The Three-pitch Rule of Communication Expanded

The post Say It Three Times if You Want Them to Remember has been very popular for the last several months. Communication is essential for leaders. If you search for COMMUNICATION on my page, you will find a number of posts on the topic. As a leader, communication is the base of the cornerstone of trust. You must consistently communicate well, verify people understood what you intend, be honest with people, and communicating often. This series covers how to communicate better in writing, such as letters and e-mail; verbally in-person, one-on-one, in small groups, and large; through text messaging and social media; and by phone. The thesis of Say it Three Times is simply to use three forms of communication to repeat important messages to those you lead if you want them to remember it. Learning to effectively use the five methods of communication listed above helps you influence others better so your organization, those you lead, and you succeed.

Pitching your message three times using three different means of communication improves the likelihood your message will be received and acted up appropriately.
-Photo by form PxHere

Writing ensures what you tell others is memorialized. Often leaders think a document is necessary to demonstrate they told someone to do something with the idea they will fail to comply. The document provides proof of their follower’s insubordination. There are merits for this, but if you are only providing written direction for the purpose of playing ‘Gottcha’, then you really need to work on all your leadership skills.

Written direction provides a reference for others to use as they complete the work. Without a document, those people must come back to you for instruction when ever they forget what you told them. Your document should serve as a guideline of the expectations and specifications of the work. Avoid passive voice as; it confuses readers. Active voice writing tells the reader who does what. Provide the reason for the task or a particular step to improve understanding. Remember, follow up to ensure the intended audience understands what you wrote. It is not enough to write it down, send it along, and assume the receiver read it, understood it, or understands why it is important. Written communication includes letters, memorandums, orders, emails, and instructions.

The bulk of leader communication is verbal. Most of us have been talking for longer than we can remember, yet not everyone we talk to uses the same language, even when it is all English. The listener may not understand unusual terms or jargon. A simple example is ordering lunch across the United States. In some part of the country, you order a grinder and a Coke. In other places, the same items are called subs and soda. Ensure people understand the terms you use in your verbal communication.

Communicating verbally to one person is different from communicating in small groups and large. In one-on-one conversations, you judge from how the other person reacts whether they understand what you said. Such judgments are harder in small groups. Large groups are extremely difficult. Leaders speak to individuals and groups regularly, so it is important to develop your skills in each area.

Yes, Virginia, you can really use your smartphone to make a phone call, and there are times you should.
-Photo by author

In the early days of social media, much of the communication was short text messages. With the addition of pictures and video, social media has changed the way we communicate with others electronically. Text messaging, regardless of the platform, is written communication. A big difference with text messages is its informal nature. Shortcuts are acceptable, including use of emojis. Use an emoji in your next job application cover letter and see if you ever receive a request for an interview. Yet in text messages and on social media, both text based and graphical based characters are acceptable and expected. Text messaging is much more like verbal conversation than formal written communication. Use caution communicating in text and on social media.

There was a time when phones tied you to your desk due to the cord. Now things are different. Even thought most smartphones provide an opportunity with apps to communicate by video, some people still prefer only voice. In a video chat, your observations of the other’s reactions allows you to judge understanding. Using the traditional voice application removes that feedback. While not as difficult as one-way written communication, voice only communication reduces the feedback to people on both end of the conversation.

You will find on most smartphones an app that allows you to communicate verbally with others in real time. This might be a messaging app or, wait for it … a phone app. It may allow a video connection of simply voice.

In the next few months, there is lots of ground to cover regarding improving communication skills as a leader. Learning to communicate better helps you become a better leader. Understanding the strengths and drawbacks of each medium helps you better apply practices to improve communication outcomes. The more methods you use to communication with others, the more likely you are to successfully transmit your idea, desire, or instructions to other people. Take time to send the message clearly with one form of communication. Use another to verify the message was received. Follow up a few days later with a third method to answer any questions the other person generated. Using three methods of communication improves understanding by the other and provides increased opportunities to engage with questions. Use the three pitch rule to improve your communication with others.

Communication: The Base of Trust

Photo by Chevanon Photography on

“Grab a bite tomorrow?”

“Sure, what time?”


“Regular place?”


“Great. See you then.”

Seems simple enough, two people getting together at the regular place for a bite at 7:00. Let us see what happens the next day.

Phone rings at 7:15. “Hello.”

“Hey man, where are you?”

“Heading out the door for work. Why?”

“Uh, we were grabbing a bite!”

“Ya at seven; it’s not even noon.”

Well, it seemed simple enough. The two failed to effectively communicate the simple idea about what time they would meet to eat. As a result, one arrived in the morning while the originator of the idea clearly intended to meet at the later 7:00. This little story may over simplify the complexities of effective communication, but if you think about it, how often have misunderstanding been as simple as this? Learning to communicate more effectively is one way leaders can build trust. That is why communication is the base facet of the Cornerstone of Trust.

