Last month an Air New Zealand pilot was on his way to Auckland International Airport when the moment anyone driving to work dreads – his car broke down on the motorway – near the southbound entrance of the Waterview Tunnel.

Within a few minutes Tiny Wineera and his response vehicle were on the spot to assist.   The pilot’s car was taken away for repair, and with an international flight almost certainly about to be delayed, Tiny drove the pilot 15 km down the motorway to the international airport.  He was so impressed with Tiny’s response he wrote to “express my gratitude for the exemplary service and professionalism” shown by Tiny.   “Through Tiny’s actions I was able to get my vehicle safely home and get to work on time.”  Wow!

Tiny’s a 5 year ‘veteran’ of the Waterview Connection Project in Auckland.  He’s been on-site from the beginning and his customer-focussed response comes as no surprise.   For Tiny it comes down to one thing – “we’re all part of one big team and it’s the little things that count.  You hear a lot about being a good neighbour when you’re working on construction sites.  But people can talk all they like.  It’s the little things that count and the actions of your bosses and co-workers speak louder than words.”

What I love about this story is it reinforces the point that it really is the little things that count, especially when you’re building a high performance culture.  If everyone does their bit – looking for those 1%-ers or little ways of doing things better every day – then the cumulative effect of that is a huge step change in terms of building a successful and customer-focussed culture.   Tom O’Neill talks about this in his book ‘The 1% Principle’.  He comments that small choices of seemingly minor significance set the scene for major cultural transformation.   “If you care about the little things then the bigger things often take care of themselves.”

Building a culture where everyone is focussed on small steps to achieve team success requires effort and commitment.  Strong visible leadership and role modelling from the top, consistent communications highlighting linkages between objectives and the small things people can do to achieve those objectives, and recognising and celebrating successes along the way all help in cementing a customer focussed culture.

Tiny says it comes down to the people.  “Everyone needs to be on the same page and understand why it’s important to do the small stuff well.  If that works and everyone tries hard to do their best at work you go home feeling good at the end of the day.”