One of the tools a leader really needs to master is the tool of communication. In order to use this tool correctly and effectively it has to be done creatively, concisely and consistently to contribute to followers’ understanding and comprehension. If you misuse the communication tools you make life harder and add to the chaos your people already face in a busy organization and tough marketplace. Most of your folks honestly and sincerely want to be engaged, but when you do not utilize communication correctly, it’s a catalyst for disengagement.
One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is the assumption that telling them once is enough. I spent several years in the media business and on-air talents would constantly complain of hearing songs too many times. Of course, they heard them too many times, they hear them EVERY time. Unfortunately, by the time the on-air talent was sick of the song, the audience was just discovering it. You can never get tired of playing a great song and you can never get tired of communicating a great, important and impactful message, because when you are tired of saying it, they are probably just starting to get it.
You must be consistent EVERY time you sing your song to your followers.
This problem is compounded when you are not consistent with your message the second or third time. You must be consistent EVERY time you sing your song to your followers. How many people are you reaching each time you communicate and how many times have you communicated with them? These are some of the keys to good messaging. Here are four tools you can use when you are communicating your ideas to your followers.
1. Be repetitive
The core of the idea may be ingrained in your head because you’ve continuously thought about it and thought about it, but your audience has not. You’ve been over it and over it in your head and clarified it more each time, but you are starting from scratch with your followers. Your mission, vision, purpose and values get fuzzy to the average follower over even just a month’s timeframe. Repetition reinforces the importance of the core ideas you expect your team members to have ingrained and to be implemented.
Some leaders are more focused than others and the same thing can be said for followers and direct reports. You have to discipline yourself to transmit one strategic idea at a time to your people. You will have secondary and tertiary ideas you will want them to possess and at the same time, they can’t process it all at once. Your third-grade teacher did not throw a bunch of arithmetic concepts at you at the same time, you learned your multiplication tables over and over and you probably still know them today without much thought. Staff get confused, frustrated and lost when leaders over communicate too many things at once.
3. What is your sales process?
Communication is primarily about selling ideas to people. In each sales transaction, it’s really broken down into a series of sales transactions on the way to the closing transaction. Consider how many steps you need to insert into your process on the way to what you really want them to know, assimilate and retain. John Wooden, the noted UCLA basketball coach, always had a process for his season. Each year, he started the first practice with the proper way to put on your socks and shoes. It didn’t matter that most coaches assumed a junior or senior in college should know how to put on shoes and socks for basketball, he never assumed and conducted the process the same way with the same details every year so every person on the team knew what he expected and how to do it properly.
4. Utilize clarity as much as you can
Eliminate anything unnecessary. That means, you probably are not going to just “shoot from the hip”. No, you surely need to practice both mentally and physically. Remember, less is more if you choose the right words. The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln was only two minutes long, but it’s one of the most memorable and quoted messages in world history. Get rid of anything unnecessary. Cutting your content is a discipline the best communicators use to leverage the best word pictures they can conjure rather than simply multiplying the words they use which have no purpose than to take up time.
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