November 30, 2021

D is for “The Devil’s in the Details”

“The Devil’s in the Details.”  I am sure you have heard this expression in the past, and while there are a few arguments over the origin of the phrase, at the end of the day, this expression refers to the fact that excellence is a virtue and that overlooking details may…hmmm…”let the devil loose” causing more problems later on down the road.

Some examples:

1. Not reading the fine print on contracts or when enrolling in a phone plan

2. Not proofreading a document before you send it to your boss…I am the queen of typos, but typos can make or break an impression

3. Skimming the text before a big test, and the text you skimmed…guess what…it was worth 30 points as a bonus!  Ouch!

In leadership, it is so critical to be both a visionary and a detail oriented person.  After working with over 1200 people in a leadership coaching role, it is very rare to find a leader who is both.  I usually attract big thinkers…visionaries who see big futures and big pictures.  I a big picture thinker, so of course I am going to attract this.  My detail orientation is a bit on the slim side, and I do work on this.  I will immerse myself in a detail oriented project for days just to develop stick-ability to the process.  And…with the big picture people I work with, they tell me that they struggle with the details.  They want to jump from A to Z and “change the future/change the world.”  To be focused on the details stops them from reaching that big vision as quickly as possible…I totally get that!

So, if you are a big picture thinker, what do you do?  The first thing is this…give yourself a break.  It is okay that you are a big picture visionary and may not be the most detail oriented person.  This is why we have assistants and partners who LOVE working on details and who enjoy playing the devil’s advocate.  But…there are a few practices you can implement on a daily basis to help improve your attention to details:

1. Start your day out with a routine. My routine is to get up each morning at the same time, make my bed, quickly declutter my office, drink a cup of coffee and then go on a 2-3 mile run.  I do this most mornings (or I go to the gym as opposed to the run.)  It will take about six weeks to get into a routine like this, but it does help start your day off with a solid routine that sets a detail-oriented  tone for your day.

2. Stop living on e-mail. Trust me…this one will get you every time.  I recommend checking e-mail two times per day.  This one habit has helped me so much.  I check e-mail around 9:30 in the morning and then again around 4:00 in the afternoon.  If I am working on a client with a project, and I know we are in an e-mail conversation, I will jump back online to address that.  But…as far as going through and checking through all of my e-mail, this is two times a day.  It becomes quite easy to get both distracted and feel accomplished by spending all day on e-mail.

3. Start blogging. Yep…this one has truly helped me.  Just in this one post, my blog template has popped up about 13 typos (they are underlined in red.)  This reminds me that while I do believe blogging is a stream of consciousness process and while typos are somewhat forgiven, I do need to be mindful of the people out there who are driven crazy by typos and grammatical errors.  And…they will e-mail you and tell you when you have typos on your blog.  I wonder if they get paid to do this, and if so, who pays them?  It is not uncommon to get several e-mails from the same person about my typos, so I just wonder if this is their job for the internet?  Maybe one of you out there can answer this curious question for me.

4. Consider the consequences of “skipping steps.” You may consider skipping a step, because you don’t believe it has anything to do with your outcome.  Think again…sit down with someone who is detail oriented, and let them play devil’s advocate for you.  Ask them what the consequences will be if you skip that one step.  Talk through the process A to Z, and ask them if you are missing anything or leaving anything out.

5. Take on one new project that demands attention to detail. As an example, if you have ever caulked, sanded and painted a wall, it does require details…if you want the finished product to look sharp.  Or…if you have never learned how to use an Excel spread sheet, take this on for one month, and write out a detailed project plan for one aspect of your business.  Just working with a spreadsheet can be tedious, but it will help you develop patience and an attention to details.

6.  Take the DiSC Assessment. The DiSC will show you where you fall on detail orientation, and your assessment results will give you several suggestions on how to use your assets to pull your shortcomings up.

7. Hire an assistant or find a partner who IS detail oriented to give your work a second glance. My husband, Mike, is a very high C on the DiSC.  He is a perfectionist pattern on the DiSC, and he combs through my more important work to pull out anything that does not make sense, points out typos and helps me to make sure things flow.  We are not all meant to have every strength in the book, so just know that there are people out there who thrive on paying attention to details.  So, get them on your team.

8. Keep a list, keep a calendar and stay as organized as possible. When I finally learned that technology could help me stay focused on details, my life became so much easier and less stressful, because my productivity improved and I had more free time to do what I want to do in life.  I now use Gmail and an i-phone and I can access my calendar and contacts at any time of day.  I write down everything on my Gmail calendar.  I don’t like paper, but some people do.  The goal here is to find a record keeping system that works for you and use it every day.  If I don’t keep things organized, my detail orientation is a wreck.  So…keep life simple by keeping your details in an organized system…I don’t care if it is a wall of sticky notes or a huge whiteboard…anything that works for you.

If you are a leader who would like more information on how to improve your attention to details, please contact me today for a complimentary consultation.  I am happy to see how I might be able to help you improve your skills (and we all have skills to improve!).

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