7 Critically Important Details For Leaders

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The details matter.

 

Today I am going to tell you why the details matter, because as I write this, I am reading over a contract with a very important and small detail which, if I wasn’t reading carefully, I would have missed. I’m going to share with you how that detail could become a ‘make it or break it’ deal that I am about to engage in.

I’m also going to share with you three powerful bonus tips that can make you more effective all on their own!

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the details don’t matter. They absolutely do! I hate to groan about something so simple, but every once in awhile it just boils over inside me and I can’t stand to keep silent any longer.

It seems like every day for the past two weeks I have dealt with someone who has NOT paid any attention to the details. When something like this happens, I usually find that it’s the universe’s way of telling me that I need to pay closer attention, raise my standards, and change how I’m living my life. So this is as much for me as it is for you. I hope it helps you, saves you some headache, and some money too.

7 Reasons Why the Details Should Matter to You:

1. Beauty is Wrapped Up Inside the Details

If you don’t study the details, you’ll miss all the beauty around you. Be a student of the obscure details. The first step in understanding the importance of paying attention to the details will be you changing your attitude about it. Once you learn to appreciate the details, you’ll find all the wonderful things that other people are missing.

2. When Someone Is Trying To “legally” Con You Into Something, the Details of the Matter Are In the Fine Print

Learn to read the fine print. Usually, fine print is associated with a large financial purchase, or a long term contract. So you are typically about to lay down weeks or years of your paycheck for something.

Trust me.

You can afford to spend 5 minutes, 20 minutes, or the hours necessary to read all the fine print.

Personally, I read at least half of the disclaimers that I come into contact with on a daily basis. I should read them all, but after I read one from a company, I am somewhat familiar with their approach. And if I think they are ethical and have my best intentions in mind, I will read less of the upcoming disclaimers from them.

I have read Apple’s end user license agreements, Microsoft’s license agreements, all the real estate contracts I sign from cover to cover, legislation that I’m voting on or supporting (the whole bill), and the fine print, terms of use, and privacy agreements of many different websites.

Why?

Because when you don’t read that stuff, you are blindly agreeing to who knows what. I find it to be hilarious when I see people on Facebook complain about new Facebook updates or other things that they have obviously not read about. All these changes are clearly spelled out in the terms of use. Read them. You’ll appreciate the free software you use more and thoroughly understand why attorneys rightfully charge a fair wage for what they do for you, for businesses, and for our country when they become lawmakers.

3. Anything Important Not Spelled Out in Writing Will Usually Be Ignored

Although verbal contracts do hold up in court, you don’t want to make a habit of doing business on them. Why? Because it’s in our nature to remember the things we like and conveniently “forget” the things that we don’t like, don’t want to do, and want to sweep under the rug.

Over the course of the past two months, and around 60,000 of “learning” dollars between a few different projects, I have been painfully reminded that it is my responsibility to carefully and clearly define every single detail of the engagement between the customer and me, the contractor and me, and my employees and me.

Of course there are exceptions to the rules, but I would say that if you’re very lucky, one in ten people will remember and pay attention to the details that you verbally discussed. Just the other day I read a great article on how to hold effective meetings, and this approach is one I am learning to employ.

Bonus Tip #1: Effective Meeting Habits:

  1. In the meeting, decide the action steps that are required to accomplish the outlined goals.
  2. Decide who is responsible for completing the action steps. Make sure it’s a single person, and not a company or team. Someone needs to personally handle the item(s) on the punchlist.
  3. Create a timeline for completion.
  4. Recap all of the above in writing and send it out immediately! You should send this out within one hour of the meeting. If you don’t do it immediately, what was discussed will lose its potency, and you’ll forget what happened at the meeting.

If you follow these action steps consistently, you will remove more gray areas and provide clear responsibility.

4. You Won’t Think Clearly Unless YOU Write It All Out

Probably the single greatest benefit of paying attention to the details and writing out exactly what you want to accomplish is that you will more clearly identify the problem yourself. Great leaders are people with incredible minds. You can’t afford to give unclear, ineffective direction to your team, your customers, and your vendors. So take the time to invest in yourself and your team by writing out exactly what you need to.

All of the effective leaders that I have worked with and been mentored by understand the great value of writing. Conversely, all the poor leaders I have dealt with make a habit of spouting off instructions without thinking about the details. Order or chaos. You get to decide what you want to deal with.

Bonus Tip #2: Learn to Think in Outlines

For a long time, I was not very good at writing, let alone writing an outline, but I think it is one of the most important skills that you can develop as a leader, a manager, and a salesperson. When you can write a clear and effective outline along with a strong piece of copy, then you are on the right track to clear and effective communication.

Here’s what an outline should do for you:

Here’s what an outline should do for you:

1. Important things sit highest in priority

a. Sub details of the important things sit here

a.i. Sub sub details sit here

a.i.1. So on and so forth as deep as you want to go (although I never use more than a couple indents for simplicity’s sake)

2. The important things always stay high up so people can scan the top tier items and be informed

a. But when they are focused on a single point you can add more details

a.i. And beneath the details you can add specific instructions

3. The advantage of communicating important details in an outline format is that you can also grab a line item and move it, indent it, or re-prioritize it.

a. You will also be creating a logic structure in your mind of what things depend on other things in sequence.

