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May 1, 2019
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June 17, 2019

The Myth of Consistency in Leadership

I’ve been thinking a lot about consistency recently. What is it? What is it not? How does consistency look like in leadership? Why should leaders be consistent? How should leaders be consistent?

According to google, consistency is ‘consistent behaviour or treatment’. (Don’t you love it when they explain a noun with its adjective?!) Synonyms are evenness, steadiness, stability, constancy. However, I prefer the definition according to dictionary.com: steadfast adherence to the same principles…and I would add values.

It is not necessarily doing the same all the time. That is what I found is a myth. People think consistency is always doing the same things. For example, looking after our fitness consistently does not mean we do the same exercises all the time. Our underlying value might be health, we want to live a long and healthy life, which looks different in every season of our lives. We might focus on running for a while and then switch to swimming. Either way, we consistently aim to keep our fitness up and stay healthy. Of course, if we want to run a half marathon, we need to stay consistent in our running. We need to be consistent with the things that bring the outcome we aim for.

Similarly, in leadership, consistency is not so much about what we do but how steadfast we adhere to our values and principles. It is the vehicle that leads us to be more effective leaders. Consistency gets us the results – which answers our question about the why. Why should we be consistent? Because it gets us where we want to be. If we aim for better performance of your team, I believe we need to be consistent in 3 areas.

1)Behavior

Have you worked for or with someone that says one thing and then does the other? As leaders we need to be aware that our people watch us and look for standards in our behavior. If we’re late for meetings all the time how can we expect them to be on time? And if we then make excuses, don’t we portray that making excuses is legitimate?
Or if we agree to pursuing a certain organisational strategy and then change our mind suddenly and follow a different strategy, it leads to frustration and mistrust. Inconsistency in strategies can not only be harmful for the success of your organisation but also for the level of trust from your people. Trust is the currency of any relationship and essential to effective leadership. Our people need to know that they can trust our integrity.
Also, we need to be consistent in our leadership styles. We can’t allow participation in decision making if we’re not willing to empower our people to continuously make those kinds of decisions. Have clear definitions of who has authority to do what and then stick with it. A great tool for this is the Situational Leadership Model which I mentioned in on of my previous blogs about leadership styles. If we know what our people are capable of, we can release them to work more effectively under our leadership.
Do I have to mention that moody leaders are the worst? Sorry to be blunt. I’m not talking about having a bad day, we all do. But if you’re struggling to control your moods, please do your organisation a favor and get help.

2) Focus

With each team or individual we need to stay clear on our focus and expectations. Have you ever wasted time because you were wondering what of the 10 things your oversight wants you to do has priority? And then you started something and got the call if you had finished the other urgent thing? When I was in regional area management of 5 supermarkets, in one of my weekly visits I would walk around the store taking notes of what needs improvement, ranging from cleanliness, stock levels, presentation, product quality, friendliness, productivity, and more. I could have written pages because there was always something to improve – which lies in the nature of a busy supermarket. However, the store manager could do the same. He knows the standards and could write his own list. But what I did was setting a focus on a few critical issues and let-go of some minor ones. We would set a time frame for these issues to be resolved before we moved on to the next few critical issues. I wish I could say that I always followed this principle consistently. Of course, there would be other burning issues that would have to be prioritized within the agreed time frame. What I learned is that inconsistency is acceptable as long as it stays the exception.

3) Communication

Both previous points are closely related to communication. Because whenever we are not consistent with our behaviour or focus, we can avoid losing the trust and respect from our people by communicating our inconsistency. This does not mean we can make excuses all the time or have to justify ourselves, but if we want our people to trust and respect us for our consistency, we need to bring clarity to our decisions. As Brene Brown says in Dare to Lead “Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind.” If you’re like me I hate unproductivity. Unfortunately, if we’re not clear in our communication, we waste time. We think we’re quickly explaining something which does not take much of our valuable time, but our people might need more clarity to understand where we’re coming from in order to get on board with your decisions.
Besides communicating our inconsistencies, our general communication needs to be consistent as well. We need to keep our people in the loop of what’s happening which will keep them on focus. Having open ways of communication is crucial for effective leadership. This does not mean we should necessarily have a physical ‘open door policy’ because in my opinion that is rather not effective if it is not limited to some specific time of the day or the week. I personally prefer open ways of communication via email and text, not phone calls unless it is urgent. Emails and texts can be read in the leaders’ preferred time which means I’m not dictated by the “urgencies” of my people.  
Overall, the most important part of consistent communication in leadership is the way we motivate our people. Please have a look at my previous blog about the 3 keys of effective motivation. What we cannot get wrong is that consistency in leadership does not mean that we need to treat every person in the same way but with the same respect, appreciation and motivation. If we want our organisation to succeed, we need to succeed in our leadership – which is not a quick fix! We need to have longevity, patience and strength to stay consistent in the areas that will lead us to our desired outcome.

Now what are your principles and values that you steadfastly adhere to? What do you value that is worth being consistent for? Where do you want consistency lead you to? What do you need to be consistent in to get there?

What are 3 areas that you want to be more consistent in your leadership?

Feel free to comment below what you think about this topic.

Happy Monday everyone!

Desiree

2 Comments

  1. Rohan Bell says:

    Great thoughts Desiree. 😊 I agree with everything you said about consistency in values. I find that I regularly need to reset the way I do things and my schedule to make sure that I’m staying consistent to my values. My values don’t change but I find my timetable tends to drift and gets waylaid by the urgent unimportant more and more over time. I need to reset it against my values to make sure I’m staying consistent to what I’m trying to get achieved. Thanks for the encouragement and reminder. 😊

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