little things add up to big things

You might not have a favorite Greek philosopher, but I do.  And you might not think someone who wrote at the time of the Roman Emperor Nero would be relevant to leading a remote team, but you’d be wrong. My boy Epictetus is still relevant.

Particularly relevant today is this quote: Practice yourself, for heaven’s sake in little things, and then proceed to greater.”

Yes, good leaders aspire to greatness, as we should. But in order to achieve greatness there are a metric butt-load of little things that add up to being a good leader. Here are just some of the small things that lead to great results and why they matter:

Before delegating, think about your entire team, not just the first person you see.

One of the most corrosive leadership behaviors over time is the perception of unfairness. When the remote people think that those in the home office are getting preferential treatment (or vice versa) it can impact engagement and team morale. Start by thinking about the task to be done, and who might benefit from the opportunity before finding the first warm body you come across.

In hybrid meetings, don’t let the people in the room dominate the conversation.

It is easy to get caught up in the natural flow of conversation and let people in the room bounce off of each other. But if someone is dialing in, they may not have a chance to contribute, and might not even hear half of what’s being said. Ensure that you actively engage remote team members, and give them the opportunity to make themselves heard first once in a while.

Help your team know about the successes of your remote team members in proportion to those in the office.

One of the little things managers can do to help build trust on their teams is to make sure that people have a chance to see how smart and motivated their teammates are. When you give positive feedback and praise to someone who works from home, the only person who hears it is that individual. Are you taking time in meetings, emails, and the like to help teammates get to know and appreciate each other?

Take an extra 30 seconds when sending texts and IMs to offer context.

A little thing that can make a big difference is to add a few words of context to your Instant messages and requests for time. For example, “Have you got a minute?” may be an innocent request but the other person doesn’t know if they should stop what they’re doing and answer you. “Have you got a minute to talk about ____. If we could do that before the end of the day that would be great…” takes an extra 8 seconds (I just timed it, and that included fixing a typo) but allows someone to be responsive without interfering with their work flow. You are also seen as less demanding, which isn’t a bad thing.

Include an agenda in the body of your meeting invitations. 

When you send out a meeting invitation, most people put it in their calendar electronically, using the “add to your calendar link.” That way they always have it. But when you send a separate agenda (usually as an attachment to an email) there’s a pretty good chance people will ignore it, delete it, or forget where they saved it. By putting it in the body of the meeting invitation (and you can always cut and paste the agenda then update the invitation) they will have the agenda on every device, and no way to deny they saw it.

It’s the little things that add up to big differences. What are your best “little” practices that make a big difference to your team?

In addition to The Remote Leadership Certificate Series (a big thing) we offer these courses on some of the “little things,” which as I’ve pointed out in this piece, can make a big difference over time. Find out which of these skills you need to focus on to be a better Long-Distance Leader.



Wayne Turmel--The Remote Leadership Institute

Wayne Turmel
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in

Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.

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