— George Bernard Shaw
Yesterday, I was reminded yesterday again why it is so important for leaders to communicate an important message multiple times and in multiple ways. A couple weeks ago a vendor had sent all our 31 institutions invoices billing them for the next year of service, even though our contract with the vendor expires at the end of September. I thought I had done my due diligence by sending out a clearly-worded email message letting HR directors know that they should not pay the invoice. I followed it up with an announcement in our HR newsletter, just to reinforce the email message. Still, I shouldn’t have been surprised yesterday when I got a call from a campus asking whether they should pay the invoice or not.
People are bombarded with thousands of messages a day, so it’s no wonder they may miss an important message if it only comes across their desk once or twice. In fact, my colleague Todd is always fond of saying that we as leaders should think of communicating important messages “8 times, 8 ways.”
It’s easy to blame the listener for their inattentiveness. However, it really is the job of leaders to make sure that their message is clear, consistent, and frequent enough to not only catch the attention of their audience, but to stick. If I’ve communicated my message, but it hasn’t been received or heard, then as one of my favorite playwrights says, the communication is just an illusion.