You likely met my wise and capable Executive Assistant in the last Leading Thoughts. Karen Montgomery has served effectively as what she calls a “Number 2” and she has also studied the role. Here, then, is some more wisdom from this amazing lady, wisdom that will help your team function in concert with you if you’ll pass this around a bit and open up to some discussions about these themes. Learn and implement. You’ll lead better for it.


“The devil is in the details.” This German proverb is understood to mean that something that seems simple might actually be difficult and take more time and attention to complete. I’ve heard some people quote this with disgust, insinuating they can’t be bothered with the details – sort of like the Biblical admonition for a leader not to “get entangled with civilian affairs.”

But can you imagine starting construction on a new skyscraper without detailed drawings and schematics that lay out where every beam, conduit, and wire will go? Of course not, and it’s the same with every new project in every type of business. Somebody’s got to get down in the weeds in order to make it happen.

Maybe that person is you. That person is definitely me, and managing details is where I shine.

A project manager’s job is to balance the trifecta of scope, time, and cost. The scope describes the work to be done, both what is included and what is not included. There is a detailed step-by-step plan put in place to complete the work, taking into account the people and resources required. There are time estimates and cost estimates involved. Then the manager’s job is to monitor the work, watch the clock, and keep track of expenses. If you’re a project manager, you’re cheering right now, and if not, you are just grateful there are such people!

So, here’s my encouragement to you: respect the details and those who live and breathe them.

That skyscraper or that new product, or that cutting-edge online course won’t get built, produced, or written without the detail-oriented people on your team. You need them to bring your ideas to life.

Bring them into the vision early (though maybe not at the brainstorming meeting – that will drive them crazy!). But as soon as the vision has coalesced, include the planners. They will ask good questions to press you to further define the goal. It will help you and it will set everyone up for success in your organization.

Then as the project is executed, remember they are on your team and doing their best to follow your lead and the vision and ideas you have. They will push back on requests for new features (what we call “scope creep”) and will alert you to new risks in the delivery dates. You won’t like it, but it’s information you need to know. Keep in mind they are working toward the same goal – for success and a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the end!

I like to remember another, older German proverb: “God is in the details.” Respect the necessary details and the project managers who keep tabs on them. Get your pencils out, planners, and go with God!