I recently helped my sister complete the home stretch of submitting her doctoral dissertation. My job was to proofread the paper, help with formatting and put the list of references in proper APA style. We spent 13 hours a day, for two days, engrossed at the kitchen table completing these tasks.

In addition to learning proper comma placement for a government document/no author citation, it brought to light how we often underestimate the time it takes to create and maintain a solid infrastructure. For this paper, it required an extended period of time just to print the 216 pages, let alone proof them. I made substantial progress on a reading book while sitting at the printer waiting for the job to complete.

Our two days together was also a reminder that people bring different strengths to the table. My sister is visionary and excels at the big picture, but would have gone nuts if she had to plod through APA to get her references in order. She could do it, but it would have been harrowing. I can’t say that the task was fun for me either, but it was far better suited to my temperament.

On the next big project that you encounter, think about my sister’s dissertation. Remember that the message will be weakened if the mechanics become a distraction, so allow much more time than you expect to attend to the details and finishing touches. Find a partner with a different skill set than you have to complement the assignment of tasks and make them more palatable for all. And, of course, have more paper and toner on hand than you anticipate!

The last two days turned a draft into a dissertation. The devil isn’t in the details; the magic is.

P.S. Today is her defense: congratulations to Dr. Amy!!

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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