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It’s All in the Details: Making Accuracy Part of Your Company Culture

Think about a time you saw glaring typos in a resume you received. Did you hire that person? Odds are you didn't, despite the person's background. An error on a document as important as a resume demonstrates a lack of attention to detail.

It can also signal a lack of interest and pride in the quality of their work. Inaccurate data and incorrect spelling can lead to losing a client. No matter how creative or technologically advanced your organization is, someone must focus on the specifics.

Big-picture or Detail-oriented?

Employees generally categorize themselves as "big-picture" or "detail-oriented." However, organizations need both types of people to create and execute strategies. Detail-oriented people are meticulous. They like everything to be orderly and precise. They add value to your team by contributing accurate work and well-thought-out plans. They are the ones who take comprehensive meeting notes. They proofread and double-check their work.

Detail-oriented employees generally prefer projects comprised of many small tasks, which allow them to check completed items off a list. They are usually good with numbers, so they tend to gravitate to positions in accounting and finance. People who are good at managing the particulars also excel at:

  • Remembering people's names
  • Asking lots of probing questions
  • Picking up on social cues and body language
  • Organizing their work area, tasks, and calendar
  • Being prepared and planning ahead
  • Managing their time and meeting deadlines

Delegating the Details

Not everyone can say that “an eye for detail” describes their work style. For example, you may instead be a "big picture" thinker, or your position might require you to leave the minutiae to others. In both cases, you must delegate tasks to those who will ensure the details are correct.

Those who delegate detailed work are usually the leaders and creative types. They focus on strategic direction and managing employees. Even though they are not in the specifics, they need to recognize their importance. Some people thrive on imagination, yet they may not excel at execution. Detail-oriented people can take the ball and implement the plans. The one who delegated the task still needs to ask questions and ensure the “I’s were dotted and the T’s crossed.”

As a leader, you're the role model for your team. If you want them to do quality, accurate work, show them you operate the same way. Ensure your emails and presentations are free of grammatical errors or inaccurate figures. Demonstrate the pride you take in your work product. After all, this reflects on your reputation and that of your team.

When you establish teams, think about the work styles of the people you assign. If it's an innovation team, choose "big-picture" creative types. But you'll still need some detail-oriented people such as engineers and finance employees in the group. They will make sure the team stays on track, adheres to its budget, and meets deadlines. Creative employees will thrive in this environment, knowing their ideas will come to fruition. Plus, they are free from the implementation tasks and can do what they do best.

Becoming More Detail-focused

Perhaps you must be more attentive to specifics, but this is not your natural strength. Start by getting organized and proofreading your work. Ask a trusted colleague to proofread important documents. Checklists can help ensure that all steps are completed. Develop processes to ensure work is double-checked before it leaves your department.

An article in Harvard Business Review suggests you critically consider how you feel about the work. Are you not paying attention to the details because you think the work is unimportant? Do you not enjoy it? You may need an understanding of how it fits into the bigger picture and the significance of its accuracy. Or perhaps you need a reassignment that aligns with your strengths and interests.

The article also recommends reflecting on how the work aligns with your values. Do you view teamwork, relationships, and collaboration as important? If so, think about how missed details or deadlines affect your colleagues. This is another angle that puts the importance of accuracy in the bigger context. When you are invested in relationships with others, you become more conscientious about the impact of your work on your co-workers, customers, and vendors.

Perhaps your focus is on the speed of delivery over accuracy. While the customer may appreciate the prompt response, it's not worth it if errors occur and you lose the customer.

Coaching for Detail-orientation

If you see quality slipping and feel your team needs to refocus on details, encourage them to:

  • Limit distractions. Simple ways to combat distractions are closing the office door or turning off email and text notifications. Find a quiet conference room to work in. Block out focus time on your calendar. Send your calls to voicemail.
  • Be present in your work. We often get distracted by the other things on our plates. While much is made of the importance of multitasking, very few people can do it effectively. The Cleveland Clinic reported that our brains can only focus on one thing at a time, and only 2.5 percent of the population can truly multitask. Instead of doing two things simultaneously, the brain switches from one task to another. When these tasks are complex, chances are that mistakes will happen.
  • Take breaks. When you are deep in details, it can be hard to stay focused. So step away for a few minutes to recharge and refocus. One approach is called the Pomodoro technique. This time management technique calls for 25 minutes of focused work, followed by a 5-minute break. Follow three cycles of these 25/5 sessions with a 30-minute break. The breaks enable you to return to your work refreshed and ready to pay close attention.
  • Organize workspaces and task lists. Keeping an orderly work area and tracking to-do's helps stay on top of details. As a result, you won’t be distracted by having to stop and look for the required tools and resources. Plus, you won’t wonder about what else needs to be done.

Thanking the Detail-oriented

Chances are the people who win the big awards in your company are the ones who came up with the innovative new product or landed a huge new client. Rarely is there acknowledgment of team members that managed the details and kept things running smoothly. These employees may not seek the limelight but remember to acknowledge their importance to the company's success.

Creating a Culture

Attention to detail should be a valued part of your company culture. Build rituals to reinforce this behavior with your team. Initiate discussions about why they might not pay as much attention to detail as they should and what the consequences are. Emphasize the importance the leadership places on getting the details


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