They say the Devil is in the details...I say leadership is in the details.
It was raining heavily as I walked from my house to the bus stop. Although it was not a long distance but in that heavy rain, combined with wind, it took me very long and even umbrella was not helping enough as my clothes got wet, a bit. Luckily, the bus came in time, and it wasn’t too crowded in there, so in a matter of 20-25 minutes, I reached the office. As I was getting late, walked briskly from the bus stop into the office and then headed directly to the restroom where I wiped my shoes, used the dryer to dry my clothes up, and I was ready for the day.
As I was walking towards my desk, realized there was a big customer visit planned on the day, on the other side of the building, as there were some welcome banners / messages around the reception. I took my seat, chalked out my plan for the day, and then went to my project lead’s desk to discuss the plan. To keep the discussion concise, we used to talk standing. We both started discussing the work for the day, and she was explaining to me the details, as I was facing her and she was facing the walkway behind me. I could see that while talking to me, she was getting distracted and looking around, but I continued to focus on explaining myself and paying attention to what she was saying. Suddenly she stopped and was looking behind me, I had to turn around and was amazed to see that the head of our delivery centre (DC) standing right behind me, staring at me (in anger). He was there for a few seconds, dint say a word, and then thinking that he has made his point, he walked away to look at other things in the hall. Initially, I was not clear as to what has just happened - why the big boss had to stop and stared at both of us, but then it didn't take me long to realize and in fact my project leader also highlighted that there were splashes of mud on the backside of my trouser. It seems that while walking briskly in the rain, some mud drops got splashed/scattered on my trouser. Since it was on the back, I couldn’t notice it. I immediately cleaned it then.
It was a big visit customer visit, though on the other side of the building, not in the area where I was sitting, but still the DC head took that wider floor walk to ensure that everything is fine, the whole area is looking clean/tidy and the team members (representing culture/ethos of the company) on the floor look professional. Later that day customer visit happened and though the customer was planned to visit on the other side of the floor but around lunchtime one of them came to the area where I was sitting and that’s when I realized what it means to be fully prepared.
I’m sure the DC head would have reviewed the presentations prepared for that important customer visit, he would’ve reviewed overall arrangement and also went into nitty-gritty of preparation and took a walkthrough of the floor even on the other side to ensure that all is arranged properly and there’s not even a single drop of a splash (😊) That’s the level of detail some leaders go into.
I’m aware of his many other professional traits, but this one thing which happened personally to me has stayed with me and underscores the importance of getting into the details.
Cut two (few years later)
It was our new global delivery centre(GDC) in South America, and we had only one customer at that point of time who we were serving from that GDC. We were trying hard and keenly looking forward to on-board more. I clearly remember that important day when we were working to submit a multi-million proposal for that regional client. Submission was due later that day, and we were discussing and reviewing the same in Sales head office. Suddenly he got a call from the COO of the company, asking about the preparation of the proposal. COO provided his feedback and shared his inputs. We had to make significant changes to the proposal based on that feedback. That was unsolicited input, as I know the regional sales head did not share the proposal with COO upfront, thinking it was too small to solicit his attention. We all were amazed to see that the COO bothered to provide his inputs for a proposal being submitted in one small country amongst global operation, amidst other priorities. Also, the level of inputs provided were so precise and detailed, and it reflected his understanding of the geography as well as his expertise to envisage what the prospect would expect. Of course, we got down selected based on the proposal and were working for the final presentation planned with the customer and based on which the final decision was to happen. Since the COO got involved proactively in that proposal, Sales head had sent the presentation copy to him for his review, though he was not expecting any attention as the value of the deal was too small compared to what COO was used to reviewing globally. Despite that we again got his input and apart from the comments on the content, we were also given feedback on the power messaging and even to the extent of the images and font being used in the presentation.
That’s truly remarkable and unmatched, and my first-hand experience of how some leaders get into the details.
Leader, who I’m talking about, rose from being just a delivery centre head to the COO of the company and eventually became CEO. That’s not it, he further grew to be the group chairman. Now, with such a wider responsibility, I am not sure if he is still detail-oriented, but indeed this trait of his, has played a significant role in his success and took him there where he is now.