In The Huddle with Fran Tarkenton

Every Detail Matters

fran-emailOne of the things that has struck me throughout the years is the attention that the most successful people pay to every little detail. The best leaders aren’t content to oversee things from on high and trust that it gets done; they stay personally involved, and don’t miss a thing.

I will never forget what might be the most unique drill we did during my time with the Vikings. Our coach Bud Grant was always detail oriented. And that wasn’t just about things happening during the game. We were the only team in the entire NFL, probably ever, that had national anthem practice.

That’s right. National anthem practice.

Bud would make us practice standing at perfect attention for the national anthem. We weren’t just going to stand around waiting for the game to start; we were expected to respect the flag and show our discipline in everything we did. Every detail mattered—standing at attention for the national anthem was representative of the discipline we would show on every play. If we were going to do something, we were going to do it right.

Today, Nick Saban has that same attention to detail. He is famous for his focus on getting every play right. He’s not necessarily focused on winning, per se; he’s focused on the process and making sure his Alabama football players execute every play flawlessly down to the last detail. When they do that, the winning takes care of itself. And it has!

In the business world, Steve Jobs had that same drive to perfect every detail. He was notorious for obsessing over what might seem like the tiniest things: the precise shading of every color, the curves and angles of every letter, visual textures on digital screens, and the size and shape of a device down to the last millimeter. No detail was too small—literally!

I don’t think these are just idiosyncrasies; they are representative of what any of us have to do, writ large. Every detail matters. When you’re disconnected from what’s going on and not paying attention to those details, you miss out on subtle changes, trends, and opportunities to grow. Anybody can copy the broad outline. But whether you’re trying to build a disciplined football team, a perfect electronic device, or anything else, it’s the details that matter, that make the difference. And that takes hard work and time—there’s no shortcut.

It’s very important to me that I pay attention to all those details in my businesses. That’s why I still sign every check myself before it goes out of our office. I want to know everything we’re doing. I talk to every person on the team to know what they’re working on. That doesn’t mean micromanaging, but it does mean having a personal presence.

In whatever you’re doing, don’t overlook the details. They may be just the thing that gets you to the next level.

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