Keep Your Key Message on Repeat

Last year I met Jeff Henderson, a marketing executive who years ago worked with Truett Cathy, the venerable founder of Chick-Fil-A. Jeff described how during a leadership conference, Truett told his mangers, “I would like all of us to respond with the phrase my pleasure when a customer expresses appreciation.” Of course, this response has since become synonymous with the Chick-Fil-A brand and just one way their staff demonstrates top-notch customer service.

Jeff continued, describing how Truett instructed his managers, “Get up. Say it with me: my pleasure,” and everyone stood and repeated it. Sometime following this event, Truett visited one of his restaurants, and when he said ‘thank you’ to a staff member, ‘my pleasure’ was not the response he received.

Jeff recalled how Truett kept at it. He did not relent. At every opportunity and in every moment he could, he kept repeating the importance of the ‘my pleasure’ response—until it started happening, until everyone figured out how to teach it, train it, model it, reinforce it, and use it.

Many times when I ask my people to do something and it does not get done, my tendency is to begin asking myself: Am I a good leader? Are they good followers? Have I missed the mark with my message? But could it be that I simply need to keep at it? Could it be that I need to keep repeating the message until it is well-implemented like Truett Cathy did with the ‘my pleasure’ response?

I encourage you to follow this formula when you want to see change:

  1. Dream it. Or adopt it from something you read, heard, or brainstormed with others.
  2. Share it. Communicate your thoughts with a few key people, and let them edit it, change it, and improve it.
  3. Announce it. Publicize the change to your team. Remember this is not the end of the change, but rather the beginning.
  4. Repeat it. Keep repeating what you have shared over an extended period of time.
  5. Infuse it. Now infuse into the culture of your organization in every medium possible—online, media, print, awards, rewards, on-boarding, training, etc.

None of us want to be a boring nag. However, if you consider that repetition is one of the key elements of advertising outside your organization, perhaps the very same technique is crucial within your organization as well. Keep repeating your message until it is fully adopted and integrated into your culture.

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