The Little Things Set the Leader Apart: Grace Note

"Grace Note"

On any given day, you can walk into your local Borders or Barnes and Nobles to find at least a hundred books written on the subject of leadership. If you desired to learn a specific executive strategy or motivational technique, the books on these topics alone could stack taller than the shelf . The resources readily available on the subject of leadership ( including this creative coaching lesson) are countless. When it comes to the subject of leadership, there is absolutely so much to learn for all of us. But most of the resources that are available focuses on the “Big Stuff.” Up there, top level strategic stuff. All of course, necessary stuff. Leaders undoubtedly need to know how to determine the strategy, drive their teams to succeed, deliver the results, manage the organization day to day. But I am a firm believer as a great leader, the little things are just as important.In music, a smaller printed note before a normal sized note would be identified as a “grace note.”

The Grace Note is the most common and simplest form of musical embellishments. It is sometimes referred to as a leaning note in so far as when the grace note is performed it sounds as though it is leaning (sonically) in the direction of its associated principal or resolving note. Also, the word grace suggest that grace notes should be performed in an elegant and fluid fashion rather than playing them in an abrupt or rigid manner. (I should add that some artists/performers do play them rather harshly, stressing the ornament and its associated principal note with the intent to gain a noticeable impact on their listeners.)

For me, when it comes to leadership, I believe that the little things are like grace notes. The little things may be small and seemingly insignificant but they are inserted for a reason, leaning (towards) a resolve. The grace notes (little things) have the power to set you apart from everyone else.

Without reading any of the leadership books or sitting in a exhaustive seminar, my mother was one of the most influential leaders that I have known. I could remember clearly waking up during my elementary school days to hot breakfast every morning during test weeks. She would rise each day early before everyone else to ensure that breakfast was prepared. She wanted me to be focused and ready for the series of standardized tests ahead. Great leaders do their best to ensure that individuals of the team are prepared and equipped without distraction, so that he/she be at their best. My mother taught me that you can tell the breakfast makers in organizations. Who, no matter how senior, would rise early and prepare for everyone, anyone, else. And you could always tell those managers that would ever bother themselves with such a menial task, thinking that they don’t have the time, or maybe that it’s beneath their status.But it’s not just about the routine tasks. It’s about those everyday, little things that your team will notice, appreciate and thank you for. The little “grace notes” set you apart.Remembering a birthday. Knowing the names of your team’s children. Brewing a cup of coffee for team before a meeting. Making sure someone can get off home early to make sure they get to the school play. Taking the time to stop and chat, check in with the team, no matter how many emails are building up in your in-box. Being really present in a conversation, and not checking the messages on your phone at the same time. Responding quickly to the vacation request form, expenses claim. Helping them solve a problem. Just giving people a little of your real self.And the most important little thing of all? Saying thank you. Just thank you. For a job well done, a little extra effort, staying over, pitching in, hitting that deadline ahead of schedule.

My mother didn’t run a Fortune 500 company, but she has impacted many individuals far and wide with her attention to the little things. Her use of the “grace note” have become a staple in my life but also during various coaching sessions and executive leadership meetings. Remember the "grace note" should not be performed abruptly to draw attention. It should almost go unnoticed but with intention and impact...(HINT HINT: gracefully with a genuine attitude). The grace notes are what made a difference in me and many others as well. Take the time to become a breakfast maker even when you don’t think you have the time. I promise that your team will appreciate you for that little “grace note.” For it has the power to that made a Huge difference; transforming average managers to Great Leaders.

Creative Coaching through Music:

“Music can change the world because it can change people” - Bono

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