Why learning the details is more important than you might think

detailsDetails can be boring. But boring through the details can be one of the most powerful ways to enable you to be a more effective leader.

I’m amazed by the amount of specific things I learned twenty years ago that inform my ability to lead and manage today.

As a young pup, I dug into the details with enthusiasm. I wanted to thoroughly test how concepts worked in the real world. I wanted to earn credentials.

I worked to gain mastery, at least in some areas.

Dividends are still being paid in those areas where I went deep long ago.

It’s kind of amazing how some of that has held up.

Things change rapidly in this world. Markets evolve. Businesses change. Technology advances.

In that flurry of constant change, however, some things remain the same. Some lessons that you worked hard to learn long ago still apply.

Because when you gain deep understanding of something specific, you learn a principle. That principle more than likely remains applicable even when many of the details and circumstances change over time.

What about now?

You’ve probably had a similar experience as I have. Concepts you came to understand deeply long ago still inform you in many ways today, even though so much has changed.

You may have immersed yourself in details the way I did, at least in some areas. That’s how we gain the expertise that is important early in our careers.

Now that you’re in a leadership position, though, there is no time for such in depth study. It’s time to operate at a high-level. To work on vision, strategy, and motivating the team.

You are able to lead effectively because you mastered those crucial details long ago.

But what if you are leading in new areas. Maybe operational areas that you gained responsibility for later in your career without ever having worked the front line. Perhaps you are leading in an area that is relatively new and didn’t exist (at least not in the same way) when you were a young pup.

For a lot of reasons, you could be leading one or more areas where you never had the chance to learn details in depth.

Is it too late?

I don’t think so.

You may not have time to study things the way you might have earlier in your career. You may not be able to experience them in the way that others do now, with the full weight of the responsibility for them. And you may not be able to get as hands-on as you would like.

But you can still learn the details. If you ask for help from those that are today’s masters.

The next best thing to learning the details on your own is to have someone walk you through them.

Your job is to ask those questions, to go on that exploration, to struggle with the tedium that may be required to look at things step by step, piece by piece, detail by detail.

And it’s worth it. Because the more you master at a detailed level, the better your high level guidance will be.

The devil is in the details, they say. But so are the angels of insight.