Leadership and Consistency
It is not what you do once that will count…there is no magic bullet…you have to be disciplined and consistent.
Some years ago, I had the opportunity to work with frontline leaders at the coal-face of a large Australian organization. As part of the assignment, I was asked to find the answer to a simple question, “what do you want most from senior management?”
Invariably some of the standard responses were things like clear communication, clarity of direction and transparency. This particular case though threw up something slightly different…consistency! Of the 100+ managers, more than 50% had raised the need for consistency. To paraphrase some of their feedback, “We just want clear concise direction that doesn't change on a whim - a way of doing things that lets us know where we stand - no surprises.”
Over the years I have come to understand consistency as a critical part of leadership and management and I can think of three areas where it really matters most.
1. Consistency - in behaviour.
The first maybe the most important…consistency of behaviour. People look for strength, confidence and steadiness in their leaders. A leader prone to emotional swings and reactive behaviour rather than considered steady response will be moral sapping and energy draining. Ultimately, they just destroy confidence.
2. Consistency - of direction.
Nothing is more important than getting everyone in an organization or team behind the ‘tip of the spear’. Each person from senior management to the frontline with a single purpose and a clear understanding of their role in that purpose.
Leaders who frequently shift the goal posts or change strategy create doubt and uncertainty. People find it hard to ‘buy into’ something that seems to be disposable or is altered before they can get a chance to really make their contribution.
3. Consistency - in systems and process.
Finally, there is consistency about how things are done. This has become particularly acute in the last decade, with an avalanche of online content and so called new ways of doing business. Leaders prone to picking up the latest fad without careful thought and analysis of impact and basically just destabilizing their people and ultimately their business.
Note: The next time a leader suggests introducing a new system or process, you might want to ask, what are we taking away. It seems silly, but so often I have seen new software, systems and processes added to a business yet nothing is taken away paralyzing execution.
Some Final Thoughts
Consistency is not about being the same and it is definitely not about becoming stagnant and not looking for improvement or positive change. One can for example, be consistently searching for improvement or consistently looking to innovate. In fact, it is consistency and discipline that actually provide the platform for creativity and innovation.
It is not about a bunch of rules. Consistency is about providing a discipline, a solid framework from which everyone can be at their best.
As a leader, your effectiveness relies so heavily on consistency. Making decisions and taking action that your team can rely on and feel confident about.