The Attention Conundrum

Attention is possibly our most important currency today. You need to pay attention to both the big and little things. Even if you are not detail oriented, when you pay attention to details it can make a difference between an average job and an outstanding one. The expression, “it’s all in the details” takes on fresh meaning in these situations. Consider these examples:

The executive who isn’t clear in his instructions but expects his assistant to know precisely what he has in mind. The assistant books his travel and then he reprimands her because it wasn’t the exact schedule that he wanted (which he, of course, never mentioned).

The project leader who asks her team if they have accomplished certain tasks. When it comes time for the next stage in the process, she learns that yes, they completed those tasks, but she “forgot” to give them information that affected their accuracy.

The volunteer leader who is so eager to please his board of directors that he gathers consensus, does not take notes on what they agreed to, and takes a completely different action.

These are routine examples, but they occur by the dozens every day. What can you do to avert these situations?

Overcommunicate. Be precise in your directions, and depending on the scenario, you may want to follow up with an email, reiterating your request. Check in with your team during the time they’re working on the project, not 5 minutes before the deadline.

Break it down. If you’re working on a tight time frame, chunk your request into manageable pieces to further clarify what you’re seeking. (For those of you who think this is too much – “they should know how to do this” – this may be true, but tight deadlines often lead to errors. When you’re precise and rushing, there will be fewer mistakes.)

Use an organizing system that works for you. It doesn’t matter what your process is; what is important is to follow it. Dozens of apps have been created to help people stay on top of things, so find one that works for you.

At the end of the day, it’s about being accountable. Don’t blame others; think about how you could have handled a situation more effectively. Put yourself in the minds of the people you’re talking to. Take the extra minute to think from their perspective, and you’ll be pleased with the results – even if you’re not a detail person!

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