Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch used to say the following about communication:
“You don’t get anywhere if you keep changing your ideas. The only way to change people’s minds is with consistency. Once you get the ideas, you keep refining and improving them; the more simply your idea is defined, the better it is. You communicate, you communicate, and then you communicate some more. Consistency, simplicity, and repetition is what it’s all about."
I think Welch is correct in emphasizing the need for consistency, simplicity, and repetition in their communications. However, leaders need to take one additional step if they wish to communicate effectively. Put simply, leaders need to test for understanding and alignment. Did the troops understand my message? How did they interpret the meaning of my statements? Did they understand my intent? Is everybody on the same page, or did people "hear" different messages?
In other words, leaders need to construct a strong feedback loop. They have to circle back and make sure that people "heard" the same message that they intended to convey? Many leaders fail to take that additional step. As a result, confusion and misalignment persist despite the fact that leaders believe that they have communicated clearly, simply, and repeatedly.