Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Getting Your Point Across – The Power of 5

Volume: June 2010

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

                        -  George Bernard Shaw


In this newsletter we take a quick look at a leader named Robert. He had a vision, and a story to tell. Robert was tired of some of the bad habits and mediocre performance he witnessed in the workplace. He believed his team was much better than the results they had been delivering. Robert wanted to convey his desire for his team to improve – and he had several specific behaviors and results that he was looking for. His message was to be delivered during his team’s weekly group meeting. Robert prepared well for the meeting and was optimistic as his team gathered together in a conference room. He did a fine job of creating a positive atmosphere, as well as stating a compelling business case. While he was talking, Robert observed heads nodding in agreement and good eye contact. He was encouraged. “They get it,” he thought to himself. Everyone seemed energized as they left the meeting. Many of the team members thanked him for his vision and candor. Robert was on a cloud – prepared to see the kind of performance he knew his team was capable of achieving.


The next day Robert’s team worked in an inspired fashion. Robert heaved a sigh of relief and focused on his regular tasks and customers. Two weeks later Robert tore himself away from his personal agenda and took time to observe his team. What he witnessed shocked and angered him. Everyone was doing what they had always done – bad habits, sloppy work, etc. Robert was incensed. He thought to himself, “I know they got the message, they were nodding and looked me right in the eyes during our meeting – what the heck is going on?”


What is going on indeed! Have you ever experienced a scenario such as Robert’s? I bet you have. In addition, I bet you were fuming at the thought of your team not responding to your well-timed, well-delivered message. So what’s the deal? Why are messages like Robert’s not sticking the way they are intended? The answer is simple: we are dealing with people, not robots, and people need reinforcement and follow up in order to effect change.


So often when we are looking to change things in the workplace, the changes we desire have to do with people behaving differently. Well, to affect new behaviors there needs to be time and reinforcement. Consider someone who is learning a new sport or attempting to quit smoking. They typically do not master a concept as soon as it is introduced. Rather, they have to concentrate, make some mistakes, and practice before their new behavior is realized. Likewise, in the workplace, leaders cannot simply utter a new vision and expect their team to embrace it and run with it. At a minimum the message must be restated. Consider the following statistics:

  • People retain approximately 10% of what they read
  • People retain approximately 20% of what they hear
  • People retain approximately 70% of what they experience


If people only retain 20% of what they hear, and you deliver one verbal message, how can you expect your people to deliver what you ask? Just doing some simple math would connote that the message should be delivered at least five times in order to have any hope of it sticking. This brings us to an important realization: It is the leader’s job to make certain that the message that is delivered sticks. That’s right. Most leaders believe that once an important message or directive has been delivered they are somehow off the hook, and the pressure is now on their people to perform. This is not correct. The leader is never off the hook and, frankly, is not leading very well if they do not repeat important messages (without ire) many times, and serve the message to their people via different mediums.


I like to refer to the five “exposures” I recommend as “The Power of 5.” It is a nice number to keep in mind when you are unveiling new initiatives, praising and reinforcing, or driving change. The exposures can range from verbal exchanges at meetings, to memos, to phone calls, to emails. The important elements are the clarity of the message, coupled with meaningful repetition. In other words, there needs to be passion in our presentation – anything less will be sniffed out by workplace team members and treated like a worthless corporate initiative, not worthy of embracing.   


Bottom Line: By passionately repeating critical information and important desired behaviors, leaders drive home the point that what they are saying matters and is deserving of team-member action.


Doug Van Dyke is a leadership and sales consultant, executive coach, and business planner. He is also the author of Leadership Simplified – THE Field Guide for Savvy Leaders.  Doug’s audios and videos are also available at www.leadershipsimplified.com. To learn more about consulting services, coaching, and training, or to have Doug speak at your next event, contact him today at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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