Consistency is a concept that gets a bad rap from time to time. Playwrite and poet Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” Author Aldous Huxley was even more blunt when he said, “Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead.” So some very bright minds trash talk consistency, yet for many of us, consistency is an essential part of what we do. Consider, for instance, a brain surgeon who has a sign above his door that reads, “Ya win some, ya lose some.” Is that someone you’d want poking around in your skull? Obviously not. Professional athletes need to perform at a consistently high level. Likewise professional musicians. And for those of us in business, consistency plays a vital role in a variety of situations. For more on where you need to be consistent in your business, please read below.
Actually, it’s best not to be Attila the Hun at all, but that’s not the point. The point is to be consistent.
Leadership plays a critical role in every business, and consistency is an integral part of good leadership. Consider a boss who is inconsistent in his actions and behaviors. Sometimes he enforces policies, other times he doesn’t. Sometimes he’s easy-going and personable, sometimes harsh and explosive. Maybe he doesn’t always follow through on the actions he announces he will take. Employees can’t trust him if they never know what he’s going to do, and trust is the bedrock of leadership. People aren’t going to follow a leader they can’t trust.
How about quality control? Whether your business involves products or services, don’t your customers expect consistent performance? McDonald’s is a prime example of this. If you order a Big Mac, it’s going to taste exactly the same, regardless of the time of day, day of the week, in Portland or Miami. They get the concept of consistency. Airlines, on the other hand, may understand the concept, but they are often unable to practice it. Sometimes flights depart and arrive on time, sometimes they’re late . . . maybe even hours late. Sometimes luggage ends up where it’s supposed to, other times it ends up some place we’ve never even heard of, much less been to. Are you satisfying your customers’ needs with the consistency of a McDonald’s? Or more like an airline?
Are your field sales people, inside sales people, and customer service people all in lockstep, communicating a consistent sales message?
Are your employee policies, payroll procedures, and benefits administration consistently applied?
Are you consistently living up to your commitments to vendors and suppliers, and requiring them to do the same?
As a leader of your organization, you need to be vigilant for output that is inconsistent. Such output may be within a department or between one department and another. It may occur laterally between employees, from the top down, or from the bottom up. It’s anywhere, really, that an individual or group of people is dependent on the output from another individual or group. In those situations, when the quantity, quality, or timeliness of the output is inconsistent, friction will occur and teamwork will start to breakdown.
Obviously (at least I hope it’s obvious), all this consistency stuff only has value when we’re talking about positive activities and behaviors. That is, there’s little value to consistently delivering a crappy product, consistently late. Nor is there much value in management consistently saying one thing and then doing another. But applied correctly, consistency breeds efficiency, cooperation, and trust. And I’d say that’s a way better payoff than consistently being Attila the Hun.