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Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

| March 29, 2022

by Brandon Bernier

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Brandon Bernier, Vice President IT and CIO, Colorado State University. He is a MOR program alum.  Brandon may be reached at [email protected].]

Several years ago, I worked for a leader who always seemed to have the right advice at the right time.  Once, when I was struggling with a large issue, I went to seek his guidance.

As I dove into the details of my scenario, he patiently listened as I explained the complexity of the issue.  He then leaned back, rubbed his chin, and said that it reminded him of a time when he got the best advice he’d received from his old Provost.

Great I thought!  Just what I was looking for.  Sage advice that had been passed down from leader to leader.  Interested, I leaned in and waited for the light bulb moment.
He paused and said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

“What?” I said.

He repeated it again, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

I was a bit in shock.  The worldly advice was “don’t sweat the small stuff”?  I walked away bewildered thinking that I must be missing some hidden meaning.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized I had missed quite a bit.

Burnout & Stress
Many of our teams are experiencing burnout.  If we’re being honest, we’re likely experiencing it ourselves.  All of our fuses are shorter these days.  Many of us are seeing ourselves and our teams react in ways that wasn’t the norm before.  We need to ask ourselves, are we focusing our time and energy on the right things (like leading) or are we sweating the small stuff?

Empathy (Up & Down)
As we advance in our careers, it’s common to see new problems or challenges as more advanced than the previous position.  They often are.  Barack Obama once said that as a leader “the only thing that lies on your desk is the stuff that nobody else could figure out.”  So true.

However, it’s important that we use empathy with our teams because to them the challenge (and stress) is very real.  We should remember that we were once in that position.  We need to think about how we can help them grow as well as assist with the problem.

It’s also important that when we’re working with those that are in more senior roles than us in our organizations that we use empathy.  We need to realize that they are likely dealing with even more complex situations than the ones we have.  Perhaps they are dealing with problems or issues that we don’t even know about or haven’t experienced yet.  In both situations, we need to remember not to sweat the small stuff.

Thinking Strategically
As we help our organizations look to the horizon, we need to make sure that we’re focused on thinking strategically and finding solutions.  We need to ensure that we’re “getting on the balcony” and not just getting pulled into the operational weeds.  Our institutions need us working on the larger picture and not spending time sweating the small stuff.

These days I think back on that leaderful advice and wonder how I initially missed the wisdom.  How did I not see it?  Well to be honest, perhaps I was just sweating the small stuff.


This Week’s Survey

What do you find most helpful when you begin to sweat the small stuff?
(click below to provide your anonymous response) 



From Last Week

Last week, we asked: What aspect of emotional intelligence do you find the most difficult? Over 3,300 of you responded:

  • 42% said self-awareness of emotions
  • 29% said awareness of others’ emotions
  • 29% said self-control of emotions

This survey shows how difficult it is to truly be self aware.  The world we live in is not what we believe about ourselves, but what others perceive about us. Self awareness is critical to your success as you can’t fix what you don’t know and accept.  Journal, reflect, ask others for feedback and ask for help in your self awareness and self management journey.  Own your own thoughts and behaviors and make a plan to improve relationships.  Understanding and managing your emotions is entirely possible, and you are in the driver’s seat.