The Myriad Merits of Meticulousness

The desire to get things right comes from seeing potential everywhere they look.

True confession: More often than not, I get on people’s nerves. I’m only just now starting to figure that out in my late 50’s. (More about how I gained this insight in a subsequent post.)

For now, suffice it to say that I have been called anal retentive, nitpicky, the complainer, the troublemaker and the squeaky wheel all my life. I’m told I ask too many questions. I prefer seeing myself as someone who pays incredible attention to detail, and is constantly looking for ways to allow people to work smarter, not harder.

My thought process always begins by asking myself how something can be made better, even if it’s just by planting the right plants to attract the type of bees that you need to pollinate your crop. I’m fine with you setting the goals. I’m all about coming up with ways to best meet those goals. That, to me, doesn’t seem irritating.

I’m not into criticizing people, but my suggestions are often taken as criticisms. This never fails to surprise me, because I wouldn’t make suggestions if I couldn’t see the ability in people to carry these suggestions out. I think everyone, including myself, is capable of more.

I am fascinated by processes and procedures. I don’t focus on outcomes nearly as much as I quickly perceive all the steps that it took to reach those outcomes and spot the shortcuts that could be made. I don’t see anyone as the owner of these steps, whether they’re flawed or not. I’m not looking to assign blame or make accusations. I just want to make things better.

I genuinely believe that if you take care of the trees, the forest will take care of itself. But there is a reason I’ve avoided the hobby of growing and training bonsai. I suspect that if I ever got into the bonsai zone, I’d experience such bliss that I’d forget to eat and quickly waste away. But I’d leave behind one heck of a bonsai.

Striving for perfection can, indeed, feel blissful. It sometimes requires that you think outside of the box. Innovation, if logical and understandable, is usually beneficial. It might take some extra effort to set up new processes at first, but it the long run, they’ll save time, money, confusion, and maybe even lives.

At worst, people carry on with flawed policies without thinking about them. They’re in a rut, they’re just going with the flow, or they’re not ones to speak up about practices that could stand improvement. Or perhaps they once cared enough to suggest improvements, but they’ve given up because they have been shot down too often, and speaking from experience, that can be maddening.

Nothing sets my teeth on edge more than being told, “we’ve just always done it this way.”

But is that way logical? Is it ethical? Is it the fastest, safest, most efficient way? Has it kept up with the times? Is it easy to understand and implement consistently? Can you explain the reasoning behind it?

I struggle to understand why others fail to see that details matter. If we all know that the data being collected is flawed or unnecessary, wouldn’t it be better to find a more accurate way to collect it, or, better yet, stop collecting it entirely? “Because I said so” doesn’t cut it for me. If you can’t tell me why, I tend to think, “Why bother?”

Managers, in particular, cannot stand me. They wish I would just shut up and do my job. They can’t understand why “it ain’t broke” doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. They want people who keep their heads down and maintain the status quo. They hate change, because they think it will look like they’ve been doing something wrong all along. They’re invested in stagnation because it’s predictable. They aren’t really looking for team players as much as they seek compliant cogs.

The funny thing is that on the rare occasion that someone actually follows one of my suggestions or listens to one of my questions and take it into account, they tend to be grateful that they did in the long run. Often, I can point out things that need clarification so that massive mistakes aren’t made. Gathering the specifics, when possible, goes a long way toward efficiency. I have cut many a problem off at the pass by tending to the specifics.

Meticulous people are often the most safety-oriented people in your organization. They also tend to be excellent trainers, because they are thorough. And they are the perfect people to provide stellar customer service, because they go above and beyond and are constantly focused on ways to provide the best quality for their customers.

If you allow your employees to take initiative, make suggestions, and, yes, pick those nits, in the end they make you look good. With a meticulous person proofreading all your copy, for example, you can rest assured that all the t’s are crossed and the i’s dotted. They will ensure that you meet your goals. They get things right, on time, and as promised. They also keep accurate records and write detailed reports.

I view my meticulousness as a valuable skill set. At the same time, though, I avoid supervisory roles because I want to continue to use my force for good. In a supervisory role, I could quickly become a micromanager. I’ve had my share of those, and I chafe under their scrutiny.

While I’m all for picking a good nit, micromanagers lose sight of the reason, the logic, and the end goal of making things better for all concerned. Instead of focusing on improvements and efficiency, they fall in love with that heady feeling of control and superiority. They think they can only maintain that twisted high by making those around them seem incompetent and inferior. No thank you. I’ll pass. There are other details that I’d much rather pay attention to.

All I ask is that the next time you get irritated by the meticulous people in your life, please consider reframing your perception. They don’t want to be the burrs in your saddle. They want to be the wind beneath your wings. Listen to what they have to say. They’ll help you reach the highest of heights.

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Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

2 thoughts on “The Myriad Merits of Meticulousness”

  1. Loved this. Most people are not that self-aware. I resonate with much of this myself, but had my wings clipped at an early age. They’re growing back! Happy birthday week, my friend!

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