Building Future Fit Teams: The Power of Repetition
by Kerryn Kohl
Let me state at the outset that this week’s column is inspired by my four-year-old. This is because for the last week and a half she has watched the same movie, and we have listened to the same soundtrack – ad nauseum!
However, what we often take for granted is the power in this type of repetition. Developmental psychologists will tell you that repetition is the key to mastery! Children especially love to repetitively watch movies or listen to songs as it helps them to comprehend or better understand what they are watching, it enables them to participate in the experience and also anticipate what happens next, thereby increasing their sense of personal safety.
Mastering the Art of repeating yourself in terms of key messages and behaviour is important if you are wanting to be a successful leader and if you are wanting your team to internalise your messages or mimic your behaviour.
Unfortunately, when using repetition as a leader its not as easy as putting yourself on repeat instead its about finding creative ways to repeat your self as well as becoming aware of the less desirable patterns and behaviours you have on unconscious repeat.
A scary thought is the amount of less desirable behaviours and ‘speak’ you may have on repeat unconsciously. You may not be aware of how your current repetitive behaviours are impacting on your team or what messages they are internalising as a result of your repetition. Once again becoming a strong leader requires deep reflective practice. But in this case, we start looking out before we look in.
By this I mean, analyse your teams behaviours and their ‘speak’. What patterns do you see? Then take some time out to analyse your own behaviour and ‘speak’ through self-reflection and in becoming a reflective observer of yourself in action. You could also list those less desirable behaviours and communication efforts and ask a few people on your team to let you when you display these.
You could even turn this into a fun team activity to gain awareness and eradicate the less desirable behaviours by discussing these to understand their impact on the team and the team values they undermine and then creating a “swear Jar” system or some other fun way to bring these into awareness and shift the behaviour.
You also need to repeat your key messages in different ways, communicate it in meetings, and town halls, follow it up with email or a blog, facilitate understanding around your message through a workshop or dialogue session etc.
Once you have conveyed the message make sure that you reinforce it, firstly through modelling but also through observing when it has been modelled by your team and praising or rewarding the modelling members of the team. This also means holding team members accountable for conflicting messages and behaviours.
Use retrospectives with reckless abandon! By this I mean build in time to reflect as a team as often as possible. Retrospectives are powerful repetition facilitators and silver bullets when it comes to reflection to deepen understanding and reinforcement of the new. Use these sessions to reflect on both the positive and the negative, this allows the team to understand the ‘why’ which is in most cases a powerful motivator in the quest for transformation.
And finally, your role as a leader is to simplify the complexity. Simplify your messages by taking time to think deeply about the core of each message, understand the ‘why’ the ‘who’ the ‘how’ etc. also think deeply about how best to ‘teach’ (facilitate understanding in another) your message.
As a leader by employing these strategies above you will be well on your way to harnessing the power of repetition, without having to have the movie on repeat.