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Because It Is Important to You Does Not Make It Important to Them

I like to think that I am a pretty bright guy but every now and then something happens that makes me doubt it. One of those all too frequent events happened yesterday. 

I was driving in my 16-month-old Ioniq 5. As the weather was getting warmer, I hit the “climate” display which pulled up the screen that allows me to engage the air conditioner. I used the same “climate” display all winter to turn on the heat. 

In the winter I also turned on the seat warmers but was annoyed that no “seat warmer” display was available, so I employed a three-step process to turn on the seat warmers. It was a pain.

Well today when I hit the “climate” display, the seat warmer screen popped up in one step. I wondered why I got to the seat warmer display rather than the climate display. Looking carefully at the monitor, I noticed a “warmer” display button under the “climate” display button. Getting straight to the seat warmer screen was right in front of my nose and despite wanting to find it, I missed it for 16 months.

 My inability to see what was in front of me reminded me of how often I or a team member would complain that parents or teachers did not respond to messages we sent. We would be amazed that many times the message recipient would claim they never got the message though we knew we sent it. Indeed, we could check that they opened the email. 

Given my latest mishap with the seat warmer display, I have more empathy for these folks who missed our messages. Life is busy. We tend to look for and remember things that are relevant to us at the moment and disregard or forget those things that seem tangential to our lives. And as much as all the messages we sent were engaging, relevant, and important to us, they were not to a good portion of the recipients. 

It pays for good leaders to recognize that many (most) of their communications will not have the same importance to their audience as it does to them. Given that truth about communications, leaders ought to keep two things in mind:

  • Try to communicate items that are important to your audience.

  • And overcommunicate. Communicating a message once, twice and maybe three times is not enough. As Patrick Lencioni says when you as a leader are getting tired of saying the same thing over and over is the first time that your followers are beginning to hear it. 

The good news is that I now know how to quickly get to my seat warmers (not that I need them in the summer). The bad news is that it took me 16 months to figure it out, easy as it was. Don’t underestimate how hard it is to get your message across.


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