Why Effective Leaders Dare to Be a Bit Annoying

by | Jan 12, 2021

Ever heard of the old “Rule of 7” from the marketing world? The one that says that people need to hear a message seven times before they have internalized it, and will consider taking action?

There’s great wisdom in this for us leaders—especially those of us trying to get a team to align behind and take action towards a new direction.

Renowned Ford CEO Alan Mullaly—who is widely credited with saving the company in the late-2000s—became famous (or maybe infamous in the eyes of his team) for repeating the company’s simple 4-bullet point turnaround plan in every team meeting. Every. Meeting.

He even had the key priorities printed on wallet cards, and asked his team to take it out and read along each week. ⤵️

“After six months, [the team] had gotten sick of hearing about them.”

This habit surely drew some eye-rolls, but… everyone knew the plan… which is exactly what Mullaly was going for.

If you’re like me, you don’t like repeating yourself because it feels a bit… well… repetitive. “If I already said it… then why do I need to repeat myself? I don’t want to be annoying,” we tell ourselves.

But repetition is a great asset—even a necessity—for leaders who are trying to create clarity & direction. There’s even research that affirms that “Managers who were deliberately redundant moved their projects forward faster and more smoothly.”

The Rule of 7 teaches us that people need to hear things multiple times—and through different mediums—to really understand, internalize, and act on them. And your people are no exception. 

On the flipside, one of the greatest contributors towards team misalignment—and all of the problems that resultis a failure to create *crystal* clarity on the 6 key questions I’ve shared before.

And a failure to create clarity often stems from assuming that people “get it” just because you get it.

But unless you’ve shared it 7+ times, chances are: they don’t.

Quick tip: When it comes to creating clarity on vision, critical priorities, core values, etc. repeat yourself. Until you’re blue in the face. Dare to be annoying.

And when you think your people might be starting to get it, consider yourself to be about halfway there… and repeat it some more. 

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