the smartest way to ensure your leadership message sticks

The Smartest Way to Ensure Your Leadership Message Sticks

Taking your management team out of the field for a leadership offsite or kick-off meeting can be an incredible way to provide clarity around your leadership message, to get everyone focused on what matters most, and to encourage the sharing of best practices.

AND, let’s face it. These meetings are expensive. By the time you add in the time off the job, travel, conference space, AV, and break-time cookies, you’re right to question ROI.

How do you ensure your leadership message sticks? How do you ensure your team is taking your message back to actually DO something?

The Easiest Trap to Fall Into When Sharing Your Leadership Message

Mary’s Story

Mary had brought her managers together to discuss their 2019 priorities along with a bit of Winning Well management training. She kicked off the meeting with a highly-motivating and inspirational message.

She clearly articulated the MIT (Most Important Thing) strategic priorities they had aligned on during their executive session; worked hard to explain the “why” behind what matters most; and, most importantly, translated the priorities into what that meant the managers needed to DO differently.

I was applauding on the inside.

But as I looked around the room, I noticed that not a single person had taken notes. They were all just smiling back at her politely.

I had a hunch that no one had truly picked up what she was putting down.

So as she handed me the mic to begin our training, I did a quick check for understanding. “So who can tell me one of the three most important priorities Mary talked about?”

Crickets.

It wasn’t because they weren’t listening. They were.

It wasn’t because they didn’t care. They do.

But it was taking them a minute to catch up.

What Mary so needed was a recap and a feedback loop. A check for understanding.

So I asked Mary to recap the three priorities, which she did slowly and deliberately.

And then we asked again.

This time every manager was able to share all three priorities. They nailed it.

An hour into the training, I went there again. “What were the three priorities Mary shared?”

They nailed it AGAIN. Progress.

One subtle shift.

Getting the team to share back what they heard. It only took two minutes and made all the difference.

Your Story

It’s so easy to assume your team will get it the first time. After all, they’re smart. They care. And if you do say so yourself (it’s okay, it’s probably true), you’ve crafted a really careful and powerful leadership message.

But the truth is, they’re just catching up.

You’ve been sitting in the planning meetings.  You understand the nuance and the backstory. You wordsmithed the talk points.

But for them, here it comes … all at once … and it’s likely they’re processing #1 and what it means to them, while looking at the escalation blowing up their phone AND thinking about the fact that they only had one slice of lunchmeat for little Bobby’s lunch that morning and wondering if he’s going to notice.

I know it’s frustrating (been there). But try to slow down.  Ask what they heard. Repeat if necessary with a warm smile. Ask again.

And as a close,  ask each person in the room to send you a quick email about what they will be doing differently as a result of your message.

Your turn.

What’s your favorite way of ensuring your leadership message sticks?

You may also enjoy: How to Communicate Remarkably Clear Leadership Expectations

Posted in Clarity, Communication and tagged , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.

4 Comments

  1. There is nothing like a feedback loop in the moment — in many healthcare organizations a similar technique, called “Teach-Back” is often used with patients to ensure they comprehend their care instructions. “Repeat-Back” is also used in Operating Rooms and in the military to ensure instructions are clear in high-risk situations. Thanks for the insight to apply it in other environments.

  2. David, YES! Great comparison. Thank you. We’ve been doing work with the FAA recently, that’s another place where feedback loops are so vital! roger wilco. Thanks for sharing your insights and expanding the conversation.

  3. A great reminder! What’s that old saying? 1) Tell them what you are going to tell them. 2) Tell them. 3) Tell them what you told them. We need a fourth step – ASK them what you told them!

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