Work Traits

Attention to Detail

Attention to detail is especially helpful for projects and tasks that offer a lot of concrete information and require a sequential approach.
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What is attention to detail?

You’ll be the first to admit that you find abstract information and big-picture thinking to be stressful. You’d much rather drill down to the specifics.

You’re never one to accept surface-level explanations or directions. You want to sink your teeth into the technicalities and understand the who, what, when, where, why, and how of various situations. On a team, you’re the one people approach when they don’t remember a fact, date, decision, or another finer point. 

Your eye for details serves you well in a number of roles, as long as you’re mindful of not getting too lost in the weeds and you balance your love for specifics with a broader vision.

We call it: Depth

Your level of motivation for detailed information and working directly with specifics, sequences, and for being exact.

Details make perfection, and perfection is not a detail.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Leaders who pay attention to detail

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel is the first female chancellor of Germany, and she’s known for an extremely detail-oriented leadership style.

Her eye for the specifics makes sense, considering she earned a doctorate in quantum chemistry and worked as a research scientist before moving into politics. 

As The Atlantic explained in a profile piece, “Scientific thinking — her deliberate probing of each new bit of information, her cautious consultation with experts — remains integral to Merkel’s daily decision-making process and her political persona.”

Steve Jobs

As the co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs was notorious for his high expectations and uncompromising leadership style. But there was another aspect of his approach to work that’s frequently cited: an attention to detail.

In a story reported to NPR, Vic Gundotra, the man behind Google+, recalled a time when Jobs called him to say that the the second “o” in “Google” logo didn’t have the right yellow gradient in the iPhone icon and that he was going to get it fixed.

Yep, one of the world’s most famous and legendary entrepreneurs noticed a color of a single letter in an iPhone icon. That’s how committed to specifics he was.

Steve Jobs
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Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas is a trailblazer, as the first full-time, female referee in the National Football League. 

She credits her success in her career to her extreme level of focus, her commitment to training, and her eye for details. 

After all, officiating a game requires that she commits technical rules and regulations to memory and keeps her eye on everything that’s happening on the field — often without the help of zoom lenses and camera angles.

The benefits of attention to detail

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Work quality

Your love for specifics means your work is rarely sloppy. You enjoy making sure your projects are polished, and team members can rely on you for testing or proofreading their work.

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While you might not work quickly, your effort to collect all necessary details upfront means could make you more efficient in the long-run because you have fewer hastily made mistakes.

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The fact that you produce consistent and high-quality work means you’re trusted, valued and relied upon in your team. You really complement big picture thinkers who hate working with details!

The blind spots of attention to detail

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When you’re constantly buried in details, you can lose sight of the big picture and struggle to prioritize based on broader business goals.

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Analysis paralysis

Obsessing over all of the specifics can be enlightening, but it can also be debilitating. Too much information can be overwhelming and prevent you from taking action.

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Your love for details might mean you take over projects in an effort to control their accuracy. That can frustrate team members, especially if they don’t share your love of details.

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How to improve attention to detail

1) Slow down.

When you’re working at a breakneck pace, there isn’t a lot of time to focus on the details. If you really want to catch more specifics, you need to slow down. 

That’s easier said than done (especially when you have so much to do). But remember, taking the time to monitor those finer points now will actually save you the time you’d spend fixing your mistakes later.

2) Stop multitasking.

When you’re juggling several different things at once, you don’t have the mental capacity needed to attend to the details.

Boost your accuracy and efficiency by doing one thing at a time. Choose a single task and focus exclusively on that. If that means you need to close your email tab, put your earbuds in, and put your phone in a drawer, do it.

3) Double-check your work.

If you’re known for considering a project done once you’ve cranked out a prototype or first draft, you need to commit to revisiting your work.

When you’ve finished something, take a brief break. Then, revisit it with a fresh set of eyes. This will help you catch those little slip ups that would’ve otherwise gone unnoticed.

4) Break down larger projects.

If you feel overwhelmed, you’re way more likely to lose sight of details. You’re more focused on powering through than you are on refining every last point.

Breaking big, hairy projects into individual steps and milestones will make things feel more manageable and also give you more frequent checkpoints for monitoring any specifics.

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