This is the door of a local institution. What message does it send? “Welcome” is engraved on one door (although if you are visually impaired at all it is invisible), and there are six small hearts taped to the inside. There are also nine warning signs including three that in big letters say “STOP” or “NO ENTRY.”

The hearts, left over from the efforts to acknowledge the efforts of front line workers, are red. Visually they read more like additional “STOP” signs, than as demonstrations of support.

During a recent lab visit, I counted nine different placards facing me. Well meaning people wanted to inform me. For a person whose English literacy isn’t great, it would have been impossible to understand what to do.

Once, as a manager, I kept track of “policy directives” from senior management for two months. In forty working days, I received sixty directives that I was supposed to convey to my staff and have them adjust how they did certain procedures. All were well meant, and I could see the merit in most. It was pretty near impossible to keep up with the flow so the 21 members of my staff were all operating in strict compliance with policy.

Gallup did a study in 2015 which showed that while the senior executive of a company might have ten “priorities” (whether you can have ten “priorities” is another blog), by the time those all drifted down to the front line supervisor, there were forty two priorities. Forty two! No one can deal with that.

That’s the point here. When there are too many messages, it just becomes wallpaper that is ignored. Elevator music. Noise. And the good folks who are just trying to get stuff out the door or deliver services say to themselves, “Nice, but I still have 37 units to package before the courier comes at 3:30,” or “There are still fifteen people waiting for service.”

Your job, as a manager or supervisor (at any level) is to figure out which are the one or two things you need to work on, in order to help achieve the organization’s mission, and build your team, and then sell that to your bosses. Pick one or two priorities. Not forty two. With one or two, you can make some progress.

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