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Repetition Leads to Retention

It feels like nagging, which is why many of us hate to do it. But leaders who inundate their teams with the same messages over and over, in multiple venues, need not feel bad about persisting. Research says it is effective leadership. Parents understand it. Redundant communication, accompanied with an escalating sense of urgency, does the trick for them. Newer research says that getting employees and team members to listen and deliver are not too different. Asking multiple times gets results.

Repetition is the leader’s best friend. Repeating yourself may seem annoying to you at first, but it’s important to make sure your key messages and actions are given a chance to sink in. David Gergen, political commentator and administrator, said, “If you want to get your point across, especially to a broader audience, you need to repeat yourself so often that you get sick of hearing yourself say it. And only then will people begin to internalize what you’re saying.”

You can use the power of repetition to lead well. How?

Be creative. Simply saying the same thing over and over again is not what repetition as a leader is about. The power of repetition requires a bit more finesse and skill. You must find multiple creative and effective ways to get the same idea across to your team.

  • Reinforce your message in multiple ways. Don’t just say something again and again, put it in writing too. Seeing what you said can help your team quite a bit.

  • Start by talking about it. If you put it in writing first, it’s in concrete. They may not have all the context needed, and misunderstand.

  • When you talk first, you can hear their side of things and widen both your perspectives.

  • The tome can be clear. When you talk it’s much easier to convey your true meaning because they see and hear you. When it’s only words, it’s much harder to tell the difference between a big problem and minor feedback.

  • Instruct with clarity. You may think everyone understands a subject because you talked about it, but that’s not always the case. By putting it in writing, you reinforce exactly what you said in a way that sets clear expectations. This is really vital in turning around an underperformer. When you need to see improvement for everyone’s good, you don’t want to leave anything unclear. By following up in writing any verbal instructions on what must change, you help maximize the chances that they will improve.

Understand the power of praise and positive reinforcement. The power of repetition is not just about fixing problems. It can also help praise and reward your team. If you like what you see, tell them. As Sam Walton explained, “Praise is free and has a big impact.” The Gallup organization found in their research of thousands of managers and employees, [Those answering “strongly agree to”] – “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work” are responsible for a 10% to 20% difference in revenue and productivity.

Praise specifically and often. Praise them in the moment for doing a good job. Later meet with them one and one and remind them. It enforces their value, and you can share why it matters. You can take the opportunity when it arises to praise them to the rest of the team. They will feel valued and repeat it.

Make your cornerstone leading by example. The best way to move things forward is to show the way by example.There’s nothing more powerful than the example you set for your team. “Do as I say, not as I do” will frustrate everyone.

“A manager has got to remember that he is on stage every day. His people are watching him. Everything he does, everything he says, and the way he says it, sends off clues to his employees. These clues affect performance. So never forget you are on that stage,” says Marcus Buckingham.

Use your example as a teachable moment. Just because you do something well does not mean your team understands why you did it that way. Whenever you are a good example and it creates the results you hoped for, use that as a teachable moment. Explain to them what happened and why it’s important. They will learn and absorb quickly. This employs the best means of repetition and growth.

  • Observation: They see you lead by example.

  • Clarification: You explain the meaning and intentions behind the action you want them to replicate.

  • Replay: As you explain things, they replay the moment in their minds.

This creates a powerful repeating cycle. When you do it in the future, they’ll remember what you explained. Every time you set that example again, you are reinforcing it. Then you praise them again. Pretty soon the habit will stick.

The power of repetition is in its simplicity. A message heard repeatedly is more likely to stay in your mind. The more times it is heard and the more ways it is delivered, the more likely your team will hear your message and help deliver the results you desire.

Drop the idea that you’re nagging. Pick up the truth that you are building the team and getting the results you need.

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