered.

Peters describes 163 ways to pursue excellence, each of which should be sampled a bit at a time, he explains. They include:

● Show up! (It's a start.) Based on Woody Allen's famous quote, "Eighty percent of success is showing up," this advice is humorous, but unchallengeable.

"It's true for me and you—and true in circumstances of the greatest import," says Peters. "'Woody's strategy' works in an office of five people—and when the fate of a nation is at stake."

● It's all about...the quality of the work force. On a football team or a symphony orchestra, for example, there are no "bit players."

"This applies in every industry and for every price-point strategy therein," asserts Peters. "This applies to companies of all sizes—from microscopic to humongous. This applies in good times—and especially in bad times."

Engaged workers and an unwavering commitment to excellence from those workers, he adds, are not the whole story, "but they are the bedrock upon which all else is built."

● Boring is beautiful. (Or at least it can be.) Some of the most successful businesses have very humble beginnings. From a lawn mowing company that now has 2,500 franchisees, to a $60 million basement clean-up business, often the boring part of a business is what consumers really need.

"For would-be entrepreneurs," says Peters, "there's more to life than biotech and Internet start-ups and 'boutique' financial planning businesses."

● Reward DNK (do not know). Bosses and "brilliant" staffers are prone to falling into the trap of not admitting when they don't know the answer or have trouble with a concept, says Peters. Instead, we should not only readily admit when we don't know something, but also actively seek out things we don't know.

"Publicly cheer the person who admits—in front of a boss—that he or she 'does not know' the facts here, or the answer to this or that," he says.

"does not know" the facts here, or the answer to this or that.

● The customer is "she." If women are your primary customers for a product or service, Peters suggests, "always, always refer to the generic customer as 'she.' "

Women are the primary customers for commercial and consumer goods in the U.S., he says. "One thing is certain: Women's rise to power, which is linked to the increase in wealth per capita, is happening in all domains and at all levels of society. Women are no longer content to provide efficient labor or to be consumers. With rising budgets and more autonomy to spend, this is just the beginning."

"The Little Big Things" is organized into 48 sections and an introduction. It's great for those little breaks in the day when you need a little inspiration. Peters will be a keynote speaker at CUNA's America's Credit Union Conference, June 17-20 in San Diego.

We're launching a new feature on Book Reviews. And we want your input. Click on "Books" at the top of the website to read about books recommended by CUNA staff and others. And then write your own book review and send it our way.

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efficient labor or to be consumers. ... With rising budgets and more autonomy to spend, this is 
just the beginning. T
is happening in all domains and at all levels of society. Women are no longer content to provide 
efficient labor or to be consumers. ... With rising budgets and more autonomy to spend, this is 
just the beginning. 

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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