Consistent actions and behaviours become a rhythm in relationships. It allows people to know where they stand.
At the core of all relationships sits one thing. Maintain it, nurture it, deepen it and you will deepen the strength of the relationship. Lose it, even for a moment, and the relationship is forever altered, perhaps lost, certainly permanently diminished. That one thing?
Today’s post is a curation of an article by Rachel Botsman, a thinker and writer I have followed since she wrote “Who can you Trust” about three years ago. Links to articles on this site inspired by Rachel’s thinking here.
What I love about this latest article is her thinking around the power of consistency. As I reflect on that, I think most of personal relationships, then also business, politicians and brands and then a phrase that resonates for me, “how you do anything is how you do everything”. I shared some of my own thoughts and examples around inconsistency diminishing trust in a lengthy blog in 2018.
With that, enjoy Rachel’s piece.
On Being Consistent
Are your most trusting relationships intense, or consistent?
When it comes to trust, there is something simple we tend to underestimate: the importance of consistency.
My dear Nana, who died a few years ago, called my Mum every single day at 8:00 a.m on the dot. She would simply say, “I just wanted to tell you I love you and to wish you a fabulous day.” Her sign off was always, “Do you need anything?” Their calls were typically less than a minute long.
Ask my Mum what she misses most about her Mum – it’s those calls. Something small but consistent that happened in her life every day. Consistency is deeply comforting.
The small, positive things that happen consistently matter far more to people than the grand gestures that happen sporadically.
Consistent actions and behaviours become a rhythm in relationships. It allows people to know where they stand: what they can expect from you and what you expect from them (see the previous Rethink on expectations). It’s a stabilizing force.
But we often take consistency for granted. We don’t appreciate how much it anchors and grounds our personal and professional lives and it’s often overshadowed by intensity.
One of the problems is that as a society we tend to place a lot of weight and value on grand gestures.
Take leadership offsites or training days. I’ve been fortunate to speak at many. I’m always aware of how much time and investment is poured into one or two days. Leaders show up and share visions and make grand promises. How good is the follow-through afterwards?
I used to have a boss that flipped and flopped about where we should focus. Some days he’d show up with a tremendous focus and drive to get things done. Then he’d literally disappear for a few days. And then come back again with intense gusto. He got results but it was exhausting and disorientating for his team.
Company apologies are another great example. A media fanfare is made. A massive communications campaign is launched. There’s lots of intensity about being sorry. But what happens consistently over time that will make sure it doesn’t happen again?
Intensity is often used to ‘make-up’ or cover-up for being inconsistent. Intensity makes a good decoy. But it’s not great for trust.
How does inconsistency feel?
Confusing, frustrating and completely disorientating.
I live in the UK and the government’s leadership during the current pandemic has been woefully inconsistent.
‘Masks do nothing’ – ‘Face a fine if you don’t wear a mask’
‘Go back to work’ – ‘Don’t go back to work’
‘Test, test, test’ – ‘Testing does little to stop the virus’
Covid-19 policies have taken damaging U-turns. Decisions feel random, reactionary, untethered by coherence and practicality.
How do our leader’s make-up for being inconsistent? Major press events with ‘moonshot promises’ that momentarily grab headlines.
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits puts it brilliantly:
“Intensity makes a good story. Consistency makes progress.”
Most of us are guilty of being inconsistent here and there. If you look at the list below and find yourself ticking more on the right than left, think about when and why this happens.
I know you might be thinking “this sounds so obvious.” But this is how we earn trust: through small, consistent actions repeated day in, day out. Just like my Nanna’s phone call.
Also published on Medium.