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Should leaders sweat the small stuff?

I met astronaut Chris Hatfield a few years ago.

He was mesmerizing. 

We were both speakers at a conference and I was lucky enough to be seated close to him at our lunch break.

I will never forget the lessons I learned from Chris Hatfield that day.

To be honest, they resonate more now than ever before. 

The key lesson that stands out the most is the concept of SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF. 

Chris reinforced that as an astronaut, sweating the small stuff is imperative!


Well, if you make a mistake in space, you will literally die.

Chris made me think about this question as it relates to leadership:

Should leaders sweat the small stuff as well? 

After much contemplation, I have come to this conclusion. 


And no. 

Here is my list of when to sweat the small stuff and when to let go.

"Sweat the small stuff when you are developing key processes and systems."Sweat the small stuff when you are: 

  • Preparing to give constructive feedback. Ensure that you plan in advance, get clear on the specific behaviors that require adjustment and then take your time to practice. 
  • Identifying your goals and priorities. Make sure that you are spending your valuable time on the right tasks.
  • Coaching and developing your team. This is a crucial use of your time. It will ensure that your team is high-performing. It will allow you to delegate to focus on more strategic tasks.
  • Developing key processes and systems. Ensure that the systems and processes you put in place are tested and effective. Involve your team in the development phase to ensure their buy-in. Iterate and refine these systems over time so they support your business effectively.

Don’t sweat the small stuff when you are:

  • Receiving feedback. As a leader, receiving feedback is always an opportunity to learn and grow. Don’t be hard on yourself when you receive constructive feedback. Rather ask yourself what you can take from the input to increase your effectiveness.
  • Addressing failure. When someone on your team tries something for the first time and fails, give them time to learn from their mistake. It’s your job to create a team culture where failure isn’t reprimanded. Rather, use it as a coaching opportunity.
  • Feeling stressed. When under pressure, many of us start to nitpick, focus on small details, or become overly critical. These types of behaviors often cause low engagement and will decrease the level of support you receive from your team when you most need help. 
  • Making a decision. Many leaders put pressure on themselves to make the “right” decision when in most circumstances, there is actually not one “right” answer. Decisions can be reversed. Decisions can be changed. Decisions can be adjusted. 

As leaders, sometimes we need to put things into perspective. 

When I feel work-related stress, I ask myself, “Is this life or death?”

When I think about Chris Hatfield orbiting the earth at 17,5000 miles per hour, it reminds me that for 95% of the things that I do, I don’t need to sweat the small stuff. 

 So, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the 5-10% of your work where you should be sweating the small stuff?
  • Where are you unnecessarily sweating the small stuff at work? What can you do to let go?

In other news…

3 Proven Ways to Be a Powerful Leader

I had so much fun doing the LinkedIn Live recording on January 28th! If you missed it, you can watch the recording below.

Lead Your People Program starts February 17th, 2022.

If you are ready to learn exactly how to coach, motivate and develop a high-performing team…then join me for this 6-module program and understand the “nuts and bolts” of effective leadership.

If you are hoping to move from feeling overwhelmed by all of your priorities to feeling confident and organized – this program will be a game-changer for you!

You can register and find out more here

Vanessa Judelman

Vanessa Judelman is an author, coach, and sought-after leadership expert. Over the past 20 years, she has created a proven formula to develop results-oriented leaders who feel empowered and confident in their job. Vanessa is the author of Mastering Leadership: What It Takes to Lead in Today’s Fast-Paced World. Order your copy here.

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