One of the hardest challenges for any professional is being able to maintain a consistent approach to their work and to other people, no matter what the circumstances. Laissez-faire managers in a benign economic period can turn into utter tyrants when things get tougher. This change of approach is often the cause of subsequent employee turnover, and the problems are made even worse.
When an employee knows where they stand with their manager, there is one less element of insecurity. Given the above example, a “firm but fair” manager doesn’t need to change their approach in a downturn; the goalposts simply need to be moved. External circumstances can vary greatly, but the managers that get the best out of their people are able to make the most out of the situation without a “Jekyll and Hyde” transformation.
To my mind, consistency is about putting the needs of others first. It may be the case that you need to demand that the marketing team need to turn around a project in two days that would usually take two weeks, but if you do everything that you can to stick to that two-week period, relationships will be maintained and the quality of work won’t be so likely to suffer. Asking people to step out of the normal working parameters too regularly is a certain recipe for disaster. Respecting their needs and being consistent with your requests is the way to build a solid professional understanding.
The consistency argument can equally be used with any customer relationship. If a service provider or a product “does what it says on the tin”, then there is no doubt as to the delivery. However, with every intermittent failure, cracks in the level of trust can appear, and soon enough the relationship is on a shaky footing.
Being a consistent colleague and manager is all about discipline and foresight. If you understand the impact of your current workload and are able to foresee the future impact on others, you will be able to manage their expectations and avoid those “firefighting” moments that are unfortunately so common in the corporate world. If you know that marketing needs two weeks to carry out a piece of work, why would you not factor this into your planning process? It may not always be possible, but there have to be some serious reasons for you to ask them to drop everything and do it in two days.
This also applies to the people at the very top. CEOs who ask the impossible from their people may be consistent with their demands, but the levels of burnout in their companies will equally be consistently high. A CEO that truly understands the abilities of their people and demands the best from them, within these abilities, will demand respect and loyalty. They will very rarely change the record to ask the impossible.
When executives tell their career stories in interviews, the consistent ones rise to the top. They have the best track records of achievement, and you know that their quiet confidence will bring them continued success.
If you cannot describe your management approach as consistent, maybe you should ask yourself why?
Written by Alex Turner, Edited by Paul Drury