Communication runs through all the qualities in the Cornerstone of Trust I introduced in November 2021 (Link here). Communicate consistently up, down, and across your organization. When communicating with your boss, or her boss, ensure you provide all the information they really need to support your work. While it is important to ensure your boss has all the information necessary to support your work, remember not to provide unnecessary details. Provide the right information at the right time to lighten your leader’s load.

Communicating down seems pretty easy. Gather the masses for a meeting and put out the word. Wait, send and email! While both of these options provide leaders with platforms to communication, they should never be the only conduit of information with your people. There are times you need to communication one-on-one with people. There are other times that mass communication is necessary. Follow up with your subordinate key leaders to answer any question they have. Too often, leaders think communication is telling other people information. Listening is also an important communication skill. It provides you more information, allowing you to make better decisions. It shows those who follow you, you care. We will discuss more on listening later.

Communicating across ensures your team’s efforts complement the efforts of the other teams in the organization. Pillars, silos, and bubbles exist in many organizations that impede peer-to-peer communication. As a result, many efforts are duplicated by systems that are not comparable. Improve your communication with the leaders around you by investing in your relationships with them. That does not mean you have to become drinking buddies or join their country club. You do need to create a relationship that allows easy flow of information possible.

Photo by Brett Sayles on

Earlier, I said listening was an important communication skill. In order to listen, you must be present. Back in the day…I learned the technique of Management by Walking Around. The thesis was that if managers walked around the plant floor, employees would recognize the opportunity to approach and speak to them about issues. While there is some validity in this theory, leaders gain more information by asking appropriate, probing questions. Asking questions works well whether you are communicating with your boss, a peer, or someone you lead. It shows others you are paying attention and that you care about them and their message.

Appropriate, probing questions are the key. Appropriate questions build on the information you received from the person talking, even if it is via text message or email. While the pair in the opening dialog asked questions about getting together, the questions were not appropriate because they failed to elicit the required information for the pair to meet at the same time and place for their common purpose. Appropriate questions fill in those information gaps.

Probing questions dig deeper into an idea. Use these types of questions when brainstorming or someone shares a suggestion or introduces a solution to a problem. These questions are ideal to aid problem-solving and focus your team. As a police interviewer, I learned to ask more than questions which could be answered yes or no. Eventually, my favorite questions started with, “Tell me more about (what ever it was we were discussing). I found bringing that type of question into my relationships helped improve communication because people knew I was listening and that I cared about their idea. Later, if another idea was selected as the course of action, people who presented alternate ideas still knew their input and ideas were valuable.

Be honest in your communication inside and outside your organization. How often have we heard the public official, charged with an accusation, or appointed to look into a wrong doing respond with, “No comment.” The result of such non comments is suspicion. More trust is created by saying you are looking into matters and will share appropriate information as it becomes available. This is true whether you are facing a crowd of raucous reporters or irritated employees.

When you do speak, do all that you can to ensure what you say is true. Sometimes facts change. New information becomes available. If you’re as honest as you can be up front, most people will understand.

Honest communication includes having those tough conversations with people about performance and other disappointments. Often, leaders project ill will on the actions of those they lead. Few people come to work, join a club, or participate in a team expecting and trying to fail. No, they want to do well. Sometimes sitting down and pointing out where their performance is lacking is all that is necessary to turn around someone’s efforts. You might find they are doing something on purpose because that is what they thought was the right way. Perhaps no one ever took the time to show them how to do the thing correctly.

Recently I was reviewing employee records. I found one file that lacked lots of information. The person started with us as an intern. At the end of our fiscal year, we had some funding left in our salary line, so I kept him on as an employee to work on a project. We failed to attract an intern for the summer and asked our temporary worker to stay on and increased his responsibilities. As a result, we failed to train this person for the job they were doing. That was why there was no documentation of the training in the file.

By Billmckern – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

I once worked for Thomas Spencer. He eventually became the commanding general for the 42nd Infantry Division. He shared a model for communicating with the acronym TIPS. TALK to your people about things in their life. Keep them INFORMED about what is happening in the organization. Be PREDICTABLE in your reactions to good and bad news. Be SENSITIVE to their needs.

When you work to communicate better, people will tell you things you never would have known otherwise. People will pay more attention to what you say because they know you value them as people. Remember, there is more to communication than broadcasting your message. Listening to others is just as important. It shows you care. You know if people understood what you said. You gain new information to make better decisions. As your communication ability improves, your trust score increases. Learn to communication better to develop trust.


Beebe, S. & Masterson, J. (2006) Communicating in small groups: Principles and practices. (8th Ed.) Pearson Education Inc. Boston, MA

Bratton, W. with Knobler, P. (1998). Turnaround: How America’s top cop reversed the crime epidemic. Random House. New York, NY

Maxwell, J (2005). The 360 degree leader. 2 Best-Selling Books in 1 Volume Edition. Thomas Nelson Publishing, Nashville, TN

Spencer, T. (unknown). Personal communications with author.

(c) 2022 Christopher St. Cyr