Effective managers say the same thing twice

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Posted by Matthew Stibbe

Effective managers combine different types of communication, such as email, IM and phone calls, to repeat and reinforce key messages.

Listen very carefully, I shall say this only twice…

‘To get employees to do something, managers need to ask them at least twice.’ –  Harvard Business Review.

Politicians have known this for a long time which is why they pick a few key messages and repeat them ad nauseam. Marketing folk too.

Redundant communication

The research: A team led by professors Neeley and Leonardi shadowed 13 managers in six companies for more than 250 hours, recording every communication the managers sent and received. The researchers discovered that one of every seven communications by the managers was completely redundant with a previous communication using a different technology. They also saw that the managers who were deliberately redundant moved their projects forward faster and more smoothly.’

Why is this necessary? Because people have to deal with a lot more information and many more channels of communication than ever before. Employee engagement has become harder than ever.

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10 tips for effective management communications

  1. Keep it brief. Keep it simple.
  2. Speak slow if you’re delivering messages in person.
  3. Check that people have heard and understood what you are saying.
  4. Give time for questions.
  5. Repeat yourself across different channels. Send a Slack message AND an email, for example.
  6. Say the same thing at least twice (according to HBR)
  7. Don’t mix messages; say one important thing at a time.
  8. Give context. A request is more compelling if you give a reason for it.
  9. Respect people’s time, especially in meetings.
  10. Avoid the sh*t sandwich. It’s not kind to bracket unwelcome news with positive messages and it’s confusing for the recipient.

Effective managers stay on message

Some people can cope with this and have good tactics for filtering, prioritising and acting on messages (zero inbox, anyone?) but most people are prone to ignore or defer messages, especially if they require work. If you don’t ask twice, they think, it’s probably not important to you. And thus the squeaky door gets the oil.

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