Aligning your team with your strategic narrative–the ultimate direction of your company–takes time and repetition. But, unfortunately, we underestimate the number of times it takes for people to adopt a new narrative.
As Scott Belsky, founder of Behance, Chief Product Officer, and Executive Vice President of Adobe Creative Cloud, writes:
” I think the problem is, like watching a kettle boil, it’s hard to notice a team growing. When a team grows one person at a time, you assume that everyone knows everything — and that the important knowledge somehow spreads and soaks in. But someone who joins a week after our annual offsite could quite possibly work for an entire year without knowing our long-term goals.”
How many occasions to present, discuss and illustrate your strategic narrative will you need until people believe in it? Go ahead. What’s your estimate? Now that you have that number, I suggest you double or triple it. You’ll end up probably closer to reality.
Repetition is more important than we think.
It helps people move through three phases:
Phase 1 – Knowing
People hear your narrative, maybe for the first time. They want to make sense of it and then forget most of it immediately. Perhaps they didn’t pay full attention. Perhaps they couldn’t attend the meeting. You will have to repeat yourself until they know what you mean.
Phase 2 – Accepting
What is new is often rejected. Some people will be excited about the new strategy and will turn into early supporters. Others won’t. They will need more time so they can digest your new vision. It can be a slow process. Repeat yourself, using different examples. Ask questions, solicit feedback, check on acceptance. Rinse and… repeat.
Phase 3 – Believing
For people to believe you, you have to believe first. Believers are tenacious, and you need to lead by example here. People believe things are real when things are real. For something to be real, it needs to show up more than once and in various ways. The teams need to see that your strategy works. They need to feel stability too.
Therefore, recognize repetition as a valuable practice. Use it any chance you have to speak and inspire people to take action.