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Everyone Notices Something

The HR Practitioner, Skills & Competencies
Posted by Presser, Janice at Friday, 06/24/2005 7:32 pm
 
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 Whether its God or the devil thats in the details, depending on whom you ask, its clear that everyones got an opinion on details and their importance. I used to think that only some very special people are detail-oriented just like it reads on their resumes, but Ive got it figured out now. Were all detail oriented. Its just that the details we notice arent necessarily the same ones the next guy notices.

There are two aspects to details. The first is where you tend to focus and the second is to what extent you actually act on what you notice. Some people use their details to plan, plan, plan  sometimes to the extent that they get into the endless loop thats been called analysis paralysis. Others dont even realize theyve noticed anything till they catch themselves acting on it, and sometimes not even then. Wheres the effective medium? Its at the place where you know what you notice, notice it better and can figure out how to use what you notice to get something done, whether you actually do it yourself or are managing other people who are doing the actual work.

The first question to ask is, where do I tend to focus? What details do I notice and use the most in my everyday life? What do I pay the most attention to? These are probably quite similar whether you are at work or at home, but be sure to consider both, especially if your home and work life diverge considerably. You may be tempted to say you focus on all three, but the key to improving your attention to details is to improve the one youre best at and let the other areas alone for now. The amazing thing is that as you improve the one you are best at, the others will also improve, but with no wasted effort.

Some people focus on details that involve time. The strongest of this group are rarely late for appointments (unless they want to be) and they are the worlds consummate planners. Theyre rarely caught short on anything. At their best, they make meticulous lists and keep detailed calendars. They focus on the longer term details, so they make good project planners, whether thats building a bridge or planning a party.

Other people focus on details that involve space. They are much more observant of their immediate environment than those who focus on time, so they tend to think of themselves as detail oriented, unlike people in the first group who find it much easier to overlook the mundane, such as having placemats that match. Those who notice space details have an eye for proportion and tend to get pictures to hang straight and desks, even overused ones, look organized.

The third group tends to focus on the details that involve value. Whether they notice what would affect shareholder value or their own paycheck, their focus is on value. This focus may also be directed toward spiritual values, ethics, entrepreneurship or the initial development of ideas, products and services that inspire others.

So in which dimension and to what extent do you tend to notice things? And, more important, how can you improve your powers of observation? Here are some tips.

For the time-oriented:

-Write out your plans. For instance, if you want to give your career a booster shot, detail your timeline, paying special attention to the things you will need from other people (references, introductions, etc.) to get where you want to go.

- Dont forget that at some point it is necessary for the planning to stop and it becomes necessary for implementation to begin. You will never be perfectly prepared for anything.

-Remember that time is relative. A few minutes sitting on a hot stove is a LOT longer than a few minutes kissing the one you love.

-No matter how much you plan, luck plays a part in success too. If it goes against you, allow yourself to relax and recover and then try again.

-Get other points of view to help your planning. As the Chinese proverb goes, Scholars planning a rebellion could never succeed.

For the space-oriented:

-Organize your tasks visually, in any form that makes sense to you. Use the colors you associate with successful action and be sure you really like the way it looks before you put it into use. For instance, if you are trying to organize the details of your interview wardrobe, take a digital photo of complete outfits you like and print them as a contact sheet so if something is at the cleaners you have additional choices right at hand. (This works for suitcase organization for business and pleasure trips too.)

-Rely heavily on what you consider important and dont worry so much about what others may consider important. You will get further.

-Decide what battles are worth fighting. Dont throw your efforts into trying to succeed everywhere: you cant do it. You will arrange things in areas or domains. Put your efforts into those domains where you have the greatest chances of success. As Henry Fords said, Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.

- Your greatest strength is to act like a centipede and walk on a hundred legs. If one or two run into trouble, you still have a lot more that are working. You have so many areas that are strong, you can afford to have a few that arent.

-Organize your work into areas and as much as possible devote your greatest effort to those areas that you love. It will help you build up your strengths so much that they will compensate for your weak areas.

For the value-oriented:

-Try inventorying your values by writing your own mission statement. Think about how you want to live, how you want to be remembered and what dreams you want to see fulfilled. It can be short or long, complex or simple, but be sure that it reflects your ideals.

-Dont orient yourself to a scarcity approach. The universe will provide. The environment tends to manifest according to your expectations.

-The problems you encounter can have a hidden value to you. As John Foster Dulles said, The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether its the same problem you had last year. You can use this concept to measure your real progress. If you are encountering new problems, you are making progress toward your goals.

-Use your skills to determine the real value of your opportunities. Pursuing an opportunity that wastes your time and energy can cost a great deal but passing up an opportunity that has hidden value can cost a great deal more.

-Understand what you value. Regardless of what you seem to value, what you really value is what you are willing to risk.

Dr. Janice Presser is President of The Gabriel Institute, a professional services company and innovator in workforce management and assessment, strategic planning and training. TGI is the originator of Role-based assessment, a tool used for pre-employment screening, enhancing performance and preventing workplace conflict.  TGI can be found on the web at www.thegabrielinstitute.com.

Dr. Presser has a broad range of expertise including individual improvement, behavioral assessment, adult learning models, interpersonal competencies, leadership development, HR management, strategic planning and conflict resolution.  Trained in systems-oriented psychotherapy as well as research and development, she is the author of five books and is a frequent speaker on leadership assessment and development, customer service, motivation, HR and organizational development.