Small wins, big results

Our 8 year old has recently bought home an idea following tea at another friends house (the “cool” family, the one that he wishes we were more like) and has made it mandatory for our meals. As it’s his idea he also gets to set the rules.

It’s a conversation starter: “what has been the best and worst thing about your day?” He will then go on to frame the question by telling us the answer has to be about home or work/school.

Invariably our 3 year old will say the worst thing about her day has been “getting told off”, an answer that’s not only used by the children of the family!

When I listen to the answers we’re often celebrating a small act of work or school progress. Whether it is getting 10/10 on a spelling test, learning to write the letter ‘b’, a DNA hit on a small piece of evidence or successfully implementing a small change into process. It’s just the same when the subject is ‘home’; doing something amazing on Minecraft (which I do not understand), finishing a Princess puzzle, adding on another 10 to the gazillion press ups that hubby already does or me surviving more than 30 minutes of sustained exercise.

These small wins in the workplace or tiny little acts of achievement are not going to change the world but they’re what can turn a moderate day into a good day or shine a bit of light on what might feel like a hopeless situation (the DNA hit being a classic example for my hubby). At home we tell the kids that they’re small steps on a longer walk. The same can be said for work.

There’s a book on the subject which you can read, although I would say that if you already know that small wins make you happy it’s not going to teach you something new but, it might help contextualise and explain how you can use those small wins to even greater effect in the workplace. The book is called ‘The Progress Principle’ written by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer. It’s published by Harvard Business Review Press. One of the exercises it promotes is a Daily Progress Checklist which examines catalysts for progress (what went well and events that you want to try to repeat) with ‘nourishers’ such as respect, encouragement and support and offsets those with inhibitors (the barriers to progress) and their associated ‘toxins’ such as disrespect, neglect and lack of encouragement. The outcomes are wrapped up into the concept of the ‘inner work life’. It all ends with an action plan.

Like most management books I read there are bits that I take and bits that I disregard. I’m certainly not writing out an action plan at the end of the day but I know I’m taking the small wins and working out how they can be repeated. The book suggests “using small wins to ignite joy, engagement and creativity at work”. I’d (in typical lawyer fashion) worry about igniting anything in the workplace but I get the sentiment.

Writing this blog is a small win for me. Happy days.


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