by: Tom Hinz


If you have read any of my previous writings, you would see that I’m quick to acknowledge an
accomplishment. I could only wish that I was smart enough to “coin a phrase” or come up with
some “catchy idiom” or “pithy maxim” that would be used in our everyday English language.
Well, until that happens (and I’m not holding my breath), I shall do just as Samuel Adams
suggests in his October 29th, 1777 writing, “Give credit where credit is due.” So, again, I will…

Even if you’re not a history enthusiast, you have certainly heard about the 1912 tragic sinking
of the Titanic where 1,513 or her 2,200 people on board perished. But what most people do not know is that the 46,000 gross ton behemoth was sunken by little leaks, those small wounds that, all put together, would have been about twelve square feet or so. A ship four blocks long sunk due to six relatively small “pin prick” holes in her hull combined to about the size of a large dog!

Have you wondered, as I have, how two similar businesses try to survive today where one makes it and the other doesn’t? Could one be keen to even the “smallest of matters” of their company and the other not? According to an online article by www.everythingcounts.com entitled Pay Attention to Details, “every action, every detail of our lives-has bottom-line repercussions; and it’s dangerous and derogatory to think of any of those details as trivial, unimportant or inconsequential. Many people downplay small details, dismissing them as minutia, the small stuff that we’re encouraged to ignore.”

First, to understand what “paying attention” really is, we should take a look at what The
American Heritage Dictionary has to say. The noun, at-ten-tion, is the act of close or careful
observing or listening to. Further, it is the power to keep the mind on something. Other
synonyms are: astute, meticulous, scrutinize, methodical, concentration, thorough and my personal favorite, persnickety. All of which mean “to be concerned with in a great way.”

I find particularly poignant what a March, 2006 Time Magazine article entitled Why Your
Boss May Start Sweating the Small Stuff had to say regarding the workplace “microinequities
and “microgestures” that very often occur. Take these for example: why is one worker greeted with a polite “How-do-you-do” while the guy in the next office gets a playful pretend-punch and a “Hey, what’s up Bud” from the boss? It’s clear in an instant who is in the inner circle and who isn’t, isn’t it? How about the team leader who repeatedly mispronounces your name when he/she knows better and it’s not that hard to rightly say? The same is true when a manager dismisses one person’s idea and then embraces it when paraphrased by someone else. Personally, I remember talking to the parents of a high school boy who was “competing” for the starting quarterback position to only see the parents of the other boy high-fiving, laughing it up with, and even embracing the head coach in plain sight at a game. At the risk of sounding trite, guess who got the position? Again, all examples of microinequities and gestures that really do exist out there.

I was very curious to find out why we don’t often pay attention as we should. And, not to my surprise, many of the old culprits quietly filter their way in to keep us from focusing on one important thing at a time and “seeing it through” the duration. Just in case you’re wondering….yes, some of these little devils have been my crosses-to-bear from time to time too. This list, while not exhaustive, is fairly complete. We often become too comfortable and take things for granted. We might become overconfident, fearful, bored, overwhelmed, cluttered, or even tired. We could think too much, not live in the moment, not put things back in their place, not be in optimal health, or fill our lives with too many activities at one time.

Thankfully, according to www.theredheadriter.com there are many ways to remedy this: don’t rush--slow down, take breaks frequently, get plenty of sleep, exercise, don’t procrastinate, get help if you need it, eat right, avoid harmful substances, practice your task, organize your life and don’t overfill it with activities just to be busy. Quality can be better than quantity and the key to quality is doing the little things correctly, all the time, every time.

At the Waste Away Group and Integra, our team of ownership, management, supervision, operations, data processing, drivers, sales, parts, recruitment, coordination, payroll, controller, retention, collections, reception, repair, customer service, payables, safety, HR, IT, dispatch, mechanic, equipment management, routing, destruction, recycling, sorting, and accounting personnel has individual job responsibilities that we must be attentive to daily and work together. Do we get it right every time? I doubt it, but we certainly strive to. With over 25 years of experience in the document destruction business, we have learned a thing or two along the way about how and why to consider everything option and outcome, no matter how large or small the detail.

In closing, two wise men taught me two things that I hope to never forget. The first one is from
Solomon, (perhaps the wisest man who ever lived) who penned this 15th verse from the 2nd chapter of his 10th Century B.C. Old Testament book, Song of Songs, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” And, the second was from my grandfather, Burt Mickow, who once said to me after a disagreement, “son, remember, it’s not so much what you said to me that counts, it’s what I heard.” And, I heard that one loud and clear and have repeated it often!

By Tom Hinz, Account Manager for Integra Certified Document Destruction
Time Magazine, March 20th, 2006 edition
Small Leaks Sink Ships by Ed Jansen and Trish Gaffney
Pay attention to details by www.everythingcounts.com
15 ways to pay more attention by www.theredheadriter.com
1777 Samuel Adams quote by www.dictionary.reference.com
The American Heritage Dictionary