Monday Mornings with Madison

The Inconsistency of Being Consistent

A 2014 survey by specialist journal IRS Employment Review found that while the attitudes of employees can make or break a company, bad management was a far bigger drag on a company’s productivity and performance.  Bosses must provide sound leadership in order for their direct reports to perform and achieve peak productivity.   Of course, no one is perfect and – like all employees — bosses have weaknesses as well as strengths.  What is interesting is that managers tend to share the same flaws.  The most commonly reported characteristics that employees dislike about superiors include favoritism, lack of communication, micromanagement, incompetence and ruthlessness.

Notwithstanding the myriad of frustrating and off-putting traits workers dislike in their supervisors, there is one characteristic that is consistently disliked most.  That is inconsistency.  Apparently, even the most odious managers and overbearing bosses are preferred over a supervisor who is inconsistent.  Why is inconsistency so reviled?  And why is consistency such a valuable element of management?

What Employees Want Most

According to Harvard Business Review, “Too often, businesses fall short not because leaders don’t understand the business, but because they don’t understand what the people who work for them need in order to bring their best effort to work.”  Top managers understand that consistency is valuable for a variety of reasons.

1.  Consistency breeds Confidence.

Employees respond best when management acts in a predictable, not capricious, manner.   Employees then know what to expect.  Most employees do not mind working for a tough demanding manager so long as they feel the person is fair and consistent.  Problems creep in when a manager’s actions fluctuate wildly – encouraging and supportive one day followed by distant and irritable the next.   Employees are undermined and uncertain when they are asked to prioritize one project one minute and then a different project the next.  When an employee doesn’t know what to expect, it creates a circle of uncertainty which leads to doubt.  But when a manager is consistent in attitude and management style, the right circumstances create a constructive circle: consistent behavior breeds employee confidence, and employee confidence breeds competence.

2.  Consistency leads to Engagement.

Erratic management behavior alienates employees and dismantles trust.  Simply put, it makes people nervous.  Employees want a steady manager they can trust.  Inconsistency leaves employees disengaged, afraid of losing their jobs and prone to act defensively.  An employee cannot be engaged if they are scared. Thoughtful consistency, on the other hand, brings out the best in others.

3.  Consistency builds Trust.

Dependable working conditions, clearly defined goals and predictable job demands create a work environment that’s reliable. Employees don’t have to walk on egg shells, trying to figure out if they are meeting the boss’ expectations or if the boss is dissatisfied. Consistency builds trust between subordinates and managers, so supervisors don’t have to micromanage employees and subordinates feel secure about their duties. Consistency also produces trust between team members — each worker knows what she must contribute to the project so tasks aren’t overlooked or ignored.

4.  Consistency fosters Respect.

Respect and consistency go hand-in-hand. Upholding consistent values, maintaining short- and long-term priorities and communicating strategically helps co-workers, subordinates and colleagues perceive a manager as competent. Managers should ask themselves: “Can my employees count on me?” “Are my expectations fair and consistent?” “Do I treat my subordinates fairly?”   Whether an entry-level manager or a senior supervisor, consistent rational decisions help a boss stand out as a dependable and trustworthy part of the team.

5.  Consistency allows for Accurate Measurement.

Until a new idea, process or system has been tried for a period of time in a consistent manner, it impossible to know if it works.  Effectiveness cannot be measured unless what is being measured is performed consistently.  New initiatives, processes, and organizational structures need time before judged a success or failure. Consistency provides the time to see things clearly in order to identify whether to tweak, overhaul or toss.

6. Consistency creates Accountability.

Employees should be held accountable for their deliverables and goals. Managers should do the same.  Managers should establish consistent and recurring meetings when a project or aspect of the business requires attention.  A set time to report on progress is often the catalyst that moves an initiative along to a successful end.

To be successful, a leader must demonstrate consistency in philosophy, principles and actions. Leadership is strengthened when the leader communicates a clear philosophy that is never altered. Leadership is reinforced when the leader espouses fundamental principles of engagement that are adhered to without equivocation. Leadership is fortified when the leader consistently takes actions that are in harmony with a stated philosophy and set of principles.  In the end, effective, powerful leadership simply comes down to a manager consistently being the same leader today that he was yesterday and will be tomorrow.

Quote of the Week

“Trust is built with consistency.” Lincoln Chaffee


© 2016, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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