Pay Attention to Details

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By HRH Dr. Appolus Chu

A Russian proverb says, “If you don’t have time to do it right, you must have time to do it over.” That is another way of saying we mustn’t rush over things. We need to pay attention to details.

A detail oriented person leaves no stone unturned in their quest to achieve a purpose. Whenever an organization is looking for someone to promote, they always look for a person who has an eye for details. A detailed person is conscious at all times and careful. This person is a fault finder – not for the sake of finding faults, but so they can proffer solutions and prevent situations from getting out of hand. A detailed person doesn’t tolerate undisciplined or unruly behaviour, is punctual and a specialist when it comes to preventing or avoiding hazards. A detailed person is so focused on doing things rightly that he or she doesn’t give room for error or unforeseen embarrassments. A detailed person is such an organised person who is always on top of his or her game. It is for this reason that people usually see a detailed person as a perfectionist.

Anyone at the helm of affairs of a family, organization, local government, state or country, ought to be very detailed. This includes heads of agencies, security chiefs, managers, and chief executives of companies, indeed anyone whose responsibility it is to see to the day to day operations of a group of people or association. We may refer to these people by other names or titles, but they are primarily supervisors.

A supervisor is a person who manages, inspects and oversees the work, operations or activities of other people, by making sure that they comply with the rules, regulations, requirements and standards set for them; so that they are able to achieve a desired and pre-stated outcome. This person coordinates and oversees all levels of skills and activities within a site (or jurisdiction) and works with other sub-supervisors, for the success of a particular project.

Supervisors coordinate their teams in such a way that everyone does what they ought to do at the right time, correctly, and in accordance with set rules. Supervisors are teachers on the scene. When they find anyone who isn’t doing what they should be doing, they immediately call such ones to order.

Paying attention to details is what distinguishes leaders from followers. Leaders go ahead to scout out the way, create new paths, erect landmarks, and determine the best ways to circumvent obstacles. Followers simply walk in the path already paved by the leaders.

Leaders, as supervisors, are expected to be proactive. They shouldn’t wait for things to happen before they act. Rather, by merely looking at the situation before them and asking salient questions, they are able to pinpoint areas that need fixing, and go ahead to fix them; thereby preventing matters from getting out of hand.

People who do not pay attention to details are reactionary by nature. They only realize that things have gone wrong when the people under them begin to down tools in protest.

Those who pay attention to details are more interested in the legacies they are leaving behind. It is their legacy that wins them fame and respect from the people, long after they have left office. That is why we still remember people like the late Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Michael Okpara, Dennis Osadebe, Harold Dappa-Biriye, and other founding fathers of Nigeria.

Every system, organization or community needs people – detailed supervisors – who can drive it forward. Not those who grind it to a halt.

The difference between countries is in their attention to details. Countries where they pay attention to details have basic infrastructure fully in place and functional. They do not toy with their systems so that nothing takes them unawares. They pay attention to climate and weather changes, and come up with solutions to forestall disasters.

Countries that do not pay attention to details are often the exact opposite. They allow anything. Some of their leaders get into office confused and measure their success by the petty constructions they undertake. Constructions that they do not bother maintaining, so that they are constantly building something new; but doing nothing about the old and existing ones.

When we talk about government and government functionaries in Nigeria, like ministers, commissioners, director-generals and all heads of government agencies, we find that some of them are failing in their duties as supervisors. The result is gross inefficiency in our government and the failure of so much of our systems.

Our textile companies in Kaduna and Kano are dead. Nigeria Airways is dead. A lot of the companies and industries that used to function in the 1970s and 1980s are non-functional today. The largest steel rolling mill in Africa, Ajaokuta in Kogi State has been comatose since forever. Delta Steel Company, Aladja in Delta State is moribund. Even our four petroleum refineries are mere carcasses, and the country now imports refined petroleum products to meet her domestic needs. We ran some of our facilities like NAFCON and Eleme Petrochemical Companies to the ground and ended up selling them to private owners who are now reaping huge profits from them.

Privatization is good, but when we run down our companies before selling them, we sell them cheaply and at little or no value to the country. Countries that reap the benefits of privatization are those that sell their facilities when they are still functional and producing value. Detailed supervisors who know their onions know when it is right to advice their employers to sell or not to sell.

What we see today is that anyone can be brought from any sector to head a sector or agency they know absolutely nothing about – and the appointee will accept the appointment with excitement. A lawyer can be appointed to head an engineering or medical agency, while a medical doctor can be appointed to the ministry of justice or procurement.

A supervisor must only supervise a field where he or she is competent. It is foolishness to supervise something they know nothing about, because they will be unable to proffer solutions to problems that arise in such areas. That would be like turning over the controls of a plane to a driver. The lives of the incompetent pilot, the passengers on board, and the safety of the plane are all at risk.

If government wants to truly move the country forward, it must begin to pay detailed attention to the calibre of persons it appoints into public office. They must be seasoned and very experienced professionals of proven integrity, tried, tested, and found to be capable of handling the offices they are appointed into. They must be people who have distinguished themselves in smaller offices and appointments, before being tasked with bigger responsibilities.

Aliko Dangote is the most successful businessman in Africa because of his attention to details. He is diversifying his business into newer areas every day and his company is growing in leaps and bounds, because he pays attention to details. It is by paying attention to details that he is able to recognize new opportunities, new markets, and new areas of investment.

The same can be said for every other business, system or community that is growing and making progress. The supervisors of such systems learn to find fault with their systems. By so doing they look for new ideas and court advice for improvement. No person can succeed in business or anything else without the ability to pay attention to details.

