As a leader, our job is to clarify the future for our organizations and enable clear plans to take our organizations forward. As a manager, our job is to make the best use of the resources available to us to accomplish the current and near-term goals in front of us. Both of those responsibilities are vital to an organization. Both are noble. Yet in both roles, we need to pay attention to the details every now and then - to ensure everyone else is.
Now I know that may sound completely illogical if not impossible: How can one person pay attention to the details and still focus on the big picture of the future? Well, it isn't impossible to do. But here's the trick: You need to really know your business. Now don't sit back and say, "Well, duh Liz! That isn't anything new." Well, duh is right. But be honest as you think about it a bit. How many times have you interacted with a vendor, customer, co-worker, manager, or even a boss who doesn't really know the business? This person doesn't really know the interconnections of key players, hasn't experienced what many in the business have experienced and now just know, or hasn't even taken the time to try to learn the business. This person somehow skates along not understanding what is truly driving the numbers up or down, what critical metrics need to be monitored to ensure systems, projects, and budgets stay on-track or why they're veering off-track, or even what people to monitor as their actions - or inactions - can impact projects or entire departments.
Paying attention to the details doesn't mean you need to study data all day long. However, it does mean you need to know your business well enough so you can quickly identify irregularities in systems, immediately sense when something isn't right, and ask questions to check when something feels "off." I was working with a client recently, when a junior manager dropped off paperwork for my client's quick review. As soon as she saw the document, my client knew something was "off." When my client asked her manager a few questions to confirm the numbers on the document, the manager was at a loss. He didn't know why the numbers were "off." He thought they looked "off," but that's as far as he had investigated the issue. My client was able to very quickly highlight why the numbers where off, what additional back-up data to check in the future to confirm the numbers against, and how to proceed in the future - to ensure the junior manager would handle this situation thoroughly the next time.
Paying attention to the details, at least enough to ask the right questions, sets great managers and leaders apart from those who are just getting by. Paying attention to the details enables effective managers and leaders to stay on top off their respective businesses when things get tough and when simply skating by isn't enough anymore. Paying attention to the details allows managers and others to gauge what their team members know and don't know - and then take advantage of those learning opportunities to help others get to know the business too.
Be an effective manager and leader: Pay attention to the details so that others will too.
Copyright MMIX Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.