A message for leaders: Whether you like it or not, you’re all now CROs, Chief Repetition Officers.
“I’m boring me,” he said. He’s the founder / CEO of a unicorn in San Francisco. I had been coaching him for some time, urging him to repeat his core message ten times in ten different formats. His athletic nature ensured he did just that. Boring himself was the price.
Leaders struggle with this idea. When we teach media skills, we talk in terms of staying on message. The concept of presenting it in three parts. It’s called the power of three and satisfies our human need to hear things in threes. But to do this well, great leaders expand on the three without losing the message. Making the individual points relevant to the audience. Stories, analogies, metaphors, and data. Think of the three parts being vertical on a page and the corresponding elements across the top horizontally. It’s an editorial format of sorts.
Our current world challenges our ability to hear what’s important, particularly now sequestered in our homes. Unlike any other time in history, we are overwhelmed by information, disinformation, propaganda, and entertainment in multiple forms. Think social media, Tiktok like apps, and the temptation of news and shows available any time right in the palm of our hands. It’s distracting and fatiguing.
I liken it to military people returning from war and finding themselves crippled by the multiple cereal choices offered in their local grocery store. Mark Manson writes about this in his latest book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Worth a read. Being able to make the right choice requires self-limiting your options. It’s like the needed constraints required for great art.
So how can a leader help with this attention problem? It comes down to limiting the choices of words and repeating them ten times in ten different formats. Emails, text, Slack, audio, video, groups, 1on1s, small teams, large teams, inside and outside the business. You get the idea.
The struggle is what might be called the tyranny of knowledge. Simply put, you know too much about your topic. Everything is important. To do this well, you need to edit yourself. Think about your audience. What part of your message do they need to hear? Remember the self-editing is only painful to you. No one else knows what you cut.
How do you apply this idea? It could be something you’re delegating. Be clear, simplify your directions, and make sure they are relevant to the work your team is doing in their world versus yours. The same goes for your vision, outcomes, mission, and goals. Simplify the message to three, adding stories, analogies, metaphors, and data. Then repeat it early and often. Of course, check in with your audience to be sure they are hearing what you’re honestly saying.
I’m reminded of the book The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli. He explains that quantum mechanics tells us that everyone has a point of view based on their history, place, and self-interest. Truth is hard to find. Clarity and repetition are tied together to give us a chance to find the truth. The only risk is boredom with yourself. A minor cost for the benefit.