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Did You Put Your Socks On Right?

Success depends on small things. Often, what separates winners from losers are small, tiny differences. That little attention to detail can go a long way

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It’s that time of the year again.  Office meeting will end by 7 p.m. Malls will begin to wear a slightly deserted look in the evening. And no one will care about what the nation wants to know at 9 p.m. Because, you see, the IPL is here!

Even as a nation prepares for six weeks of non-stop cricketing entertainment, eight teams and 187 players will begin a new journey that will separate the men from the boys. Owners and coaches, players and fans will all want their teams to win. And they all know that in the end only one team will lift the trophy.

As coaches talk to their teams about the task at hand, what will they be telling them? What should they be telling them? They might want to draw inspiration - and share a little story - from a legend called John Wooden. A great American basketball player. And a man widely regarded as the greatest coach who ever lived.
 In his first coaching session with each team, John Wooden would focus on teaching his players how to put on their socks and shoes. These were grown up men all right, but the coach would start off  by telling them how to put on a pair of socks – without wrinkles in the sole or near the toes. His logic was simple. If you are not careful, you might have a wrinkle in your socks.

The wrinkle might get you a blister. The blister could slow you down. And that might cause you to miss a game. And if you were any good, that might mean your team might lose a game they could have won. And the coach might get fired! And since those weren’t desirable outcomes, he’d want all his players to pay attention to how they wear their socks and tie their shoelaces. No wrinkles please!

The bigger message from that lesson was hard to miss too. Success depends on small things. Often, what separates winners from losers are small, tiny differences. That little attention to detail can go a long way. As the IPL teams will soon discover, there isn’t much separating one team from another. On a given day, any team can win. But the team that will win more often, more consistently, is the one that will do the small things right.

The one that makes sure the bat is grounded when they are stealing a cheeky single. The one that shows presence of mind to take an extra run. Or save one. In essence, the one that makes sure there are no wrinkles in the socks.

As the coach of  the UCLA team – John led them to ten championship wins in a period of 12 years. A record that hasn’t come close to ever being broken. And while John spent time on skills and strategies, and team culture and mindsets, it was his first lesson with each team that stood out: Pay attention to detail.

Small things make a big difference. That’s true for basketball. For cricket. And for the game of  life too.

As a leader, you might want to share that message with your team at work. Small things matter.

Not having a wrinkle in the socks can mean having a trophy in your cabinet!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Prakash Iyer

Iyer is an author, speaker and leadership coach , and former MD of Kimberly Clark Lever

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