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The need for the relentless, consistent repetition of the message.

I am a fan of the leadership philosophies of retired US Navy Captain David Marquet and his great book Turn the Ship Around. One of the things I have heard Marquet say, which I share in many of my workshops, is “There is a need to the relentless, consistent repetition of the message.” He goes on to say, “Continually and consistently repeating the message is a mechanism for competence.” I would add that it is also a mechanism for culture.

The research on learning and retention talks about the importance of spaced practice or spaced repetition. If you want an important message to stick, it needs to be recalled and repeated over time. You cannot talk about vision, mission, or values one time and expect people to remember, understand, embrace, and apply them. Putting those critical messages on posters on the wall may help, but only if you as the leader continually and consistently repeat the message as well. If it is not important enough for you to repeatedly talk about, then it is not important enough for them to pay attention to the posters and they simply tune them out every time they walk past them.

In his July 31, 2022, blog post Why Repeating Yourself Is a Good Thing, Adam Grant highlights the importance of communication by leaders. In that post he states, “Although they’re less likely to be penalized for saying too much, leaders err on the side of saying too little. In an analysis of thousands of 360 feedback assessments, leaders were over nine times more likely to be criticized for undercommunicating than overcommunicating. In an experiment, people who undercommunicated were judged as unqualified to lead because they lacked empathy. When you hesitate to repeat your ideas, you don’t just fail to get your point across—you also come across as if you don’t care.”

In addition to continually and consistently finding ways to repeat the message you also need to practice what you preach. If you actions do not match your words, people will see you as a hypocrite and tune you out.

Spend time deciding on what the key messages are that you want your people to understand and embrace and then find ways to repeat those messages continually and consistently. As Adam Grant pointed out, when it comes to communicating, err on the side of overcommunicating.

Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey, and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning, and enjoy the journey.

Brian Willis

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