Can you be a good leader if you are consistently inconsistent? What if I told you that the best results are often achieved with a fair amount of inconsistency?
“Wait,” you might say. Don’t we want to be a model of consistency because that’s better for our team?”
Effective leaders do it both ways.
Every workplace has a blend of people who want a leadership model where there are few surprises, and others who embrace change, if not actually favor it.
A leader — at any level of an organization and whether they lead one or many — benefits team members by understanding when to be consistent and when to be less predictable.
Principles must be consistent
In his book How Will You Measure Your Life, the late Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen, said: “It’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time, rather than 98% of the time. The boundary is powerful because you don’t cross it. If you have justified crossing it once, there’s nothing stopping you from doing it again.”
Christensen was firm in his stance that leaders must never compromise principles and foundational beliefs.
Start with these
1. Basic personal and company values. As soon as you back off your core values, their meaning is lost. All the Wall Street crooks had values.
2. How you conduct yourself. People are always watching. They see your inconsistencies. If you lead with an attitude of, “Do as I say, not as I do,” you’ll be seen as hypocritical and that spells trouble.
Equality and responsibility
3. Everybody receives equal treatment under the organization’s rules. No exceptions. Whatever you put into your employee handbook, follow it. If you’re unsure as to why, talk to your HR manager or attorney, and they’ll tell you.
4. Accountability. Everyone who gets a paycheck should be held responsible for the expected results of their job, and this should be discussed often. It makes people accountable to not just the organization, but also to each other.
Inconsistency — talent development
5. Growing people. The way you invest in talent should vary from person to person. Consider organizational and individual needs, which workers have the larger upside potential, and who responds best to training.
Jack Welch, legendary former CEO of General Electric, said: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
Inconsistency — strategies
6. Have a personalized approach for each worker. You’ll respond to introverts differently from extroverts, and the same will likely be true for the various generations of employees. Again, this is not about applying company rules unequally or fudging on core values.
What motivates you may not work with me. A leader has to be ready to use multiple tactics to reach his/her team members. One-size-fits-all is a losing strategy. You want to discover the right method for motivating each worker, giving feedback, and obtaining their optimum “buy-in” and production.
7. One-on-one meetings. It’s the manager’s number one tool. Do them regularly (I suggest monthly), coach people up, and build relationships. Meetings can be as brief as 10-15 minutes, or as much as an hour. Go shorter to start, then longer as you build in added value. Spend more time with employees who respond better.
Inconsistency — opportunity
Did your eyes just get big? Inconsistent opportunity? Is that legal, even fair? The answer is yes to both. We want to build consistent winners we can count on — “go-to people” — and they don’t all grow at the same rate.
8. Delegation as a growth tactic. Hand out assignments or small projects to each worker, offering required support until the individual proves they need you less. With each job you add layers of responsibility and independence, until a worker is able to deliver a task without your direct involvement — or they hit a plateau and can’t go farther without assistance.
Reward strong effort by spending additional time with those who try hard but need your guidance to deliver results.
I recommend giving extra attention and more opportunities to those workers who display greater ability to get things done. This places a premium on excellent performance.
Be consistent. Be consistently inconsistent. Use both methods to build a stronger team.
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