JUNE 28, 2024

My Leadership Guiding Principles #4: Consistency

What are your leadership standards? Do you have guiding principles that help you act with integrity, decide, and lead? My four guiding principles are fairness, equity, transparency, and consistency. Here, I’d like to talk about consistency.

My personal definition of consistency is making sure I maintain the same principles and standards when making decisions and enforcing policies, practices, and procedures. I work hard to be consistent in how I hire, promote, give bonuses, administer corrective action, etc.

I am often asked to make exceptions around promotions, merit increases, additional dollars for a project, or creating a role. I keep a spreadsheet, so I can ensure that I’m being consistent, even as I handle exceptions.

Because I stick to my principles, I am able to look each employee in the eye, including their managers, and there’s no question about people getting preferential treatment, or my playing favorites, or about why I said yes or no.

Because I’m consistent with how I create and enforce policies and practices and standard operating procedures, my VPs, directors, managers, and everyone else all the way down the line, are better able to also be consistent in their enforcement.

Knowing their leader is predictable in these ways helps people know what I expect of them. It gives them a level of comfort and actually makes their job easier because they know where they stand and what will and won’t fly.

I once stepped into a leadership role where the shadow of past inconsistency made my job a lot harder. My predecessor promoted employees without regard for established criteria, and I inherited a culture with low trust and high levels of mediocracy.

In my first promotion cycle, I faced a test. Two employees were up for promotion. One had consistently performed beyond expectations but the other had not yet risen to the challenge. Despite this, both had been considered for advancement. In the past, the less qualified individual would have been promoted simply because their manager wanted it done.

I knew that to build a culture of fairness and excellence, I had to be consistent in upholding standards around promotion and advancement. I did not allow the employee who wasn’t ready to be promoted.

It was important to me to be transparent, so I met with this person and explained the situation. I acknowledged the inconsistency of the past and expressed my commitment to rectifying it. I offered guidance and support, assuring them that, with improvement, the next promotion cycle could be a turning point for them.

To the manager who had recommended the unqualified promotion, I conveyed a clear expectation: future recommendations must align with our policies and standards. I made sure to check in with the manager on the employee’s progress, emphasizing the need for additional support to ensure their success in our rigorous environment.

Throughout this process, I made sure that I knew our policies inside out, gathered all relevant background information before making decisions, and ensured fairness. I kept a meticulous record of every exception request, discussing situations with other leaders so the entire team could learn and improve.

This approach had a profound impact on our culture. People knew what to expect and were promoted accordingly. They understood that exceptions were few, always had business reasons, and that our policies would not be bent for favoritism or out of fear.

By being consistent, I helped shape a culture where behavior aligned with our values and policies. It was a challenging journey, but one that reminded me why I value consistency in leadership so highly.

If you struggle with consistency, you might benefit from Executive Coaching. Give us a call.