Once I was speaking at a conference when the CEO of the company leaned over and whispered in my ear. He said, “I am giving the same speech I’ve given the last two years. The stories are different. The examples are different, too. But it’s the same message.”
The CEO wondered whether he was wrong in doing so, and asked me what I thought. I told him, “Your message was right three years ago. It was right last year. And it’s right this year. As soon as you change your message, your people are going to be confused about who they are and where they are going. You aren’t delivering change. You’re doubling down.”
Great leaders relentlessly communicate their message.
Mission: Great leaders relentlessly communicate their company’s mission. Those who never speak of “mission,” never capture the hearts and minds of the people they have the honor to lead. Great leaders aren’t afraid to communicate about the difference their organization is making, and they remind their teams of that mission with a steady stream of examples.
Vision: Great leaders also take every opportunity to remind the people they lead where they are going, how they are going to get there, and who they are going to become. They communicate this vision, knowing that they win converts slowly and over time.
Values: A leader leads through her values. What is important to her is important to her organization. What she ignores, they will also ignore. Great leaders draw a line in the sand separating “who we are” from “who we will never be.” I know one leader who refuses to make money from his vendors, money his competitors take. I know another who never stops talking about caring. Their companies live those values.
Who We Are: Effective leaders talk about their competition. They explain to the people they lead how they are different from their competitors, why they do things different, and why it matters. By talking about these things, they help the people they lead understand their place in the world.
As a leader, it is impossible to over-communicate in any of these areas. It is possible to cause people to lose their enthusiasm if you don’t bring these ideas to life with stories, anecdotes, and examples of people getting things right.