Say It Again: Why Repeating Yourself is Your Job

Liz Presson • 23 March 2015

A #30DayPursuit to Better Your Business — This post is part of a series of 30 short leadership exercises. Inspired by today’s top leaders and distributed companies. I like to think of it as meditation for your business.

As much as we’d like people to read our minds, they can’t. It’d be especially helpful for those of us who are busy leading a company. On top of everything else, you feel like you’re saying the same things over and over again. Repeating yourself can be tiring, so you stop doing it.

It happens.

This isn’t a fun story for me to share–it’s pretty embarrassing– but it’s one that shows what can happen when you assume everyone got the same message without sharing it yourself.

Let’s travel back to a couple of years ago…

A few weeks after starting a new job, it was made known that my boss was leaving after a long and dutiful stint with the company. While I wasn’t part of the conversations, his transition was discussed at length, because it’d take some time to fill his role. A plan was put in place to fill the gap.

We were to report to Tim if we needed anything.

Simple enough. I went on with my daily duties. I’m use to autonomous work (h/t to experience on distributed teams). But one day, I did need something, so I went to Tim.

I requested a meeting: “Tim, I want to talk to you about adding a resource to my team.” He accepted my invite and I showed up a week later– all of my data in hand. I went through the information, and Tim listened politely. He even took some notes. He told me he’d talk to the team and have someone follow up. Feeling confident about the meeting, I got back to work and waited on the verdict.

Some time went by and HR let me know that we were going to hold off on my resource. No big deal, I moved on.

Soon enough, my new boss came on board. The first question he asked? “Did you need anything while reporting to Tim Smith?” My heart sank. I’d had my “resource” conversation with the wrong Tim. Tim, the executive, yes. Tim, the right executive…no.

Today, I still get embarrassed thinking about my “wrong Tim” meeting. But more than that, I remember experiencing the pain of not getting the information and making a wrong assumption. As a leader, leaving no room for assumptions is your job. Saying important things more than once is your job. It matters. Luckily, I just had a conversation with someone who was nice enough to pass along my ask. The problem is that this kind of assumption making happens with company goals, mission and vision.

Scott Belsky says, “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.”

Just because you’ve said something a lot of times doesn’t mean its actually left the room. Today, go say something thats really important, even if you’ve already said it. Say it to someone new. Let them hear it from you. If you don’t, you’re leaving room for assumptions within your organization.

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