“When you assume you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me.” – The Odd Couple
We use assumptions all the time in our daily lives and they can be really useful. An assumption or guess when driving keeps us safe and alert. We can make useful assumptions about how people will behave and they can also help us solve problems. You can safely assume that the sun will rise tomorrow and that your kids are going to leave for school at the same time as yesterday.
But there are many cases where guessing at work can lead to misunderstandings and harm communication. Making assumptions is just guessing and often leads to bad decisions, errors and poor staff relations. Try real communication instead and become much more confident. Here are 8 reasons why you should never guess at work.
1. You think you know best.
You may decide that there are certain changes to be made in the office. But have you checked with the people this will affect? If you just guess that these changes are to everyone’s benefit, then you may be sadly wrong. One of the consequences is that this will cause upset and resentment. There may be big changes ahead such as downsizing, reorganization, new IT systems or just simply changing office layout. You assume that these changes are necessary and for everyone’s benefit. If, on the other hand, you decide to consult with your colleagues and ask for their feedback and opinions before making any decision, you will be on much safer ground.Advertising
2. Your assumptions are hindering progress.
You just assume that things are not going to change and you are really cynical. You know the joke about the cynic who voted against starting a Pessimist’s Club because s/he thought it would not work! Cynics are the ones who have really high expectations but will never put in the basic hard work to get anywhere near these goals. These negative assumptions are contagious.
A much better approach is to reflect on what your responsibilities are and to forget about your rights. You should be the catalyst for change and that means taking a much more positive and proactive approach instead of moaning all the time. Thinking and acting on creating a much better work environment is the way forward.
3. You make the wrong conclusions.
If you are under pressure, you may be tempted to take a few short cuts, instead of thinking things through. You may also cut corners in not checking last year’s sales trends thoroughly. Accountants sometimes fail to check figures properly and auditors are likely to find out. You make a few guesses along the way leading to a few wrong conclusions but the job is done and you have met the deadline. The only way to prevent errors which will come back to haunt you is to do all the calculations properly, investigate the facts thoroughly and keep any guesses you might have to make to an absolute minimum.
4. You pay far too much attention to office gossip.
You know the scene. There are emails flying around about which department is going to be cut and how many job losses these may involve. This is how rumours and office gossip start. If you analyze it, you realize that there are 10% of facts coupled with 90% guesswork. Another example is where one insignificant fact is linked to a management decision about firing a person. Maybe the person who was fired overrode the cash register without the supervisor being present. People wrongly assume that the employee was fired for theft! The consequences are that suspicion and time wasting reach unacceptable levels and there is very poor morale in your office.Advertising
If you are a team leader or manager, the best way to avoid all this unproductive activity is to make sure all staff are as fully informed as possible about what is happening. Be upfront about problems and practise an open and fair policy for promotion.
5. You are wrong about your colleague’s intentions.
You may wrongly interpret a colleague’s request to attend a conference instead of her. You start guessing. You are suspicious that she is setting you up for failure and you begin to mull over what may be behind this ploy. In this case, you have made a false assumption about what her real intentions are and this can damage relationships in the office.
It would be much better to ask her why she does not want to attend and what her fears are. She tells you that she is not confident about speaking in public.She feels that you are a better choice and that this is a great opportunity for you. Once this is clear, you will know for sure what she wants to do and why. It is always better to diplomatically ask about the reasons for certain behavior. We will never know the truth unless we ask.
6. You are not a great listener.
There are several consequences here. As you listen and tap and slide your smartphone screen, you start making a few guesses about the other person is trying to tell you. Not hearing a person out or giving them your full attention is a recipe for poor guesswork. Interrupting and dismissing the idea without full discussion is even worse. The solution is to ask probing questions such as why they think an idea might work. This will immediately prevent you from guessing. All too often, we do not ask enough questions and the “I just assumed” tactic can leave a lot of fallout which may be difficult to fix.Advertising
7. You neglect to find out essential information.
Let’s imagine this scenario. You are at a networking event and you are about to approach a prospective client. Unfortunately, he mutters something and leaves abruptly. Now, without finding out by asking any questions in a follow up, you begin to assume that he is not interested in your proposal or that you have done something to offend him. When you do ask, you find that he had to leave because of an urgent message from his office. But asking questions is invaluable when you have to find out if your business partner is happy with how you work together or whether a colleague is still on track for introducing you to a new contact. Failing to find out just feeds your assumptions and wild guessing.
“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” – Henry Winkler
8. You fall into the trap of stereotyping too much.
If you knew my age, you would probably stop reading this article! Bill Gates is not exactly in the prime of his youth either. Seriously, we make all sorts of assumptions and guesses about people as soon as we meet them. We have categorized people into neat little compartments. So, men are better technicians, women are great cooks, seniors are slow and distracted, and certain minorities are not so well educated.
These assumptions when made with regard to individuals are dangerous and can be harmful. We need to get the facts and accurate information about any person before making an evaluation and later, a decision. This is of enormous importance when interviewing candidates for jobs.Advertising
“Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With this just one agreement, you can completely transform your life.” – Miguel Angel Ruiz
Featured photo credit: Internal communication panel/Cait Barron via flickr.com
Published on January 7, 2021
How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details
Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.
If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.
Table of Contents
Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off
You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.
When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.
Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.
In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.
Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.
3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented
Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:
- Respect deadlines
- Understand the work-flow plan
- Build in time to mess up
1. Respect Deadlines
Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.
One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.
2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan
Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.
3. Build in Time to Mess Up
You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.
Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.
For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.
Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?
This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.
Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.
Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.
Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.
When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.
12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail
Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.
1. Learn to Listen Well
You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.
Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.
2. Pay Attention to Social Cues
Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.
3. Follow Rules
Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.
4. Take Notes
Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.
5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now
When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.
As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.
6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work
If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.
7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well
English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.
8. Proofread Before You Hit Send
Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.
9. Minimize Distractions
It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.
If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.
10. Take Breaks
It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.
11. Make Time for Reflection
At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?
12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List
This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.
Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.
Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.
When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.
More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail
- 7 Simple Habits to Improve Your Attention to Detail
- How to Improve Focus: 7 Ways to Train Your Brain
- 10 Things Only Detail-Oriented People Do
Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com
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