Every time you behave inconsistently, the value of the trust placed in you is reduced.

Question: Am I consistent? 

Leaders are often given the opportunity to ask really great questions. But leadership also makes us prone to expending most of our energy outward and into others. This makes it easy for us to forget that who we are begins with our traits and the questions we ask of ourselves. Consistency is one of those traits that gets blurred when we don’t take the time to focus some energy inward. It also has a unique relationship to our ability to build trust.

Every time you are inconsistent the value of the trust placed in you is reduced.

The equation below illustrates the value of consistency as a critical component of trust. While trust is often regarded as a key component of successful leadership, it is also part of the fabric of innovation, of teamwork, and of personal connection. As such, consistency is a key difference between those who build trust and those who cannot, those who innovate in high performing teams and those that will not, those that achieve lasting personal connections and those who do not.

Every time you lack the self-discipline to do what you say you are going to do, lose the self-motivation to keep pace with your team, change direction without communication, or simply overreact to a problem that could have been dealt with logically, you forfeit consistency—and with it, your worthiness for trust. 

You also rob those around you from the opportunity to learn from you. Think of it like practice or any process you’ve ever followed. Why does it work? Because you do it the same way every time. If you perform a process inconsistently, you will have mixed results. The same is true here.

Working together to find the answer to a meaningful question is the one of the most profound experiences in life. 

Our successes and failures aren’t built on elegant strategies or fancy organizational metrics. They are built on human ingenuity, on the intellect and self-discipline of small groups of people bound together by a trust that’s founded on consistency. 

We’ve all met that CEO that stands in front of her company and says “we’re all one big team.” Well, that’s a lovely, unifying visual, but let me tell you - you’re not one big team. You’re actually a bunch of small teams working in concert. You’re a “Team of Teams.” What makes you great is the connection between you and your teammates, as well as the connection between your teams. That connection may be bound by trust, but it’s built on consistency.

There is good news for you if you’re thinking, crap, I might be inconsistent. It’s not too late to hold yourself accountable. I’ve met many people in my travels that care immensely about the people around them, but they are erratic and lack the discipline it takes to commit to consistency. This sentences them to relationships that are weaker than they perceive and a value placed on trust in them that is lower than they would like to admit.

However, by holding yourself accountable to consistency, you safeguard the value of the trust others place in you. You begin to do what you say you will, when you say you will. You can begin holding yourself personally accountable for consistent quality, effort, and commitment. When you do this, the value of the trust placed in you increases.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, even if your work quality doesn’t meet my standards, I can help you improve—as long as you’re consistent. If you consistently fail, I can coach you. But if you are inconsistent, one day a rockstar and the next you’re at the bottom, it is difficult for me to quickly identify the issue and help you. Too often this scenario ends in a long-term cycle of coaching, improvement, and backsliding that drives productivity and morality—both mine and yours— down.

Inconsistency condemns high-performing relationships to mediocrity.

One example of inconsistent behavior that is specifically dangerous is in our response to stress. Many of us have a great deal of stress in our lives. That causes us to oscillate between thoughtful and emotional. For leaders, this is especially dangerous because inconsistency in how you respond to situations causes your teams to mentally learn which scenarios you respond emotionally to and which you respond logically to. As a result, they spend their already limited time managing you. That time is stolen from their time being innovative and doing great work.

I also find that inconsistent behavior is often very obvious if you look upwardthrough an organization and is extremely hard to see if you look downward. If you talk to a team member working for an erratic or inconsistent leader, the inconsistency is visible and easy for her to articulate. Trust is low and it's obvious to everyone on the team. However, looking downward through an organization, that same inconsistent leader may not be able to recognize inconsistencies in themselves or the leaders around them. 

The people that care about you can easily see inconsistencies that you can’t see in yourself.

So, I challenge you to ask yourself. Am I consistent? Do I look for silver bullet deals or do I build relationships masonry style, consistently, block by block? Do I have the self-discipline to consistently get up and strive for excellence in my personal and professional life? Does my behavior support those I care about or does it erode the trust they place in me? Do I place a high value on meaningful connections and the pride of accomplishing something really hard together? If you do, then you have to get consistent and stay there.

What can you do to make sure to be consistent? Look for accountability. Ask those around you if they feel you are consistent. Remember that you are the CEO of your life, so inconsistency in yourself may be hard to detect. Those that surround you can clearly see, though. Have the strength to elicit feedback and act on it. Start your day with a commitment to achieving the consistency that allows trust to find you.

If you see someone being inconsistent, be a friend and tell them. Remember, leadership is hard. Take care of each other.