Leadership Tip: Inconsistency Can Lead to Distrust

August 13, 2010

Leadership Consistency

If your coworkers are inconsistent in their delivery on goals, objectives, actions, or tasks, can you trust them?

This post is part of a series on understanding trust in the workplace. Often when you read leadership books, blogs, or journals, you will be inundated with views on how leaders build trust. The focus is generally on how leaders need to behave to engender the qualities of trust commensurate with their position. Leaders are encouraged to act boldly and consistently, so others will follow and learn to trust them. Rarely are they counseled to start by trusting others and ask boldly.

Exceptional leaders use questions 70 to 80 percent of the time to increase alignment, engagement, and accountability among their co-workers. If you don’t trust your coworkers, what’s the point of asking for their input? You won’t trust their answers and they will sense your distrust. And, not surprisingly, their trust in you will drop.

In this series we will examine the 7 C’s of Trust: Capability, Commitment, Capacity, Connection, Commonality, Character, and Consistency.

Consistency in others is demonstrated by  a strong track record of success and acting in a predictable fashion. When you ask your co-worker when will they accomplish a particular event and they have demonstrated episodic delivery in the past – how likely are you to believe their answers? How will this inconsistency reflect on your leadership? What will those who report to you begin to believe about this situation? How is this person’s inconsistent performance effecting their delivery? When you accept inconsistency you are spreading a virus of mediocrity within your organization. You will begin to ask less because of low trust, begin to work around those you see as inconsistent, and create an off balance work environment for those who deliver consistently from those who do not. And the eventual demise is that this will be seen to be more reflective of your poor leadership than of the team members’ inconsistency. In fact you not acting to change that outcome with training or removal becomes your inconsistency as a leader.

How are you effecting the culture of consistency within your organization? Are you driving for that expectation?  If not, how is that undermining your leadership? Can you actually have an employee be inconsistent and be a high performance work environment?

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