“If I’ve told you once…” | Jesse Fewell

“If I’ve told you once…”

By March 16, 2006Blog, Uncategorized

Has your manager ever explained her position with something like: “Well, we talked about that 6 weeks ago”? Do you ever hear her say something like “I distinctly recall mentioning that to you”? If this rings a bell, it’s because it’s cut from the same cloth as your parents’ frustrated exclamation of “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times.” What your boss is really saying is “Because my words are so important, I should only have to say them once. Because I have so many more important things to do, I’m not willing to exert the effort to repeat myself.”

This is the classic cop-out of a lazy communicator. The single most important job of any manager is to overcommunicate. You can be the greatest visionary in the world, and generate metrics till the cows come home. But if you don’t ensure that your people got the message, and retain the message, they’ll soon wander astray. The difference between a titular manager and an effective one is a clear, consistent, repeated message. Consider this guideline: if it isn’t worth repeating, it isn’t worth remembering.

But shouldn’t employees respect the rank of their superiors? Shouldn’t they make the effort to listen? Fair enough. Communication is a two way street. But I bet you’ll find people are making the effort to listen to your initial direction. The breakdown happens when you expect them to remember everything you’ve ever said, even if it’s been only said once. Managers that expect their employees to have “total recall” simply don’t live in reality. Even the most devoted people forget things. And as a leader, you don’t have the right to be offended by that. Indeed, your job as a manager is to mitigate that, via repetition. An example of that would be to

  1. convey your direction / decisions verbally
  2. follow that up with an email, listing what you think are the things worth remembering.
  3. follow that up the next day or so with a verbal “did you agree with the email?”
  4. finally, for larger things like a vision statement, post it somewhere obvious. The breakroom is an easy place to do that.

No matter how busy you are, or how frustrating it is that they forget what you remember, you absolutely must talk to your people…over and over again.

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