Repeat and repeat and repeat

22 November 2015
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Leadership and the under-communication crisis

As the writer of this article, I’ve evaluated all of the possibilities I could focus on, and decided that we should give our attention to communication.

We all need to communicate more, and will be doing things in the coming months to do that.

Any questions?

Not enough for you? Keep reading to see what you should be doing to communicate as a leader.

 

When I was a debater in high school, my coach gave me the following formula for success:

Tell them what you’re going to tell them

Tell them

Tell them what you told them

 

As a company leader, the same formula applies, with a change:

Tell them what you’re going to tell them

Tell them

Tell them what you told them

(Repeat)

(Repeat)

(Repeat)

This is the time of year when you’re setting your annual priorities, which will be followed in a few weeks by the need to communicate those priorities to your team. I was meeting with a COO last week, and after spending an hour talking about one of his 2016 company goals, I asked how he was going to communicate the goal to the organization.

“I’ll have the VPs tell their groups.” (Mind you, last year, some VPs told me that their colleagues would often communicate very different messages about the same topic.)

“Can you spend time on this in the company meeting?”

“No, we don’t have time. We need to keep those to ½ hour, and we have too many other things to cover. The VPs can cover it.”

Huh? Um, no they can’t – at least not by themselves. In addition to the VPs’ communication, all company staff need to hear a single version of the message directly from the highest leader. It ensures consistency of the message, and ensures that people know it’s important.

The closer a message is to something that people already know and already do, the less energy you need to spend on it. However, it would be unusual for a topic that rises to the level of an annual priority to be something that people already know and already do. So, it’s going to take energy to communicate.

Extra energy.

And probably extra extra energy.

Here’s what most annual priorities should get:

  • Monthly review by the CEO in a company-wide forum (ideally a meeting, but could be a newsletter)
  • Monthly review by the VPs in their department or team meetings
  • More frequent attention as needed by the relevant manager – such as the head of HR or Sales

“That’s a whole lot of communicating,” you may be thinking. But it’s actually still a small proportion of the overall communication that your employees are exposed to in all of the hours they’re at work. And we’re talking about a message that’s really important.

“People are going to be bombarded by too many messages,” you may be thinking. And if that’s true, then it highlights the need to reduce the number of priorities. The need to communicate is the need to communicate. If you’re not able to meet that need, then you have to focus your attention more.

Most business leaders are going to under-communicate their 2016 goals to their organizations, and that’s going to hurt their companies in an environment that requires as much efficiency and effectiveness as your team can muster. Are you going to make that mistake?