Why It Matters To Sweat The Details

The human mind is a funny thing. A trivial and seemingly mundane detail can latch on and consume your thoughts to the detriment of everything else around you. Distraction, especially in the age of social media and mobile devices, has become the tallest hurdle in communicating your organization's message.

During my tenure in the travel industry, I had the privilege of visiting many four and five star hotels. The purpose of "inspecting" hotels and restaurants ahead of time was to be sure the paying customer, our clients, had the best experience possible. If a particular hotel had poor service or cramped rooms, we would make sure to take it off the list of suggested establishments.

On a trip to England I recall one particular hotel situated in the peaceful countryside. The scenery surrounding it was majestic and the architecture classic. Clearly built in a time long ago, the charm and rustic interior felt sophisticated. You were overcome with a sense of prestige.

The staff ensured every need was met. They showed us the coat room, with complimentary umbrellas, coats, and boots in the event of rain. Each room was adorned with vintage yet comfortable furniture. The restaurant was delicious and public lounges quiet. What more could one ask for?

Yet, there was one detail that stuck out: the tile in the bathroom. Small, turquoise colored blue squares surrounded the shower. It's not that they were dirty or moldy, but they didn't quite fit. They obviously were not original, but they were not modern either. They were an update to the room that may have happened years ago, and then left unchanged.

They did not detract from the excellence of the hotel's service or the beautiful scenery, but they were a distraction. A minute detail, but a distraction nonetheless.


People don't walk into church looking for a stain on the wall or a dead flower by the entrance, but once seen, it cannot be unseen. It's like watching a movie in the theater and someone turns their phone on. Try to ignore it with all your might, but the glaring light persists and distracts.

Even after the most exciting worship, moving sermon, and inspirational special music, that person will walk past the same dead flower as they leave. It may have been the first and last thing they remember about their experience.

And it could be that no ones cares, until they do.

The keynote speaker at a conference or the Pastor delivering a sermon may seem extra picky about the temperature in the room, the paint on the walls, the landscaping outside, but that is because they have seen distracted people sitting in those seats over and over again. They will go to great lengths to cover every inch that may detract from the message and cause wandering eyes.

Some distractions are inevitable, you can't stop that baby in the back row from crying, but the distractions you can prevent, do all you can to prevent them. Even the most powerful speech will land on deaf ears if the only thing everyone can think about is the crookedness of your tie.


These stories from the road to leadership are parts of a whole. Each story will build on the last over the next several months. I invite you to subscribe using the form at the bottom of stephenrobles.com to follow along. If you have any feedback or questions, please leave a comment on the post or use the form on the Contact page.

Stephen Robleschurch, leadership