14 Nov 2019

Learning On the Lead Lesson 5: Consistency is Crucial to Trust and Understanding

As you may have gathered with previous posts, having Jake in our house has been a learning experience. One of the greatest areas of learning has been in the art of consistency across all members of the family. Like most dog owners, we wanted Jake to be able to sit on command; when he is on the lead and at the side of the road, before receiving his meal etc. What we noticed very quickly was that while I was clear on the command and the way I was teaching this step to Jake, so were the other 3 members of my family. The problem was that each of our methods of teaching Jake to sit were slightly different.

This caused confusion for Jake, and he became unsure of what to do when.

This also became a problem when we wanted Jake to sit before we cross the road. Did we want him to do it at every road? Just before busy roads? Only with the children? Clearly Jake wasn’t going to be able to read our minds and work out what we wanted, so we had to be clear and work out the standard we wanted as a family and then make sure that the way that we demonstrate this to Jake is consistent.

Team members within our workplace require the same type of consistency. One of the key traits of a high performing team is their ability to trust one another. Trust is a big concept that means many things to many people, but in this case I will use a very literal definition: Trust is built by doing what you say you are going to do.

This is crucial not just as an individual leader, but also if you are part of a management team, executive leadership group or Shift Team Leaders. The people that work for you will be able to sniff out inconsistency in a heartbeat – and it has a large bearing on how you are regarded as a management group. Some of the things requiring consistency may be small – breaks, leave policy, lateness, customer service – and they can all make or break a team seeking to perform at a high level.

High performing teams trust in each other’s abilities and the consistency that comes with knowing what the other person will do. I work with many different teams from many different industries that are seeking to become better at what they do, and trust is the most consistent and crucial factor that is discussed again and again as missing from their teams.

To build trust, you have to make it very clear what you want in certain situations and what is expected of others.

For Jake, we have some constants:

1.         Before receiving food, you have to sit.

2.         At the side of the road, you have to sit and I have to stop and look before crossing.

3.         If we are heading for the park, you have to sit before I will take the lead off.

For my team, I have some similar consistent behaviours:

1.         If you are late to work by 5 minutes, I won’t be annoyed – traffic happens.

2.         If you are late for a meeting (particularly with clients), I will be very annoyed. Call me ahead of time to advise me of problems.

3.         If I have asked for a report by Friday, I will be ecstatic if it is done on Thursday and happy if it is done on Friday. I will be very annoyed if  you tell me on Monday it hasn’t been done.

These are just three points – I have a very long list! When a new member joins my team, I make a point of very being clear in what I expect the people in that team to do. I provide them with my list and discuss the points within them; this is how you get the best out of me. I also encourage them to do the same – how can I get the best out of you?

An easy way to start is to observe your team and your interactions for a week. When someone does something that you love in a team environment, put it on your ‘good’ list. When something bugs or annoys you, put it on your ‘bad’ list. You will be surprised how quickly the list builds!

Working out what you like and don’t like and discussing it with your team is a bit like providing your team with an instruction manual on how to get the best out of you.

Take a moment to remember the last time you started a new role. Now imagine how much easier that first week would have been if you knew on Day 1 what the key ‘touch’ points were for your new boss? How much easier would it have been?

Knowing how you will react and what you expect makes life much simpler for your team and builds trust quickly, particularly when your actions match what you have said.

Question: How consistent are you with your team? Does your team know what you like and don’t like? Is the response they get from you consistent? What ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ are part of your instruction manual? Does your team know them?

Learning on the Lead: Lesson 3 of 21 Leadership Lessons Learnt with my Dog

The other lessons are:

  1. Everyone Needs to Know the Rules.
  2. You need to protect your team from outside forces.
  3. Listening and being present are important to your team.
  4. Greet your team members like you are meeting them for the first time every day.
  5. Consistency is crucial to trust and understanding.
  6. Trust is built over months, not seconds.
  7. Learn the things that you shouldn’t do in the team.
  8. Remember that each team has different rules to live by.
  9. Show respect for your team in ways that they appreciate.
  10. Understand the unique behaviour and skill set you bring to the team.
  11. Look after your team and they will look after you / You have to meet the needs of your team.
  12. Breaks in discipline / performance can’t wait until later to fix.
  13. Leading the team is not a half-hearted, part time responsibility.
  14. The leader needs to guide the team clearly and precisely.
  15. The leadership hierarchy needs to be understood by all of the team.
  16. Genuine Acts of Kindness are worth the effort.
  17. You have to be prepared for a sudden change in direction.
  18. A steady voice is more effective than an erratic one.
  19. You don’t have to bark at every noise in the external environment.
  20. Sometimes you need to ask for help.
  21. You have to decide what you are going to fight for.