One of the most important things a leader can do is to lead by example. One of the most important and overlooked characteristics a good leader exhibits is consistency or predictability. Whatever management or leadership training you take, whether it is a management workshop, a leadership webinar or books on management or supervision, you must know how important consistency and predictability is for leader and practice steps to be as consistent as you can possibly be.
Why? There are four main reasons. First, we live in unpredictable and uncertain times. When people go to work they want as much certainty as they can get. Second, leaders must be disciplined and if you can’t control your own behavior and attitude, how can you expect the people that follow you to control theirs? Third, and the reason that will probably cause you to make a change if you are not currently consistent, being inconsistent wastes your employee’s valuable time. They spend time worrying about which way you are going to jump and this is time they could be doing their work. Fourth, if you model inconsistency and unpredictability you will create a culture of inconsistency and unpredictability.
Do any of you doubt that we live in uncertain times? A housing bubble crashes, the stock market gyrates, unemployment goes from 4% to a real 20% in many places, inflation takes place, and revolution rocks countries in the middle east. People worry they are going to lose their jobs, or have hours cut or their plant or office moved. If we can have work be as consistent and predictable as possible they appreciate it more.
How many of you know someone whose mood and behavior varies based on the fight they had with their husband or girlfriend, their blood sugar, the demands placed on them at work, phases of the moon-who knows what causes their crazy? Do you enjoy working with these people? Do you consider them to be management or leadership material? Are they a pleasure to be around? Do you enjoy having to mood check these people before you talk to them, ask them a question, assign work to them, or heaven forbid if they are your boss, ask them for resources you need?
Think about how much time and money workers waste if their boss is inconsistent. How good or bad a person’s direct boss is made up much of their work happiness. If you have a great boss they can make even the most loathsome job at least bearable. If you have a son-of-bison as a direct boss they can make the greatest job seem like a prison sentence. If you have ten people working for you and they spend even five percent of their time mood checking you, then you have wasted half a person’s work every day. Do the math-by multiplying ten people by 5 percent. That’s half a person. Chances are they waste ten to twenty percent of their time worrying what the crazy boss is up to and why. Then when you do the math your will find that your staff often is really either 8 or 9 people.
If you model inconsistency and unpredictability you will create a culture of inconsistency and unpredictability. Think about the behaviors you see in your organization now. List them. Do meetings start on time? Do people rat each other out? If not, then there is a very good chance you model starting meetings on time. If people do not rat each other out, then chances are you discourage upward movement in the organization by people informing on each other.
So, what can you do to become consistent? Here are your action items.
- Do all the things that will get you to an even keel. Eat right and regularly, get enough sleep, exercise on a regular basis, do something fun, journal. Don’t read blogs or watch TV that makes you crazy. If someone gets to you, stay away from them until you know how to let it go. You know what to do.
- Do a mood check every morning when you get up and on the way to work. If everybody on the freeway is trying to kill you and lights are taking forever and everybody at the coffee shop is in a terrible mood, it might be you. Okay, it is you.
- Ask someone you trust to be your accountability buddy on consistency.
- Study a little psychology, especially focusing on patterns of distorted thinking
- Reap the ROI from creating a workplace where people worry less, are happier and more productive.
- Enjoy a better home life, because if your employees are being made crazy by the fact that you are an emotional yo-yo, chances are your family wants to medicate you too.