How to Hammer Your Priorities Home

How do I get my team to understand what is important? When Jack asked me that, what he was really saying is, “How do I get my team to understand me?”

Hammering Nail

Five ways to hammer home your priorities. (Click to Tweet)

Jack was like many entrepreneurs. He was full of ideas, always chasing the next big thing, and his team was reflective of his personality.

But there was a big problem: they often ignored the big priorities, no matter how important they were to Jack.

“What are your priorities?” I asked. Jack rattled off a list of six items as if they were a part of a script.

“Does your team know those six things as well as you do?” I asked him.

“Well,” he stammered a bit at this point and appeared agitated. “I don’t know how to pound them into their brains. I don’t know how to make them see that everything revolves around these six things.”

“How many priorities would your team say it has?” I asked.

That stopped Jack in his tracks. They probably had hundreds.

I shared with him five ways to make sure his team knew those six priorities. To “pound them into their brains,” to use Jack’s words.

Five Ways to Hammer Your Priorities Home

  1. Keep it short. Jack had six. That is a safe number. Keep your core priorities limited to no more than ten.
  2. Involve your team. What do they think the priorities should be? How would they message them? They can be a big help in identifying missing or unnecessary items on the list, as well as how to best communicate them.
  3. Make them memorable. Rhyme them, make acronyms, or play off well-known catchy slogans or music. This step is going to require more than a long lunch break on a Tuesday to complete. Take your time here, seek input from others, and continually craft the message before rolling it out.
  4. Tell them why. Why are these the priorities? Why are these priorities important? What are the expected results of them focusing on these priorities? Your team needs to know the why.
  5. Repetition. Repeat them over and over again, the same way every time. If this sounds difficult, this post will help.

And he only became the President…

George W. Bush did an incredible job of hammering his priorities home in the 1994 Texas gubernatorial election. He ran on four priorities, four campaign themes. And only four: education reform, tort reform, welfare reform, and tougher juvenile justice laws.

He said them exactly the same way, in the same order, each and every time. He stayed disciplined with his message to the point that when a reporter asked him if he had a fifth priority, he said, “Yes. To pass the first four.”

That is staying on message.

Bush’s Formula

He kept his list short. Four priorities.

He involved his team. His list was the work not only of a highly-skilled team but also the voters of Texas. He ran on what was important to them.

He made it memorable. Voters only needed to remember six words: reform, education, tort, welfare, juvenile justice. And remember they did.

He told them why. He spelled out clearly the importance of each of his priorities. He explained how each of them would save the voters money, make them safer, and help the state of Texas succeed.

He repeated them verbatim. At every campaign stop, in every debate, in every interview…he said the same thing, the same way.

He hammered his priorities home. And it paid off. He won by seven points over an incumbent thought to be unbeatable.

What tips do you have to hammer a message home?

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