If you read my article on Victor Matfield you may recall that he emphasized the importance of consistency in success. I also recently heard another great leader and former academic in the USA, David Bednar, speak about the importance of consistency in raising a successful family. So I started reflecting on this principle and the role it plays in the lives of successful leaders and people in general.
Well, needless to say that in most if not all cases consistency played a dominant role in their personal, career and leadership success. Of course this is not the only ingredient in the recipe for success, but it is a very critical component, without which the end product will almost never come out right.
In stark contrast and almost unjustly so, while success requires consistency and therefore discipline and mostly time in what ever endeavor, it can in almost every case disappear in an instant because of one single, irrational act and moment of weakness, even though at times hindsight proves that there was in fact a build up to the obvious moment of weakness.
Malcolm Gladwell refers to the 10 000 hours or 10 year rule for anyone to become successful at anything. He is very convincing when he explains his research of successful people or organizations and that it almost always takes this long to build something successful that has substance, which implies the ingredient of consistency.
To be a successful leader of any organization the leader and his team need to carve out a vision with a direction and plan; then he should consistently follow up on whether his team members are performing against their responsibilities set out in the plan – consistent accountability sessions.
Also, to turn around a struggling business or division or one’s personal life does not depend as much on a brilliant strategy or plan as it does on implementing it consistently. If for example one division of an organization is not performing, while another seems to achieve consistently, closer scrutiny will probably reveal that the successful division consistently carries out certain actions / programmes / systems around the correct drivers of the business.
More often than not it is the ‘boring’ consistency that results in organisational and personal success rather than the more romantic once off exhilarating activities.
I believe that senior teams of organizations are mostly clear about what their challenges are and what they need to do to be successful. But often they go away from their expensive yearly strategy planning session and a year later it would seem many of the same issues surface at the next team session. Again, the true test is often not about finding a solution to their challenges but about how to entrench a culture of ‘consistency’ and ‘discipline’ without being so rigid that leaders feel dis-empowered.
And so the principle of consistency also applies if you want to be fit and healthy? The answer lies in consistent exercise and eating habits, not overnight diet or fitness programmes. Want to be a good parent? Spend quality and even quantity time with your children, consistently. Want good academic qualifications? Study consistently, year in and year out.
I have met some ‘boring’ individuals with limited charisma or people skills who simply managed to consistently take one step at a time in their business or corporate career to eventually reach success. Then I have also met some very charismatic individuals with all the people skills one can possibly dream of, but they jumped around from one opportunity to the next and never settled down into some disciplined pattern of consistency and therefore never really reached their full potential.
There are also those people that wonder why they are successful in one area of their lives yet ‘hopeless’ in another. To you I suggest you find a quiet moment and examine these two areas of your life. You are bound to find that you are more consistent in some way or ways in the area that you are successful at and the reverse is true of the area in which you are not successful.
You may also find that what fuels the consistency in the successful area is the other ingredient of the success recipe, namely motivation or passion. You see, when you do what you love (passion) it is easier to be consistent, even at those ‘mundane’ things that you don’t enjoy but that are crucial to being successful in that area, because these will always exist. One can of course be motivated by duty or fear, which when combined with accurate consistency may yet be followed by a measure of success. However, passion is the longer lasting and often more successful ingredient and plays a big role in not only achieving success but also being happy along the way.
In essence, to become more successful in the unsuccessful area you need to replicate the principle of consistency that you are demonstrating in the successful area. Therefore, sit down and make a list of what you need to implement consistently. More often than not one knows the answers – personal and organizational. If for example it is an important relationship that does not seem to work out, find ways to say and show that you value the person, consistently. Dont mess up consistently and through one act of consideration try to bring it all back on track. You see this hardly ever works because deep inside all human beings subconsciously link consistency with integrity. So, when you try to rectify consistent failure through one act, others around you will be suspicious of your level of integrity.
You may be in a position where you feel that consistency has not paid off. Well, perhaps your problem is that you are consistently doing the wrong things. As in business you need to focus consistently on the right things. So, do yourself a favour and don’t abandon your ability to be consistent, but following some objective evaluation start tweaking your focus and at the right pace start doing the right things more consistently. Of course it will help if you can shift your focus in the direction of your passion rather than dutiful or fearful motivation.
Finally, if you focus on the principle of consistency in your life – personal, family and work – chances are you will often attract another important ingredient of success… consistent ‘luck’. Somehow ‘life’ or ‘influential stakeholders’ around you will hand ‘unexpected’ opportunities to you on a plate when you first prove that you can be accurately consistent, because doing so demonstrates character, discipline, respect and gratitude, which are attributes deserving of even more opportunities.
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