A husband who doesn’t pay attention to details will always quarrel with his wife or think she is hiding money he gives her for the upkeep of the home. He doesn’t pay attention to details so he doesn’t realize that the cost of things is skyrocketing in the market.

A father who doesn’t pay attention to details will end up a failure, because he will never know the true state of his home. His children could be members of cult groups, fraudsters, and prostitutes, but he will be left unaware because he doesn’t pay attention to details when he is at home. He doesn’t bother to find out how his children are doing or the friends they are keeping.

On the other hand, it is paying attention to details that makes a father go round and inspect the house thoroughly before going to bed at night. He takes time to inspect the electrical appliances and gadgets, and turns off any one that is not in use. He takes time to make sure that the doors and windows are properly locked, so that robbers can’t easily break into his house and threaten the security of his wife and children.

Parents who are detailed do not leave medicines and other harmful substances within reach of children. A cook who pays attention to details takes note of the placement of the handle of the frying pan they cook with. They put it out of the way, so that nobody makes the mistake of accidentally touching it, thereby tipping it over and pouring the hot oil on themselves.

A detailed mother pays attention to the slightest sound or smell in the house. If the smell is of something burning, she inspects the kitchen. Did anybody forget something on the fire? Is the smell from an electrical device somewhere? Did anybody forget to turn off the electric iron, hotplate or boiling ring?

People have lost their homes, certificates, all they laboured for and even their lives, to fire from home appliances that someone forgot to turn off, and nobody else was detailed enough to go round and inspect the house before going out or going to sleep. So, paying attention to details is something that saves money, preserves assets and protects lives.

A driver who is not detailed is only interested in getting into the car and driving. Even when the car is making funny sounds or the tyres are wobbling, he doesn’t pay attention. He doesn’t know when the vehicle is due for servicing. As long as the car can move, he is okay. He drives it with all its problems until he drives into trouble or the car gets stuck in a horrible situation or leaves him stranded in a dangerous place.

A detailed person, who works at a site as a technician or a carpenter, takes note of his environment. He never leaves the site dirty and in disarray, but clears his work site of nails and other harmful things and neatly puts away his tools after each day’s work. He does so, because he realizes that an untidy work site is a danger to all who step into the area – including him. Someone could accidentally step on a nail or any sharp object.

A lowly labourer who pays attention to details will not return home from work and drop his tools carelessly. No! He takes time to put it away safely and where he can easily retrieve it for the next day’s work.

Being detailed is about taking note of things so that they are in the right places and done in the appropriate time and manner.

A person who is not detailed can be considered as lazy. Such a person is nonchalant, careless, and doesn’t take things seriously. This type of person doesn’t pay attention to happenings around him or her, so is unable to take note of things that cause hazards or problems in their vicinity or the opportunities that abound around them.

Work can be defined as solving problems for other people. Yet there are so many young people who idle away all day long in the name of looking for work. What they really ought to be looking for are problems to solve for others. If they pay enough attention to details, they will find work to do, because there is work everywhere.

Look around you and you will find that there are people with so many problems that need solving. I read of a young girl who saved the monthly allowance she was paid in the youth service scheme until it was enough to buy a tricycle (Keke), and launched a transport business.

Food is a problem. A detail-oriented person can solve that problem by becoming an agriculturist or investing in the agriculture value chain. That means if they can’t produce the food themselves, they can be part of those getting the food from the producers to the consumers.

All the young people who are in a hurry to run out of Nigeria and put themselves through horrible ordeals just so they can get menial jobs in Europe, Asia and America all complain about one thing – no jobs. The truth is that jobs abound everywhere, so long as there are needs to be met and there are problems to solve. All they need to do is pay attention to details.

Three things to note about a person of details are the following:

A Person of Details is Value-oriented

A person of details adds value to a place, organization, community or country. Such a person makes a difference wherever they are, by constantly adding to or improving the condition of wherever they are.

A person of details has a five-star personality. Such a person is willing to go the extra mile in ensuring that things are done right. There is no cutting of corners with such a person. The maxim for such a person, according to Dr. Myles Munroe is, “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it yet.”

A Person of Details is Excellence-driven

To be excellent is to be outstanding, uniquely different and of superior quality. One of the foremost Greek thinkers, Aristotle, said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Excellence is not a talent or gift that people are born with. It is a habit they chose to cultivate. Excellence is not something you do only once or occasionally. It is something you do all the time, repeatedly and consistently.

The day public office holders, public and civil servant, and every Nigerian begins to strive for excellence in everything we do, that same day people from every nation of the earth will begin to beat down the doors of our embassies, all over the world, looking for visas to come to Nigeria.

Excellence is about consistently maintaining a high standard, never compromising that standard for any reason or anybody.

A Person of Details is Passionate

A passionate person is enthusiastic about what they do. They are committed, dedicated and focused on their goals. Passionate people do not cut corners, but press on, fervently, until they accomplish their set tasks and objectives.

Detail oriented persons are passionate.

A person who doesn’t pay attention to details lacks discipline and self-control. Persons like that lack passion for whatever they are doing. And if a person lacks passion for a particular task, how can they be expected to supervise or lead others?

Do you want a position in leadership? Do you want to make a positive impact on society? Do you want to see change that will elevate your community or neighbourhood to greater heights? Do you want to be a person that others can entrust with responsibility? Do you want a better Nigeria where systems work and our passport is revered all over the world? In the words of the Federal Ministry of Information, “It begins with you!”

It begins with paying attention to details.

· “HRH Appolus Chu Reflections: Pay Attention to Details”, is written by HRH King Amb Dr Appolus Chu, Egbere Emere Okori and Oneh Eh Nchia X, Eleme