Grace was working hard this week on the new marketing campaign. She knows her boss likes the theme of her previous work, so she keeps it consistent.
The day comes to present her ideas and to her surprise, Grace’s manager doesn’t like her work at all. Now she has to redo the whole thing which will have her working most of the weekend.
Now she’s frustrated. What made her boss change her mind?
Being a consistent leader shouldn’t be underrated. When a leader shows inconsistent behaviour or “flip flops” from one decision to another, it can be demotivating for a team.
Important Times For Being a Consistent Leader
There are several situations where I’ve seen inconsistent leaders cause trouble for their teams. Here are a few to keep in mind.
Reviewing Someone’s Work: If you sometimes expect amazing attention to detail, but other times you don’t care, your team will be playing the guessing game.
Making Decisions: When you make a decision and then change your mind at the last minute, there might be a good reason. But when this becomes a habit, your team will tear their hair out.
Behaviour Towards Team Members: If you are critical of your team members on one day and generous with your compliments on the next, your team may become anxious thinking about who is going to turn up on any given day!
Why Being a Consistent Leader Matters
Being a consistent leader is important because when your team members know what to expect, they know how they need to work and behave to reach a positive outcome.
If your team members need to play the guessing game about what you need from them, they will waste time trying to cover all of the potential options, or doing rework.
When you are angry one day and nice the next, your team members will become guarded, tentative and anxious. It’s stressful being around somebody who you think may criticise you unexpectedly, or even “throw you under the bus”.
When you change your mind about an important decision, your team members will become frustrated at the work they did, based on your previous choice.
All of these situations can be avoided or made less disruptive with more consistent leadership.
Note: If you are a leader who likes to be unpredictable so that you keep others off guard, I’d have a good hard think about how this is affecting the performance and wellbeing of your team.
How to Be a More Consistent Leader
1. Communicate Clear Expectations
Clear expectations are essential if you are going to be a more consistent leader. Clearly setting expectations means that your team are fully informed of your requirements.
This includes when things need to happen, what needs to be done and maybe even how they should do it. If you can be clear about the high priority or non-negotiable aspects of the work, this will give them even more useful guidelines to follow.
The result? Less surprises for everybody.
2. Encourage Open Communication and Book Regular Check-ins
For consistent leadership to occur, you need your team to communicate openly with you. Ideally, your team members will tell you about challenges they are having, or ideas they have thought of.
To complement this, you need regular check-ins with your team while they are working, so there are set points where you can review progress.
This reduces the chances of a last minute change of direction, because you are giving yourself and your team ample opportunity to raise any concerns.
For more about encouraging open communication, see this post: 5 easy ways to create open communication in your team.
3. Explain Your Reasons
Explaining why you are making a particular decision is important. When you do need to change your mind, be sure to explain your reasons why.
Simon Sinek reminds us why this is so important, in his well known talk, Start with Why.
And don’t forget, an apology and acknowledgement that you have possibly caused some frustration can go a long way.
“I’m sorry, I know you worked hard on this, but based on this new information, I’ve realised this isn’t going to work, so we’re going to need to redo it.”
This will help your team to understand that you are a reasonable person, instead of an unpredictable and indecisive leader.
4. Monitor Your Own Moods and Attitudes
Last but not least, it’s important to remain mindful of your own mindset and mood each day.
Closely monitor your trigger points – what frustrates you, what makes you angry and what causes you to lose motivation.
A few years ago I started working on being more mindful and I have noticed the difference. When I’m not feeling so good or I’m becoming frustrated, I can now easily sense it and moderate my own behaviour.
Nobody is perfect, but the better you become at sensing your moods and attitudes and adjust your behaviour accordingly, you will have a greater chance of being a consistent leader.
For some great mindfulness advice, see this post from Zen Habits: https://zenhabits.net/always/.
You don’t need to be a meditation expert or guru. Even regular people like you and I can be more mindful.
Consistent leadership is not to be underestimated. It doesn’t help leaders to be unpredictable.
It’s easier when everyone knows what you bring to the table, and how they should work with you to get the best outcome.
Do you have any stories about consistent (or inconsistent) leaders? Share them in the comments below!
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