The Devil is in the Details

February 10, 2014

Managing the details is a critical part of any successful business. As the saying goes, “handle the details or they will handle you.” But, what are the details? What one person sees as essential another may not consider to be essential. I guess that’s why we have different types of people with different skill sets in an organization. Here are some examples of what I mean.

One of my pet peeves is how the chairs in the conference room are arranged. I may be fussy about this, but I can’t stand to see them askew. It makes me uncomfortable – not a feeling that I want at client and staff meetings. Others don’t seem to pick up on this.

As a salesperson at heart, I am very focused on visual cues. I intuitively sense when a room feels wrong or a client is uncomfortable. I am good at anticipating objections and overcoming them. I am comfortable managing relationships, but less so at overly technical tasks. Just as I wouldn’t put our IT person in charge of a big presentation, I don’t mess around with our computer systems. The support within our company gives a high level of comfort, knowing others are watching for details I may have missed.

To better understand how individuals in our company perceive details, we have done several DiSC analyses. DiSC is a personal assessment tool used to improve work productivity, teamwork and communication. It is essentially designed to help people understand individual behavioral differences and how this facilitates or hinders performance in the work place.

The result? Not surprisingly, we discovered, surprise, surprise, that we all have very different ways of perceiving the workplace. We attend to different types of details based on how we perceive our role within the company. This makes us better or worse suited to attend to different types of tasks, be they relationship, analytic or process oriented.

One example of this was when we were writing our operating procedures several years ago. While they were quite thorough and well done, I found the detail hard to follow. So, we added flow charts to make the process a little easier for individuals like me.

I guess it all gets back to how different types of thinkers are important to running a successful company and how you manage them. The details I miss, my colleagues may see. Those that they find unimportant, I might find essential.

Try this. Observe and write down the types of details that you find most important at work. Observe the details that your colleagues seem to find important. How do you complement each other and how do your work styles diverge? Once you identify these, you can see what you need to do to work more harmoniously and efficiently.

Then write me about it. I’d love to hear about what you learn.



Joe Clayton
Sea-Land Chemical Company