Too Much Attention to Detail

As an executive, if you are addicted to detail, the best thing you can do is admit to yourself that your need for detail is for your own entertainment. If you think you are creating business value by staying in the detail you are not.

Sure you may catch someone out or add something in the detail every now and then, but what you are really doing is ensuring that your organization never increases its capability. You are competing with your managers, and you are constraining the value of your whole organization. And that is a real shame. And that is not the job of an executive leader.

The job of an executive leader is to build a highly capable team that can deliver, but that can also learn and evolve and get more capable over time. If you keep everyone reviewing detail because that makes you feel comfortable you are failing to do the job of an executive leader.

A much better way to deal with your addiction is to allow your managers to do their jobs, question them on strategies and outcomes (not score them on details), and then go right to the individuals doing the work to get your fix.

If you want to talk about details, talk with the people who should be responsible for detail – the individuals doing the work. Learn everything you want. When you are talking to individuals, ask questions and listen. But be careful not to overly judge them or assign work. Never do a skip level assignment of work – the manager feels dis-empowered, other priorities are put at risk, and the employee feels tortured not knowing what they should do or who their boss really is.

Detail is crucial if you are the one doing the work. But if you are the one managing the people or managing the managers, you need to value the leadership and managerial work and be really good at that, more than be the expert in the details. That’s what the business and your team needs from you.

Summing-up: Moving too much detail up kills organizational effectiveness, is hugely expensive, and introduces more risk than it averts. Managers should be creating insights not just moving all their detail up.

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