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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The "Little Things"

The “Little Things”

Dr. Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

I’m the world’s most inquisitive student of human relations and have a lot to learn about “Little Things.”

People fascinate me. 

I marvel at the human condition 24 hours a day, and to be quite honest, especially each weekend as I shop for groceries with my family.  Among the “Little Things” that catch my eye are …

Those who wear pajama bottoms while in public.

Those who set down their money for payment on a countertop and expect a cashier to pick it up.

Those who open packaged food and eat it on the way to the checkout counter.

Those who argue with their own children and do so more loudly when they know someone is listening.

Those who leave their carts in the middle of parking lots, ignoring the cart corrals.

Those who fail to model “people skills” for their own children as they fundraise at a grocery store’s entrance (oftentimes instead on their cell phones, complaining about their significant others, again louder if they think anyone is listening).

People fascinate me.

While at times, my wife and I might look at each other and think to ourselves … “Oh my goodness,” we realize that we undoubtedly have our own “Little Things” as well.  Mine are probably more obvious.

What’s really interesting is how those of us who should be the most educated about the human condition – WE WHO WORK IN SCHOOLS – often pass judgment on those mentioned above, yet at the same time turn a blind eye to the “Little Things” that we, ourselves, bring to work. 

Do you know any folks in your school who are oblivious to their own “Little Things”?  If they were our leaders, we would probably notice some “Little Things” in …

Those who tell building secretaries to do this or that, rather than ask.  

Those who monitor school hallways and focus on moving students along, as opposed to greeting students where they are.

Those who overuse e-mail and avoid talking with others.

Those who walk by the trash left in the hallways and fail to see it as an indictment of their leadership.

Those who put “See Me” notes in staff members’ mailboxes without explanations.

Those who hold staff meetings for the purpose of reading rules.

Those who profess that they love children but bemoan the fact that kids don’t act like adults.

Those who simply don’t have any fun while at work.

And of course … those who cannot “forgive in advance,” all those people from the grocery store above, when they show up at the school office to act like they do.

Why do these “Little Things” seem to come to my attention? 

It is because I wonder how often we model the high standards to which we hold others, paying attention to our own “Little Things” before they become big in the eyes of those looking up to us. 


Please consider contacting Dr. Ryan Donlan at (812) 237-8624 or at and let him know what we all can do more effectively to recognize the “Little Things” in leadership that are getting in the way of meeting other people’s needs and improving schools.  He would LOVE to talk!  Thanks for your time in visiting The Leadershop this week!

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