"The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." ~Stephen Covey
"Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome." ~Samuel Johnson
Ever had that boss where if one tiny detail was wrong, they’d disregard every other thing in the report, meeting, or spreadsheet and send you back to the drawing board? Ever had it delay something important? Something hugely important? Most of us have at one time or another. Sometimes there really are things that need to be reworked, but too often it is done for reasons far too trivial and self-serving (like not wanting to make a decision, or figuring out a way they can get more credit for it).
So what’s a good employee to do? While there may be a lot of things we’d LIKE to do, it’s best to start out focusing on these three things:
Plan time for revisions - Part of our frustration is the pending deadline and extra work that comes out of running into that deadline. By planning for the time of revisions you minimize the risk of missing the deadline, will be less likely to have to “burn the midnight oil”, and acknowledge that this will be part of the process which naturally reduces the frustration.
Don't take it personal - Things can ALWAYS be improved and your work is no different. The detail may have been irrelevant or may be good enough, but changing it will make it better. Those nuances add up and often separate good work from great work.
Learn their tendencies - Everyone has their own style of doing things. Your boss is no different. So learn what preferences he/she has regarding content and formatting. Do this and you'll have greater initial success, fewer revisions, and get the project rolling faster.
If you do these three things when dealing with a boss prone to getting caught up in the details you will be able to manage the process better and prevent the little things from stopping the big things.
Now ask yourself: Have you done the same thing to your staff? Don’t worry, it’s just as easy for us to pick up bad habits as it is to pick up good habits, and luckily there is a way out:
Minimize the needed changes – Think about the 80/20 rule. If you are presenting a document, more than half of it will go unseen or is there strictly for support. Your role as a leader is to get the MOST out of your people. If they can move past this project and on to the next one, then they are producing more. Again, have high standards for quality, but perfection is rarely attainable or of economic benefit.
Ask for it quickly – So much work can be done when we focus, and this actually will help you with the first bit of advice as you won’t be able to ask for the world. By asking for the changes right away it gives your team member motivation while the work is fresh in their mind, and a sense of accomplishment when it is completed. Now be sure to keep the first step in mind when applying this principle. Asking for a lot of work immediately can obviously have the opposite effect we want.
Make the decision – Even if work still needs to be done, let the verdict be known to the team member. Everyone hates uncertainty, and knowing that the larger point hasn’t been forgotten makes the “clean-up” work much easier to take for the team member.
Throwing the baby out with the bathwater by putting big things behind the smallest of details is prevalent in today’s business environment, but regardless of the reason for that. it doesn’t mean it can’t be dealt with and minimized.