One of the first books on decision-making that I read was a thin book with a large thought called Straight and Crooked Thinking first published in 1930 by Robert H. Thouless which describes critical analysis flaws in reasoning. This book can be summarized in one sentence: One large bad decision is sure to produce many bad small decisions. I have witnessed this simple truth in many organizations for many years.
Having a lack of consistency in all things is one such large bad decision. Leaders need to not only hold their team members accountable to produce the organization’s desired results, but more importantly hold themselves accountable. The reason is simple. Leaders set the goals and pace of their organization including its behaviors. Team members naturally emulate their leader in as many ways as they can to remain in lockstep. If a leader doesn’t consistently hold to a high-performance standard team members will likely do the same.
With this understanding I’d like to suggest three easy ways for a leader to maintain a high degree of consistency:
Realize “Your actions” will create “Equal and opposite reactions”
A leader who thinks, “My rules are different because I’ve earned the prerogative to decide when to follow them” will experience disappointing results from their team. Team members will think I’m responsible for as much as the leader, after all, he or she is the leader and I’m here to follow. So leaders who do not deliver consistent direction and practice can expect their team to live down to their lowered standards.
Know that “Different Expectations” for “Different Team Members” create confusion.
A leader who believes it’s okay to apply one set of expectations to a team member and a different set of expectations to another crosses a line of fairness that will quickly be questioned. Left unchecked this can easily lead to a “revolving door” syndrome that is difficult to correct later on, particularly if this bad practice has been in place for years.
Overpraising one person over many other contributors rarely produces positive team motivation.
Praise is a powerful positive tool a leader can use to produce effective teamwork, but excessive and constant praise can actually be damaging to the team member receiving it as well as his or her team. One way to discern if praise should be given to an individual versus a team is knowing who really drove the results.
To be clear, I have to say that I’m all for positive motivation. Praising someone for doing something valuable can be very uplifting to the person. However, as in all things, it’s the balance that counts. Giving too much praise to someone for doing things they should be doing anyway is not healthy.
In all three of these ways consistency is what drives positive results without making healthy behavior to be seen as exceptional.