4. So don’t forget to write an outline!

a. It will help your whole team

I’m sure that you learned how to write an outline in school, or somewhere else in the past, but are you wisely using this format to communicate important data to your team, customers, and vendors in emails, documents, and meeting agendas?

In specification documents and legal documents you may want to employe a numbering system like this: 1.0, 1.1, 2.0, and so forth. This allows you to go back and add to the numbering system, and insert more points. You can add more and more decimal points as necessary.

It’s your responsibility to construct a plan that can be completed, and your team is depending on you. So take all the time necessary to write out in detail what needs to be done.

Bonus Tip #3: Make a Template for Frequently Used Instructions

Once you find yourself writing out the same message in an email or a document more than a couple of times, go back to one of the old ones you’ve sent out, create a template document, and just add in [customer name] or [employee name] placeholders so you can find and replace those with the name of who you are writing.

Writing a simple project opening template, or customer response template is a great way to save time, provide standard operating procedure instructions to your team, and help you create a more efficient and effective process for your team.

Use Gmail’s canned responses, a shared notebook in Evernote, or Google Drive to share the document templates that you write with your team.

5. Simple People Ignore Details – Rich People Understand Them

I have never met a rich man or woman who didn’t understand the importance of details. Just today, I spoke to one of my investors and he chuckled as he explained how a warranty product that he had considered purchasing appeared to have all the coverage he wanted, but when he read the details fully, he found that the warranty included only about 10% of what it was marketed to have.

This is a warranty product that literally millions of people buy every single year. They buy it without understanding what’s actually covered because they aren’t willing to read the contract, and if they did read the contract, they didn’t ask the right questions.

Poverty generally comes from laziness (this is not always the case, there are exceptions, but I believe it to be true most of the time).

Riches come from putting in the time and hard work. You will either work hard physically, or you will work hard mentally. Usually you will do both to achieve great wealth.

Discovering and understanding the details is very hard work. It requires reading, studying, asking the right questions, thinking through the problems at hand, and writing out a plan of action. All those actions require attention to detail. As you grow as a leader, you will be able to bring a team around you to help you accomplish the details that you can’t effectively tackle alone anymore, but you will never be able to ignore the details if you want to become rich and successful. You must do the work. You must be willing to invest in finding the right details.

6. The Experts Around You Need Your Detailed Attention

I’m not a CPA. I’m not an attorney. I’m not a real estate agent. There are a lot of things that I’m not, but one thing that I am is a LEARNER. I love learning. I love finding new details, new areas to study, and new details to uncover. I’ve found that my desire to learn has given me the passion to engage in extremely tedious reading and activities that are very difficult.

I said I’m not an attorney, but I do read every single significant contract I receive before I sign it. I make sure to read and digest and understand every single detail that I can. Why? Because my attorney may be the best attorney around, but he doesn’t know my business as well as I do. It’s my job to protect my business, and he is just on my team. I would never be foolish enough to think that he could do that job on his own. I read carefully, ask questions, and I never sign until I am 100% satisfied with the details of the contract. When I do sign, I take full responsibility for what I just did. The details are up to me.

I also said I’m not a CPA, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t read tax law. It doesn’t mean that I can’t read about different tax and accounting strategies. It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t read my tax return from cover to cover before I sign. All those details do matter, and just like you, I have 24 hours in my day. Some of the best time I can invest each day is in my reading time. When I read, I absorb more knowledge, catch details that others may have missed, and I can lead effectively.

Don’t ever trust any expert in their field blindly. It’s your job to work with them to get the best service that you can. Pay attention to the details and ask questions about everything! You’ll be surprised to find that one little detail could hang you up very badly before you realize it.

7. You Will Uncover Opportunities

When you train your brain to study the details, you’ll find that you will discover connections that you weren’t aware of before. Since it’s easier to be lazy and not pay attention to details, that’s what most of the world around you does. If you work hard, retrain your brain, and become a leader who studies and lives according to the important details, then you will find hidden opportunities, new marketplaces, and unnoticed opportunities that are only discovered by connecting the details.

All the great leaders in your industry have found the important details and made career decisions around them. Do you know what they are? When it comes to learning what the important details in your business are, you will have to study for yourself and enlist the help of experts to find them, but finding those details is worth every hour, every penny, every hard lesson.

If you need help discovering the details that matter in your marketing and technology departments, you can contact us or call me at 312-857-8373 and together we can comb over the details until we find the important ones.

One Digit that Would Have Changed Everything:

 At the beginning of this post I told you that I was getting ready to sign a very large contract. It really inspired me to write this, because although I had carefully discussed a 5% commission rate on the contract three or four times with my vendor, the contract came over TWICE with a 7% commission rate. That single digit, the two percentage points that were not correct, would have taken my deal from a somewhat profitable level, to a loss.

So whenever you’re faced with a lot of details, a long contract, or a daunting amount of information, don’t be intimidated. Break it down, digest it, and thoroughly comb through and understand all the details.

The details matter. They always do. So learn to be a stronger leader, a better writer, and a voracious learner. These are the details that are going to make you great.

To your success!

– Gabe

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- Gabe Arnold

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