Think Then Code by Dominic Umbeer

Why Implicit Is Evil In Leadership and Beyond

2018-03-02 - Engineering Management

TLDR; Do you express your wishes and expectations towards your team? If the answer is no, it is a sign that you lead or manage implicit. It is a natural habit that leaders and managers need to be aware of and handle it. Plan and express expectations towards your peers. Help and support everyone to gather understanding. Handle communication more active; do it explicitly; it is your job!

Handle expectations and communication more active; do it explicitly!

I work as Chief Technology Officer. Supporting the engineering team to build technical solutions is my main responsibility. Additionally, I inherit a general leadership role within the company. In short: I talk and interact with people the majority of my time.

I review my output and reflect on my behaviors and actions on a regular basis. So, I did at the beginning of the year. One of my core learning from 2017 was that I often lead and managed implicitly instead of explicit. It is and was the cause of different negative and unpleasant situations. What does it mean?

Implicit management is and was the cause of different negative and unpleasant situations.

For example, I had implicit expectations towards certain people in my team. One of the expectation was the ownership of a technical system by one of the engineers. At some point, my frustration was high because expectations haven’t been met.

Another example, I had to manage a technical incident. I assumed that everyone would understand the impact and context by themselves. People made many different conclusions based on the incomplete information. Unfortunately, the reason was not obvious to me. I did not provide information or context.

But guess what? In both scenarios, the friction was my fault! How can I expect or assume something to happen without telling the people!?

It sounds like an obvious behavior being more explicit than implicit, isn’t it? But ask yourself honestly: When was the last time you explicitly described your expectations to one of your team members?

What have I changed to be more explicit in my routines and behavior?

  1. I remember myself about implicit vs. explicit.

  2. Regular 1-on-1s with my peers. I did that before as well, but I often canceled them and didn’t use them to talk about expectations. Now, I treat 1-on-1s as the essential part of my job, and very few things can postpone those meetings.

  3. I try to perceive situations and actions from different perspectives. It helps to understand behaviors and foresee questions in future. It is all about interacting with your peers more thoughtful. Use the output of the exercise to provide more context, information, and understanding in future.

The most critical part is awareness. Be aware of the implicit vs. explicit challenge. Try to improve your behavior towards a more open and transparent communication. It will lead to the empowerment of the people around you. They can make smart decisions towards the expectations and goals by their own.

Written by myself. This article has been originally published on blogfoster’s engineering blog.