The best leaders can see the big picture and articulate a clear and compelling vision for their teams, along with clear strategies, goals, and action steps. To balance this, I have appreciated from personal experience the value of a leader who minds the details. I am not talking about micro-management, but rather a thorough attentiveness to the key underlying drivers of success.
Letting things “slip through the cracks” is inexcusable for a finance professional upon whom others are relying to handle many details. Every matter subject to your oversight must be managed effectively. Have a zero nag threshold so that your coworkers and superiors know they can rely upon you.
Make persistence a matter of personal policy. For example, I have frequent processes that require information from colleagues on the other side of the world. Sometimes it takes them awhile to obtain the necessary documents, so I have a policy to follow up routinely and systematically. This is always done politely and professionally; they know that if they need something from me, I will reciprocate in being approachable and providing them timely information.
Here are some tips for making sure nothing slips through the cracks:
- Slow down. We have all heard the adage, “Slow down in order to go faster.” This is a true irony. Trying to accomplish tasks at breakneck speed can lead to costly mistakes and rework. I learned early in my accounting career that it is better to do things right the first time to avoid the frustration of errors.
- Check everything twice. Sometimes you will have the luxury of a coworker who can provide a “second set of eyes.” Other times you will be on your own to make sure that your projects are completed accurately. Get in the habit of finding ways to reconcile and “tie out” every number you calculate as you complete your projects.
- Survey the context of your project to determine what you are missing or what you should omit. Make sure that nothing slips through the cracks.
- Have a system. For example, I double check my email inbox at the end of each day to make sure I did not fail to respond to a matter of importance. Occasionally I have found that I almost let something slip through the cracks, thereby demonstrating the value of taking a little time to quickly go over everything. Other times I will re-read an email to glean a tidbit of information that I had skimmed over previously. In any case, my simple system is an effective way to give myself peace of mind that I am not missing anything important with regard to my emails.
Mind the details. Be thorough. Tie up loose ends. Don’t let anything slip through the cracks. You must not wait for others to catch your errors or omissions. You must set your nag threshold at zero and earn the reputation for trustworthiness that every aspiring financial leader needs.