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Attention to Greatness

Try to dissect why a great team wins a championship and you’ll quickly see it’s all about the moving parts.

Can the offense use speed and timing to score frequently? Can the defense make the necessary adjustments to get the job done? Can every player on the team remember their own responsibilities and execute those tasks when needed? It’s fascinating to see how independent assignments can influence the collective success or failure of the team.

This month, a lot of national attention was placed on a plaque inside the football locker room at the University of Notre Dame that insinuated an easy return trip to college football’s BCS National Championship game. But I will tell you there’s actually a different sign in the Fighting Irish locker room worth examining.

There’s a poster that shows the specific order in which players are instructed to keep their respective areas. It includes a detailed description of where the cleats should be placed, how the knee and ankle braces should be hung, and even where the practice jersey should drape within the locker. Each player is then required to consistently arrange their locker as diagramed in the poster.

For me, the significance of this poster is an absolute of how great teams and successful businesses are able to take the step from good to great: They simply pay attention to the little details.

By establishing such a thorough locker room protocol, the Notre Dame players have taken a few minor decisions off the board. The time normally wasted trying to find equipment mandatory for success, can now be added to bigger tasks and decisions that could prove pivotal in the opportunity for greatness.

By instilling such a simple, yet detail-oriented procedure, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was able to make it easier for his players to do what’s expected of them. He was able to unlock more time for his team to focus on being better players. He was able to build a structure that showcased unity, discipline, and an attention to detail.

What if an assembly line at a car manufacturer didn’t have a well-devised procedure? What if the nuts & bolts worker wasn’t as efficient at following protocol as the wheels and tires guy? The overall product is still viewed as faulty, regardless of which moving part actually failed during the assembly.

Every successful business has moving parts. The Great ones understand that their final product relies heavily on the attention to detail at the beginning stages. By creating a simplified procedure, great leaders emphasize that the little things are just as important to the overall success as the bigger items. Once that becomes habit or part of the culture, then it makes working on the bigger tasks much more effective.

What routine do you follow consistently that adds value to your own productivity? What little detail can you tackle today that could make your bigger challenges run more smoothly?

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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