At a recent gathering of start-up company leaders, hosted by one of my company's investors, one CEO of a large internet company shared a lesson learned the hard way.
"I used to assume everyone on the team knew the grand vision, but an informal survey revealed the opposite. New employees had no idea what we were aiming for in the long term…" Clearly, he felt he was falling short of his leadership responsibility to clearly articulate goals.
It left me thinking: in my efforts not to be too repetitive, am I failing to communicate effectively? Sure, we have a major team offsite that covers long-term strategy once per year. But in every other meeting, I am focused on goals for the month and other team issues. Our roadmap is accessible to the entire team, and I've worked with at least half of these folks for many years. I always assume the team knows where we are headed.
I think the problem is, like watching a kettle boil, it's hard to notice a team growing. When a team grows one person at a time, you assume that everyone knows everything — and that the important knowledge somehow spreads and soaks in. But someone who joins a week after our annual offsite could quite possibly work for an entire year without knowing our long term goals.
In a world full of noise, repetition helps important messages sink in. You may feel like a broken record, but your message will stand out as important only when it is heard multiple times.
The same goes for brand messaging. How long has GEICO been about 15% or more off car insurance? Why do they use the same tag line year after year? Because they want their one key differentiator to soak into our minds. Your team may be tired of your slogan — or your logo or the color of your website — but the rest of the world is always just discovering it.
It's becoming more clear to me: Effective leaders (and brands) repeat themselves to the point where they can barely stand to hear themselves any more. When it comes to setting strategy, they make a few simple points multiple times. And they compromise on "new messaging" to reiterate what is most important.