TNTs are tiny noticeable things. They are all the little things that we don’t need to do, but when we do them, they can have a seismic impact on those around us and our businesses, says Adrian Webster
I’ve worked in so many diverse industries over the course of my professional life that I’ve mostly forgotten painful day-to-day lessons I learned in each sector as I tried to find a winning formula. But I have never forgotten those core principles that seem to hold true across businesses, regardless of their size and level of success.
Strip away business variation, and it quickly becomes apparent that for most business leaders, most of their time is spent managing a combination of relationships; with customers, staff, colleagues, suppliers, and important stakeholders who may be internal or external. I have always worked on the basis that a good place to start in any relationship is by making people feel good about themselves. For me, the most effective way of doing this is by using what I call TNTs.
TNTs are tiny noticeable things. They are all the little things that we don’t need to do, but when we do do them, they can have a seismic impact on those around us. They may be tiny, but they are highly explosive, and they create the biggest, longest-lasting pictures in people’s minds. They are the difference between a business that’s floundering and one that’s flying, the difference between a four and a five-star experience, and they are the difference between a great place to work and a not-so-great place.
They could be as small as a smile, as tiny as saying ‘thank you’, or remembering someone’s first name, perhaps a handwritten note of appreciation or a senior manager making teas and coffees for everyone. All little, cost-nothing, often overlooked things, yet they can make a very big difference.
So here, in no particular order, are 10 top TNTs:
TNT 1. If you want to grow your business, start by making your people feel taller. ‘Great people make people feel great’ is something I repeatedly find myself saying when speaking at conferences. If your people feel good about themselves, the chances are your customers will feel good, and the likelihood is, your bottom line will look better too. At every opportunity you get, be more passionate about others and what they are capable of achieving, than they are themselves.
TNT 2. Make time and space to talk to and listen to people. No matter how busy you are or how hectic it may feel, if you want those around you to engage with you, it is vital that you do this. And, when you are listening to someone, it is worth bearing in mind that our ears don’t give off any visible sign that we are actually listening; they don’t start waggling or bleeping, nor is there a little tell-tale light that comes on. The only way we can show people that we are listening is by maintaining eye contact.
TNT 3. Make your thanks count. Don’t dilute your thanks by doing it whilst passing by, or by sending it electronically. Instead, be seen to go out of your way to personally thank people, or alternatively send a hand-written note of gratitude to them. In this world of emails and text messages a personal note with a few kind words for the recipient will stand out, and probably never be forgotten. It is also worth remembering that when giving a gift as a token of appreciation, a small, thoughtful gift trumps a big lavish one every time. For example, cycling gloves will be more appreciated by a teetotal cyclist than an expensive wine. I know this from personal experience!
TNT 4. Show you care by being on time – every time. When you turn up late for a call or meeting with customers or colleagues, they may well say ‘no worries’, but in their subconscious mind your level of commitment to them and the endeavour you are undertaking together is likely to be questioned. I always respect managers of sports teams who have the courage to drop a key player for an important match for missing the start of training. Commitment is everything.
TNT 5. Call back when you promise to. You may still be lacking the full information you need in order to give someone the answer they need, but touching base and updating them of progress will demonstrate integrity. It is always far better to ring people back and tell them that you have nothing to tell them, rather than not ring them at all.
TNT 6. Go beyond expectations. When we experience reward, part of our brain called the tegmentum releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter chemical which makes us feel good. Even the smallest of TNTs can trigger a surge of dopamine in the recipient. It is interesting that the amount of dopamine released depends on the difference between our expectations of an experience and how much that actual experience exceeds those expectations.
TNT 7. Encourage contagion. Here’s another neurochemical fact about TNTs. Not only does the recipient of a small and/or unexpected reward or token of recognition experience a surge in feel-good dopamine, but the person performing the TNT also experiences a release of dopamine. If, through your leadership, examples of TNTs and the positive behaviours associated with them can become embedded within your team’s culture, it actually becomes difficult for people not to do them. The workplace environment becomes a much happier one and levels of motivation to get out of bed in the morning can drastically increase.
TNT 8. Don’t do perfect. If you want people to connect with you, don’t ever try and come across as being perfect. By all means, go in pursuit of perfection in all that you do, but don’t ever try to portray yourself as being infallible, it’s the biggest turn off there is. If you want people to connect with you, and outside of work you’d like to have a few friends – be authentic, be human, be you.
TNT 9. Ask questions. The higher we rise, the more tempting it is to believe that our function is to provide others with answers. Not only does this reduce diversity of input for key decisions, it places an unreasonable level of expectation on you and disempowers others. Your key skill should be knowing which questions to ask.
TNT 10. Look after yourself. The best advice I was given early in my career by someone very senior was ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’. As they walked out the office late one night, the MD stopped by my desk and said that whilst he was pleased to see me working hard, he wanted to be sure I was still contributing in five years’ time. We all need to know the difference between working just outside our comfort zone, which stretches and develops us, and overextending ourselves by neglecting our home and family lives.
I make no apology for the fact that nothing in the list above is rocket science. TNTs are incredibly simple things. In fact, I’m sure there are identical or similar things you are already doing which you haven’t called TNTs. But if you can find a few in the list that could be appropriate to your role and business, then I wish you the level of success I have witnessed when TNTs are unleashed in other organisations.
Adrian Webster is a leading motivational speakers and author of Tiny Noticeable Things: The Secret Weapon to Making a Difference in Business out now.