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The Importance of Consistency

Consistency. I often lack it and it has been a challenge for me in my quest to be a great leader. I say great thinking about Jim Collin’s book “Good to Great.” If you haven’t read it—do so.

One of my challenges when it comes to consistency is that I have been the type of person that will “take it and smile” … “take it and smile some more” … “take it even more and still keep smiling” … until I reach my limit and suddenly turn into your worst nightmare.

Hard to admit that but I think there are many of us out there like this.

It may happen with your kids or with your spouse. It can certainly happen at work. When it happens with an employee they are shocked because what they did seems so insignificant and they can’t imagine why they set us off the way they did.

Let me give you an example:

Day 1: A technician comes to the office and you look in his truck and it looks more like a garbage can than the cab of a van. You say, “Jim, can you please clean it up? Thanks. I appreciate it.”

Day 5: Jim is back in the office and you walk by the van and you see three pop cans, two candy bar wrappers and two McDonald’s bags. You politely say, “Hey Jim, I’d really appreciate it if you’d keep your cab clean. I want you to be an example for our new guys. Thanks.”

Day 8: You walk by the back of Jim’s van and you see five cracked windshields laying on the floor and you know he only had three installs yesterday. Again, “Jim, I really need you to get rid of the windshields you replace every day, okay?”

Day 12: You are swamped with work. You run out to give Jim one more job for the day and you can’t find him. He’s outside having a smoke (on your time). You look in the back and there is a replaced windshield from the day before. You look in the cab and there is a McDonald’s bag from the day before. He comes in and you bring him to your office and explode, “Jim, I am sick and tired of telling you to take care of you van. There’s glass in the back, food wrappers in the cab. I’m not your mother and these are my vans and I want them taken care of. If I have to tell you again—you are done! You understand?

Sound familiar? Then you are like me.

My wife calls it a passive/aggressive personality meaning a personality that makes everyone feel good most of the time but when you blow you really blow.

That is not the quality of a great leader.

The solution? Consistency.

Make sure that everyone knows from day one what is expected.

I’ve heard many people in our business describe techs like kids—they’ll get away with anything/everything they can and you need to keep them between the ditches. If you are a tech reading this—don’t take offense. Most of us are like this.

When you hire someone they must know the rules the day they start. If you are buying a business, you also need to set the guidelines from the beginning. Will techs (like teenagers) complain? Absolutely! But most of you reading this have everything you own invested in this business and you need be a leader—not one who is at the whims and moods of your techs or any other employees.

Finally, remember this: It is simple. If they follow the rules—no issues. (Again like your teenager who misses the midnight curfew). You aren’t making up new stuff—you are simply enforcing the expectations you set from day one.

Simple, isn’t it?

Changing the Outcome

My favorite leadership stories, if you haven’t noticed by now, are real-life stories. I believe that reading biographies and learning from what has been done in the past is always the best way to learn what we can accomplish in the future.

This week’s example of leadership starts with a phone call my wife, Mary Kay, received while we were in Illinois for the funeral I talked about last week. Mary Kay’s mom was being taken to the hospital for chest pains and trouble breathing. Mom is almost 84 and, of course, it caused great concern.

The phone tree started and within two days all of Mom’s kids were on their way to the Orlando area to see her in the hospital. The six siblings from Washington, Colorado, Florida and Texas were on their way “in case.”

Tuesday morning Mom had an angiogram. The results weren’t good.  She had a 99-percent blockage and was given morphine to help with the pain. Her doctor said he couldn’t do an angioplasty and wanted to send her to another hospital. The doctor then asked for another doctor to come in and look at the angiogram—“Dr. T.” When he looked at the angiogram he told the family that he could do the angioplasty—but wanted to do it almost immediately because of the gravity of the situation.

As it turned out Dr. T is my father-in-law’s doctor and didn’t know the patient was his wife! Amazing how life works, isn’t it?!

After about two hours in the operating room the doctor came out and said they were making great progress. He said it would take longer than normal because every time they cleared the artery it would clog up again. He also showed the family how he kept working on it until he had it 100 percent clear and she would be out of surgery soon.

One of the qualities of great leaders is not being afraid to take on the tough challenges. Once they take on those challenges they often find the challenges are tougher than anticipated, but they keep working through them until they conquer them, just like Dr. T did.

The end of the story is that the next morning Mom was able to come home and felt wonderful. Think about it—less than 24 hours before she was on morphine for all of the pain and near death. A leader stepped forward and changed the entire picture.

Go back and think about situations in your life where your actions have changed the entire picture in a very short period of time. If it hasn’t happened to you yet in life it means that you aren’t taking on the toughest challenges. Leaders do this and are motivated by it.

Finally, there is something that leaders do to improve their leadership skills. First, you have to have a list of things you need to accomplish every day. Once you have that list, you take on the biggest challenges first thing in the morning. Once you take on those challenges, the day gets much easier.

People who aren’t true leaders agonize over the tough stuff to do each day. They know they have to get it done but find themselves continually putting it off. This week do yourself a favor—become Dr. T and change the course of someone’s—or some company’s—future!