As a Manager: Tell Reports "Why" as Often as Possible

As a Manager: Tell Reports "Why" as Often as Possible

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Not telling them "Why" slows their development

You lose an opportunity to get people to understand the real reason why they are doing the work they are doing.

When people know the reason for things, they:

  • Will be better able to handle work on their own when you are not there to help them (autonomy)

  • Will develop more of an "owner mentality" because they will be able to connect their work with the real-world impact the company has

  • Can even think of better ways to achieve the underlying objective - often in ways that you may not have considered yourself

Make an effort to articulate

After years of experience in your field, you will have seen things happen over and over again and by the time it happens for the 10th time, you already know how it will end.

So you, as a manager, will sometimes tell reports things like:

"Do it like this. It's better, trust me."

Why do you do this?

You have 10 other things to do during the day so you just don't have the time to explain:

  • Why it's better to do X instead of Y as that will unblock other tasks being done by another team;

  • Why it's better to do X first because you will de-risk the project and simultaneously enable some person to do a task they are good at right now before they leave on vacations

But at the end of the day, it is possible to articulate these fuzzy nuggets of experience. It will take some minutes to write it down or explain it in spoken form but it's doable.

Don't be lazy. It's your job to help people grow.

Write things down

Writing stuff down is much more scalable than coaching on a 1:1 meeting. For one, text scales to multiple people and it scales across time1 .

After you catch yourself having to explain something to someone more than 2-3 times, it's time to write it down.

Examples from myself:

Get them to try and guess

If you absolutely do not have the time to explain the rationale behind some decision, the next best thing is to get them to try and guess the underlying reason and check back with them later:

"Can you see why doing X is better for the project right now than doing Y? Think about it and we'll follow up on our next meeting"

(Can also be followed up async via text if the next meeting is too far away into the future)

1: Meaning: a) once a document is written, it can be read by 1 or by 1,000 people at no additional cost to you and b) a document can still be used for years after it was written.

Dialogue & Discussion