Playing Taps.
You’ve got a clear vision of the company’s direction. You know exactly where you want to go. Why in the heck is half the organization going in a different direction at any one time? Why did sales do that? Why is marketing doing this? They did what in accounting?! He said what?!
Happens all the time.
I read about an interesting exercise in a book about what makes ideas stick. I’ll email the title if you send me a note. Anyway, the authors cite a superb illustration about why communication fails.
Try this. Pick someone from your staff invite them to your office. Tell them you are going to tap out a song on your desk and you want them to guess the tune. Tell them it’s a common song, no tricks, it’s one they’ll know.
Giving no body language clues—and certainly do not hum—just tap out the “Happy Birthday” song on your desk. No additional pantomime is allowed. Just tap it.
What do you think are the chances they’ll guess what you’re, uh, playing? Make a guess right now. 50-50? If so, try this with at least 2 people.
Okay, when they don’t get it, try again. Try another song. Try the national anthem. Surely they’ll get that!
They won’t.
Why? Why is it so obvious to you and yet they cannot seem to get it it? (Fewer than 3% will)  Because YOU can hear the song in your head. It is impossible for you to tune out the tune. Your staff member on the other hand hears only clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk-clunk. You’ve got a very clear sense of what you’re so beautifully rapping out on your desk and your staff member hears clunks.
When a vision is set by a manager it seems so clear to the presenter. The more you think about it, the clearer and more brilliant your leadership idea is—to you. When you try to share the vision, things always break down. This happens for two reasons: a) The message was not clearly conveyed—it must be concrete to the “hearer”. Concrete. No vague stuff like, “we must maximize our opportunities to provide value to our customers”. b) The message must be repeated over and over and over and over….
Most new programs fail because of “a”. If the message is muddy, it won’t help to repeat it.
Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog
PS—I will be in Virginia in October (2007)  If you’re with 300 miles of Dulles airport, let’s get together. Call me.  (650) 823-2803  If I’m with a client I’ll call right back.