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Come Again? Why Leaders Need to Repeat Themselves

I meet with our Board four times a year. These are dedicated, faith filled women and men who lead busy and successful lives. I've learned that at least a portion of my job is to reiterate and repeat things that have been said in the past.

Leaders can get frustrated if they don't accept the Rule of Repetition. When someone asks you "why are we doing this again?" it feels like you are going over old news. Sometimes you just want to move forward without the drag of entering again into the waters of old business.  It's tempting to think,

why don't these people remember what we've gone over a million times?!

Turns out, the research supports the Rule of Repetition. The Harvard Business Review published an article in the May 2011 edition entitled "Defend Your Research: Effective Managers Say the Same Thing Twice (or More)". 13 managers in six companies were followed for 250 hours.  Each communication they sent (email, voice mail, spoken word) was captured and the findings are clear: great managers repeat themselves in order to drive home a message.  They say it once verbally and then reiterate via email, text or blog.  They accept that this is simply part of strong leadership.

Jesus did this too as have the great Saints since.  A simple theme repeated over and over again leaves an impression that an audience (or workforce) can remember.  In an age of too much noise, simple, repeated phrases stick.

Consider the Benedictine mantra of ora et labora (pray and work) or the signature motto of Blessed John Paul II, be not afraid.  We can remember these because they have been repeated thousands of times over.

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