It has been reported that the average employee will not believe a leader’s message until they have heard it seven times. Whether that number is truly seven or seventy-seven, it really doesn’t matter. The point is, people need to hear things over and over again in order for it to be ingrained in their mind as truth. You could explain to an employee on his first day all the answers to the six critical questions discussed in my previous post, but if those truths are not reinforced, all you’ve done is said a lot of words with no purpose. Leaders need to be consistently infusing these concepts into the organization. Clarity goes beyond words; actions need to be clear and intentional as well. We all know the old saying that actions speak louder than words. Employees will remember actions far longer than they will words.
To bring this idea of over-communication into a bit more light, let’s go ahead and pretend you are a brand new employee on your first day at a new job. You sit down with your employer, who explains very clearly what the company is about, the future, keys to success, your role, etc. He goes into extreme detail about each of the six critical aspects of clarity, not leaving a single element out. Following your first meeting, you are tossed into your position. Now although you received all the clarifying information you would need from your employer, you find that your day-to-day work does not seem to reflect that which you were told at the start of your employment. Your boss never comes to check on you and you find yourself sliding further and further away from the supposed intention of your job. It’s natural that such a thing would happen because as I explained earlier, people are generally skeptical about what they hear until they hear it repeatedly over time. So how can you as the leader make sure you are communicating clarity?
There are several different ways Pat Lencioni explains that leadership teams can put “over-communication” into practice. He suggests the implementation of the following communication strategies:
1. Commitment Clarification: This is a pre-emptive way to ensure the messages your employees are receiving on a regular basis are correctly aligned and consistent. This is when the leadership team commit to come out of a meeting with the exact same message that it will tell everyone else. Many of you are saying right now, “Well if that could happen, my life would be great”. It can happen with commitment.
2. Cascading Communication: This is a strategy in which there is an organized structure to the dispersal of information to ensure that everyone hears the same message at the right time.
3. Top Down Communication: A common type of communication that upholds standards of consistency and is supported by other communication vehicles such as newsletters, emails, internal blog postings, etc.
4. Lateral and Upward Communication: Communication without being overly formal or prescriptive, yet this will only be effective if the leadership team hearing this communication is in complete agreement that happened in Discipline #1, Building a Cohesive Leadership Team.
Keep in mind that it is not enough to be clear every once in a while or even to have “unspoken standards.” Be effectively clear and over-communicate yourself and you will find an organization where everyone is on the same wavelength with productivity at optimum levels. There is no such thing as over-communication!