8 things that make a big difference and require no talent

By Luke McKenna

We have recently had some work done at our house involving a number of tradesman. It reminded me of the difference that can be made by the little things.

Some of the contractors were outstanding- not because of their technical prowess (although that needs to be satisfactory at the least), but because they were able to excel in the little things.

For students, let's help them by raising their awareness of the stuff that they can already be doing to a high standard. It will probably help them a great deal in their life if they can be someone who does the little things that make a big difference.

The following are a few of the things that make a big difference, that require absolutely zero talent. These are life principles- they won't be found in most curriculum documents or job descriptions- but they make for a better life.

1. Turn up on time- whatever time of day, just be there when you say you will. It shows respect to others. More than this- it shows that you can manage your time, priorities and you know your job well enough to be realistic about your commitments.

2. Use your manners- say please and thank you, take your shoes off if they're filthy. The stuff that you learned in the home (hopefully), will serve you well in the workforce and in life in general. Show people respect through your body language and how you speak. Look people in the eye and share your thoughts with kindness.

3. Smile- there may be some days and occasions when people are doing it tough and things are not going well. However, for the most part, it is not difficult to greet someone with a smile. If you walk past someone, it seems reasonable to make eye contact and smile. If you're working on their house, cutting their hair, mowing the yard, teaching a child, or treating the patient- greet people with a smile. It's free.

4. Communicate- let people know what your plans are for the job, and let people know when you are done. If in doubt, just ask. Better to chat to people than to be a hermit and leave people in the dark.

5. Own your mistakes- if you mess it up, don't try to hide it. Just let people know and then take it upon yourself to fix it. If you are unsure of the answer to a question, just let people know. Don't pretend that you have all the answers. No one is perfect, and most people would rather you be honest, than to lie or conceal mistakes.

6. Take responsibility for decisions- just like owning mistakes, but going a little further. Own your choices. Take responsibility. Don't live by blaming, denying or making excuses- it's disempowering for yourself. Instead, step up and be counted. Every choice we make has consequences. If it was the wrong one, then own it. Don't pretend you were forced to do it. Often our choices have side-effects or consequences that we didn't intend. That doesn't mean we shouldn't have done it, and it doesn't mean we were forced into it. Be proactive and make a choice.

7. Learn continually- add to the repertoire of things you can do, and how well you can do them. It's not about how smart you are right now, or how well you can do something- what matters is if you are still growing, improving, curious to learn more and keep stretching. This creates an attitude that is contagious in a workplace- and makes people more willing to forgive your mistakes because of a joint understanding that we are all on a journey of getting better.

8. Show that you care- doing all of the above things shows that people care. It might take an extra 2% longer to complete the job, but the result will be a happier customer, client, boss, team member, class mate, friend. If people get the sense that you don't like the work you do, don't care for their property, don't respect your colleagues, etc, it makes it hard for them to enjoy the service you are providing to them. If you don't care about the work you do, it's unlikely you will ever be paid handsomely for it.

That's my two cents worth, but what do you think? What would you add to the list of things that require no talent, that make a big difference? I'd love to know, so email me back if you'd like to share your thoughts.