John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach used to say, “If you take care of the little things, the big things take care of themselves.”
Bob Boyd, the former University of Southern California basketball coach, used to say, “It’s not what you teach, it’s what you emphasize.” And if you emphasize the little things, the big things do fall into place.
As most successful basketball players and coaches can attest, investing quality time practicing free throws can pay substantial dividends in the big game. A former St. Francis player and current youth basketball coach reports that after spending considerable practice time this season on free throws, his 7th grade team recently went 21-of-30 at the line to easily defeat a much larger 8th grade team. Final score: 49-28. Yes, they won the game by the exact amount of free throws they made.
When I asked Dr. Jack Orr, the president of the College of St. Francis for nineteen years, what was the most important thing he did to have such a successful presidency, his answer was, “Attention to detail.”
How do leaders give attention to detail?
I think the best way is the written word. We had an event at St. Francis that brought a celebrity from the world of sport to a fundraising dinner. We averaged approximately 600 people in attendance annually.
There was a great deal of detail that went into planning for this fundraiser. We developed a ten page document delineating all the detail that had to be executed to make the program successful. Every year we would begin our first meeting by going over this document and assigning a person or persons for each detail.
This program has now had a 36-year run. I believe its success is due to the attention paid to the little things.
As Apple founder Steve Jobs said, “Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.”