Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Consistency is King

Volume: March 2009

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com

Ben had always prided himself on communicating with his people. Telling them what was going on. Keeping them informed. For years Ben had consistently exhibited this behavior. It was easy actually, his business was thriving and most everything he had to share was good news. The biggest challenges his team members needed to worry about was keeping up with the company’s brisk production, and collaborating effectively with other departments. Since Ben communicated with his team like clockwork, even on tougher issues, he was perceived as consistent, dependable, and predictable. He was the consummate “open-door” guy. His team responded well to Ben’s style. In fact, when Ben was not on-site and issues would arise, they would say to themselves, “Now, what would Ben do?” He had reached the pinnacle of leadership: Leading whether he was there or not. And he reached this high plateau essentially by communicating frequently, and being a pillar of consistency.   

Hiccups in business happen however. And sometimes even a belch or two. Well, over the past two years Ben has seen some changes in his business. At first the changes were subtle, a slow-pay here, a cancelled order there – nothing to be overly concerned about. But these happenings became more frequent. They also partnered with a rapidly changing marketplace, a slowdown in customer demand, and negative media coverage, whose depth and scope completely freaked out his staff, his customers, and most intelligent aquatic mammals. Suddenly, Ben found himself holding closed-door meetings with his leadership colleagues. When team members would ask direct questions of Ben, he would not look them in the eyes as he delivered vague answers. Cutbacks occurred with little communication. Then layoffs were delivered with inadequate rationale.

Ben’s company, once a smoothly running machine, turned into a place of chaos. His team suddenly knew little about the direction of the company, or how the next calamity might be handled. The grapevine morphed into a sequoia and quality, in all areas, plummeted.   

Sometimes tough times and tough messages change leader’s behaviors. When communication and consistency deteriorate, positive group function usually follows suit. 

It is my hope that Ben’s story does not sound familiar, however, the realist in me knows that some of you are thinking: “My goodness, he is talking about us!”

So, what should you (and Ben) do? How can you gain a handle on this situation – a situation which you are having trouble predicting or controlling? Answer: there are seven actions that you should consider: 

  1. Reflect. Take a deep breath. Step back from the current swirl of today. Go for a walk and begin to think about the qualities your business enjoyed before the current chaos. You may also want to have a serious conversation with your business coach.  
  2. Catalog. Think strategically about your past behaviors and actions. Write down what your business or work unit looked like at its peak. Describe in detail, what makes your organization successful. Then, make a list of the top five factors that set your team apart from its peer groups. 
  3. Compare. If you are like most leaders right now, you are behaving a little differently than you were just a bit ago. It is understandable. Many things have changed. Pressure may have increased. And, of course, we still have the media driving sociological mayhem. So compare what your behavior looks like now, versus a few short months or years ago.   
  4. Roundtable. Get together a group of your best team members and/or customers and colleagues and talk. Discuss the flavor and frequency of communication that is needed right now in order to regain your leadership edge. 
  5. Pledge. Meet with your team and share a vision of getting back to communication basics. You know, a lot of sports teams win big by simply mastering the basics and executing flawlessly. As leaders, we can do the same thing. And effectively reaching out to our team members and telling them the real deal of what is going on is one of the basics. 
  6. Execute. In all phases of our lives right now, leadership is needed. Our team members need us to help them cut through and interpret the media kudzu. Direction is needed. Focus. Control what you can control – and do not worry about that which you cannot. 
  7. Excitement. Be astute for opportunities to positively stroke your team members, customers, and colleagues. It is an incredible world you know. Don’t lose sight of that.

Is all this stuff poppycock? Trust me my friends, it is not. Here is the bottom line: Consistency is king. Whether your message is pleasant or not; whether you know all the details or not; whether you are freaked out or not. Communicate. A lot!  

Doug Van Dyke is a leadership and communication consultant, executive coach, and business planner. His book, Leadership Simplified, as well as audios and video are available at the Productivity Store of www.leadershipsimplified.com. To learn more about consulting services, coaching, and training, or to have Doug speak at your next event, contact him today at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or at 941-776-1121.

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