Recently we got a puppy, which is a more of a life-changing experience than I thought it would be. We planned where we would take him, what we would do, how he would sleep with us in our bed, the works. Once he came into our home, everything in our routine changed, but it wasn’t what we planned, of course. It takes awhile to get a puppy used to your routine, and you have to change your usual habits to accommodate your new family member. So, for a while everything was chaos. But every day the new routine was solidified and everyone got used to it. Daily we worked with our puppy to teach him not to chew on our rugs and chairs, to go to the bathroom outside, and to give us his paw on command. We had to repeat ourselves over and over for days and weeks on end until he understood what was acceptable and what wasn’t. Repetition was key for everyone to get used to the changes and for our plans of taking him on walks in the woods, traveling with him, and having him know more tricks than any other dog we know was made a reality.
The same thing is true when you introduce anything new into your company. It takes employees at least 7 times of hearing something in different ways and from different people in order for them to know that the message being relayed is real and not just an idea someone had and never followed through on. Too many times we say we’re going to implement a new policy, we have a team meeting about it, then that’s the last anyone hears of it.
Or perhaps you decide that you want to establish some core values for your team and you spend hours coming up with ones that fit your business and your company. You have these daydreams of how everyone would rally around these values and work together to uphold them and hold each other accountable. One day you excitedly relay these core values to your team during an all-hands meeting, then never mention them again except for adding them into your marketing materials. If your team doesn’t relay a consistent, persistent message, your employees will not be aligned with your vision. Communication and accountability are key if new policies are going to stick in your company. If I told my puppy to stop chewing on the kitchen chair just once, he would have gone right back to doing it as soon as I turned my back. But because I kept a keen ear out for the sound of him gnawing on wood and came over to scold him and divert his energy to something he was allowed to chew every time I heard him at it again, he stopped.
There are many ways to communicate your new message, core values, or policies to your team. But more important, perhaps, than making sure everyone is aligned, is to make sure you have procedures in place to hold everyone accountable to them and to help everyone hold each other accountable. There are few things more frustrating to someone who is working hard and doing their best in alignment with the company’s goals than someone who isn’t participating or being held accountable for not following along. Putting processes around the company’s vision also helps relay the message and importance of it so there’s never any question about what employees need to do to help reach the goals.
Having a clear, consistent message is imperative to aligning your team, and repetition is key to letting them know that you’re serious about this initiative. A lot of managers think they should only have to say something once, and that can be the case for small items such as sending someone an e-mail or taking inventory of stock. But for larger company strategies, leaders must communicate the same thing to all of their teams multiple times and in multiple ways, and they have to hold their team accountable if they want to succeed.