“Until your people are mocking you, you’ve not repeated your message enough.”
Verne Harnish, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits
Each semester, I handout copies of the full text of I Have a Dream, the great speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. I take a fresh copy myself, and I have us work through the speech, circling each phrase that he repeats. The list is overwhelming: “now is the time” “100 years later,” “let freedom ring,” “all of God’s children,” “I have a dream,” “one day.” Over and over and over again, he hammers home these key phrases. This is part of the reason why the speech is burned so deeply into our collective memory.
We all need to take a lesson from Dr. King – especially at work.
We are so very busy, in our lives, and in our brains. At work, we always have the incident/task/crisis of the moment demanding our attention. So, if we want to focus on what is important in the big picture/over the long haul, it has to be front of mind, and put back in front of mind, time and time and time and time again.
In other words, one major job of a leader is to repeat what is important over and over and over and over again. “until they mock you.” There is no alternative to this.
Here’s how Mark Aesch, CEO of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) put it, in his book Driving Excellence: Transform your Organization’s Culture – and Achieve Revolutionary Results:
With an issue this significant, putting it in front of any group of people once is not going to get it done.
You need to come back, time and again, to make people focus on the issue’s importance.
Everyone – bus operators, radio controllers, customer service personnel, up to and including the vice presidents – is nudged to tie our strategies to the most basic task they happen to be performing minute to minute.
How are you doing? Are you repeating the key elements of your mission and your strategy over and over again to your people?
Are they mocking you yet? If they are not, you’ve got some more repeating to do.