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Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

June 15, 2011

Stephen Furtick on a book that currently sits on my desk to be read:

Last year I got to read Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. If you’re not familiar with Zappos or Hsieh’s story, go ahead and pick up the book. Its insights will benefit you and any team you’re a part of.

One of Hsieh’s comments that really struck me came during a section where he was talking about a phenomenon that I think occurs in countless organizations. A company was struggling, but not from one big thing. It was a bunch of small problems throughout the organization. But all of them combined were severely hampering their production and growth. Hsieh described it as “death by a thousand paper cuts.”

I like that image. It rings true. From my experience, it’s not the big things that cripple a company or church. It’s the sum total of all the small problems. It’s all the little paper cuts.

After all, if the problem is big, it’s obvious. You can’t ignore it and it’s something whose solution is usually straightforward. If one of your team members is awful, you fire them. If you’re severely understaffed, you hire new personnel.

Paper cuts, however, are deceiving. They’re not big. They seem non-threatening, and by themselves, they might be.

Email or voicemails occasionally aren’t returned.
Meetings have a tendency of starting 10 minutes late.
A deadline or two is missed.

None of these problems are seismic in proportion. But combined with each other, they can be lethal. To yourproductivity. Your effectiveness. And your reputation. Little or not, you’ve got to deal with them.

I’m not suggesting you freak out and obsess over every little failure or misstep in your organization. Sometimes, people just screw up. Sometimes your systems will have hiccups. But once you see these little paper cuts consistently popping up, you can’t hesitate to act. As a leader or team member, you’re responsible not just for averting massive meltdowns, but also eliminating the paper cuts that will eventually kill you.

Some people might think you’re overreacting. Don’t listen to them.
They’re usually one of the paper cuts.


From → Leadership

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