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Can We Run That Again: The Value of Repetition in Communication

In 2022, the NFL changed the overtime rules for post-season/Super Bowl play, with the rules allowing both teams a chance to get possession of the ball before a win can be called. In 2024, the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers went into overtime play for the first time since those new rules were enacted, giving sports fans an interesting ending and giving me a workplace analogy.*

The Chiefs' management ensured all team members knew the new overtime rules and strategic implications. They talked. A lot. Interviews with staff and players revealed that the new rules and possible strategies showed up in training discussions as early as the first week of pre-season training. Those conversations continued in a weekly strategy team meeting.

Sportsball math: Pre-season training started around July 17, 2023. If we take the Chiefs at their word that the new rules discussion came up every week, we get 29 weeks before the Super Bowl.

By contrast, interviews with the 49ers indicated many of their players had no idea new rules existed, let alone what strategy they might utilize. There was much confusion over who knew what and if anyone had created a strategy for attack.

29 weekly strategy meetings. 29 times Kansas City discussed how 15 overtime minutes might play out. A whole lot of repeating themselves, no? To add to the high communication, the NFL assigns extra officials to the sidelines to help with game administration during the post season. They basically had a phone-a-friend situation right on the bench.

But, "It's the Super Bowl! Billions of dollars and careers and fan loyalty and Taylor Swift sightings?! Of course they need to be over-prepared!"  While the Super Bowl is…well, super…is it any different than your business? Don't we all have money and careers at stake?

Here's the thing: what you call "constantly repeating myself" is sometimes a request for clarification or more details. Sometimes, it's a cue to slow down and listen to an issue. It's an indication someone wants to play the game but doesn't know how.

Imagine if a reporter asked a coach why the team didn't know the rules, and the coach replied, "How many times do I have to tell them how to do their job?" IT WOULD BE MADNESS ON ESPN or wherever people go when they complain about sports.

When you find yourself thinking, "I don't want to repeat myself one more time…", consider the Chiefs. Consider that professional football players have been playing the game since childhood and are paid buckets of money to perform to the highest expectations, and still took 29 weeks to rehash the same new topic. 29 times! (Have I said "29 times" enough? No! I haven't! This is about repetition!)

Kansas City's approach to overtime involved evaluating various outcomes, and it's unlikely that they discussed it exactly the same way every time. When you have a task that doesn't seem to be landing with your team, don't give up; reframe it and try again. Talk, repeat, reword, reframe, reimagine, whatever you'd like to call it, but don't assume it's a one-and-done.

  1. Identify Roadblocks: Ensure clarity on priorities and uncover any hidden obstacles.

  2. Clarity is Key: Articulate tasks clearly to set your team up for success.

  3. Dedicate Time: Allocate proper time for discussions away from distractions.

  4. Exercise Patience: Recognize that pressure affects performance and give your team the opportunity to excel.

The Chiefs' win in Super Bowl LVIII serves as a testament to the power of constant communication and, by extension, the power of repetition. 29 times, 29 weeks, 29 opportunities to be the better team at the right time.

*Editor's Note: Honestly, it's weird that I'd write about football at all. I'm only into sports as a social activity; I rarely know the rules and find sports statistics hilariously specific. Any errors or team preferences inferred from my writing are attributed to my own ignorance and are nothing personal. Go sports!

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