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Two Lessons on Communication in Change Leadership

by on July 15, 2009

Most leadership books, especially the ones dealing with leading change, tell us we have to communicate a message ad nauseum. I always imagined the audience, in my case a congregation, rolling their eyes and saying, “Not again, we know this already,” and that image has always repelled me. But I realized this week that it’s we as leaders who have to feel the point of nausea, and that it’s only sometime after that point that maybe the audience will feel it.

This week I’ve heard criticisms about our congregational transformation; criticism which we as leaders have addressed in congregational and townhall meetings, in newsletters, in one-on-one conversations, in congregational letters, and even from the pulpit. I’m feeling the nausea, but apparently the message still isn’t getting through. The change leadership books should have said communicate the message extra ad nauseum, beyond the point of nausea. That’s where I’m heading; and my audience isn’t rolling their eyes yet.

The other lesson also has to do with the other side of communicating–ensuring not only that the message has been sent, but that it has been received. Sometimes this has to be done ad nauseum also. And the reason is because even though someone may tell you they’ve got the message, an unconscious factor like emotions or delayed thought may actually prevent the message from getting through. In other words, they may sincerely believe they’ve got the message and so they tell you that and you believe them, but in actuality their understanding is cloudy. Later you’re surprised to hear them ask the same question which you’ve already addressed.

So communicating ad nauseum in change leadership applies both to the sending of the message and ensuring that it is received.


From → Leadership

One Comment
  1. Gallup surveys indicate that we now need to hear a message an average of 12-13 times before we even pay attention! Treat communication as an event (“One show only!”) and they’ll miss the entire point. Use all communication “vehicles” — pulpit, meetings, newsletters, one-on-one time, etc. — at your disposal to reinforce every message. Then rinse and repeat and they will get there. Remember too that how leaders MODEL the change they expect (through their own behaviors as well as words) is most powerful form of change communication. You might be interested in this executive book summary of what I consider the leadership Bible: (will open a pdf on my website).

    Thanks for posting this super insightful piece! I look forward to more!

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