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The 6X Rule

November 26, 2014

This week is the first week this year I haven’t traveled since January. A welcomed break. I usually take these times to de-clutter files, physical and electronic. Working through the physical records, I found a small notebook titled “Management Lessons.” I was writing this over 11 years ago. One of the lessons in there was ‘The 6X Rule.’ What follows are my notes on the topic, some post it notes I just found my wife placed there over 11 years ago. What I learned from this.

“There is a rule that exists that has seldom been understood. It has caused many to feel frustrated and confused. It has led to many misunderstandings between management and staff/employees. It is called the 6X rule. This rule defines the minimum number of times someone in management must tell a staff member before they actually hear a message. Several times in my management career I became frustrated because of a lack of involvement of the staff and employees. Putting out a memo, sending an email and expecting everyone to be involved only led to disappointment. Confronting staff or employees on the matter, their response was ‘I didn’t see it.’My reaction, frequency and variety matters. So I kept increasing and varying the manner of communications until I saw the level of involvement I desired. That number was 6 times, and in a variety of ways (emails, memos, in person, on the phone, in meetings, at lunch).”

I turn now in those notes and make this personal, my mistake. “Why 6X? I do not know. I look in my own life to see if that pattern exists in me. Nope. My boss or wife or children have not had to consistently tell me 6 times to do anything.”

What brought me to this chapter in the book were a series of post it notes with my wife’s handwriting. On one post it note, “This rule applies to Managers too. I’ve asked you 6 times (I counted) to tighten the oriental ornament in the backyard.” Ouch. Me? On the other side of the page where my notes exalted my rise above the masses was another 4 post it notes “Perhaps this will clear up the misunderstanding;

1. It may not seem important at the time

2. It’s really not that important

3. I have other things to worry about, it’s not that important

4. That’s just plain dumb, and therefore not important

5. What a crazy request when I am so important

6. I am full of myself. Your request is belittling me now. Its not important

She goes on further in the post it notes, “Well the $1,200 oriental yard ornament just broke. It broke because it wasn’t tightened. It’s not important to you but it was important to someone else. Therefore it did in fact matter. So see, that’s why it takes 6X’s to get someone to listen.”

Well now. I see a pattern. She failed to tell me it cost $1,200! But seriously, she has a point.

Are we communicating the things that are in fact important, why they’re important and how others’ involvement is needed? If an email went out to all staff and employees “Bonus checks will be handed out at 12:04 pm on Wednesday in the southeast corner of the floor below the HR department”, trust me all will be there. Anything less than that requires an ability to make the call to action important and relevant in staff and employees’ lives. So maybe it was the message and messenger after all.

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