As a Manager: Stating the Obvious is Important

As a Manager: Stating the Obvious is Important

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Stating the obvious when talking with reports is important but managers don't always do it, either due to laziness or to wrongly assuming reports already know it.

Define expectations precisely, with examples

The definition of what it means for some task to be done varies a lot from person to person. It's important to make expectations clear.

  • "Make sure you double check the result after completing the task, to confirm the task's objective was achieved."

  • "Make sure you look at the system logs after deploying the changes, to make sure they worked."

  • "Make sure you communicate everyone who may be impacted before you start working."

Explain the impacts of one's actions to impart a sense of ownership


Stating the obvious fills knowledge gaps

Many people have knowledge gaps–things they don't fully understand about their work. These gaps are usually skipped over or downright ignored, as people cut some corners to get work done.

Stating the obvious is a good way to help people plug gaps they may not even realize they have.

Be careful not to be repetitive

Stating the obvious can easily turn you into a "boring" person if you don't watch out. Be careful not to overdo it.

You need to be able to detect who you need to state the obvious to and when to do it.

An alternative is to ask people if they understand the topic you are about to explain–but make sure you ask this in a nonjudgemental manner. If the person suspects that you are asking them about something that should be trivial they may choose to lie and say they do, in fact, understand it, to "save face".

Watch people's body language as you explain

If you choose to state the obvious and people seem impatient of looking elsewhere as you talk, it may be a sign you don't need to explain that particular thing to that particular person.

Likewise, if the listener tries to listen closely to what you are saying it might be a sign that you are indeed filling a knowledge gap (or they may be just trying to flatter you).