This is the final post in our series on the Five C’s of Change, which includes four friends and one foe of change. In the previous installments, we explored Conviction, Courage, and Communication.
Consistency results in credibility for leaders, but more importantly, it results in organizational efficiency and effectiveness for everyone.
Of all the C’s, this one is probably the most difficult. While you need to be sending a consistent message, so do all other leaders. Consistency needs to cut across the organization in every direction. People will look to see if:
- Leaders are consistent across different areas
- Each leader is consistent in their area
- Actions align with words
If systems or people are out of alignment with the new direction given by leadership, people will notice and will watch to see what happens. Are there consequences for being out of alignment? Or are those people given a pass, which speaks to lack of consistency?
Ensure All Leaders Are Sending the Same Message
When facing organizational change, it’s critical that all leaders are sending the same message. Grassroots change efforts often struggle because it’s nearly impossible to get alignment if no one has the responsibility and authority to set the direction and ensure accountability.
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure alignment at all levels. You need to help the other leaders on your team understand the process and equip them to lead their teams in the direction the organization is headed.
It takes time and intentional effort to ensure this happens. In each of your team meetings and one-on-ones, dedicate time to discuss the culture change so everyone stays on the same page. So many of our clients ask, “How many times do I have to tell them?” The best answer is “Until they are telling you about it.” Allow plenty of upfront time for your leaders to discuss the change, wrestle with it, share any concerns, and fully understand the why and the how before you start communicating it to the rest of the team.
You need to be sharing a clear message with your leaders and empowering them to share that message with their teams. Skip-level meetings, where you meet with the teams that report to your leaders, are a good way to check the effectiveness of your message. Remember that messaging comes from many sources – team meetings, your website, social media, and lots of informal conversations among the team. You know your message is consistent if two employees or volunteers are chatting and neither is surprised when they share what each other is hearing about the change. If you hear “I didn’t know that!” or “That doesn’t align with what my leader said!” you know you have some work to do to ensure consistency of the message.
Encourage Individual Leaders to Assess Their Own Consistency
We’re all human, and sometimes that means we send mixed messages without realizing it. During times of organizational change, it’s critical that leaders at all levels evaluate their own efforts at consistency. They also need to create a culture where other members of the team are empowered to hold each other accountable and point out any inconsistencies.
There are many examples of this when an organization is going through change. It could be that one of your leaders stays on message during team meetings but then has side conversations with other leaders or some of their team members about how they don’t really buy into the reason behind the change. Or, perhaps a leader simply doesn’t realize that their words and actions from one situation to another are creating a disconnect with their employees or volunteers. That’s where personal and group accountability can help ensure greater consistency during change.
Walk the Talk for Effective Culture Change
Like it or not, people are watching you to determine if your actions align with your words. Especially at the beginning, they want to know if it’s real. And sometimes in our haste, we can send contradictory messages between what we say and what we do. We might say feedback is critical and schedule monthly one-one-ones. But if these meetings are the first to get canceled when we get busy, it sends a clear message that feedback isn’t really that important.
Culture change for an organization has a far-reaching impact, and alignment across all areas is critical. Take a step back and think about the consistency of your words and actions in these areas:
- Organizational structure
- Roles and expectations
- Processes and systems (how the work gets done and how people are managed/led)
- What gets measured and rewarded
- Training at all levels
There is seldom an area of an organization not touched when cultural change is implemented well, but the challenge is to be consistent across all areas and efforts. Walk the talk!
Focus on Accountability
Lack of accountability undermines many change efforts. If leaders aren’t held accountable for being consistent across and down the organization in word and action, the change effort will fail. Period. It is that simple.
Regular and frequent one-on-ones are crucial for ensuring commitments are met and rewarding those efforts. If you know you won’t have difficult conversations because you fear conflict, I encourage you to get a coach to help you improve your skills and to hold you accountable for taking these steps when needed.
You can also choose a referee from your team to help hold you and others accountable. Find someone with the courage and candor to speak up when anyone in leadership is being inconsistent. Give them permission to throw a red flag on the field when someone or some action is not consistent with the direction of the change. When they throw a flag, praise them for doing so! Being defensive or explaining away your reasoning will signal you aren’t interested in the feedback, which leads to more actions that are out of alignment.
Aim Your Gallup Strengths at Consistency
If you know your top 10 Gallup Strengths, you can use these to your advantage. My Consistency talent theme is #32, but that doesn’t mean I’m incapable of leading with consistency or identifying when things are inconsistent. I recognize culture change inconsistencies through my Connectedness and Belief strengths. Leaders who have Restorative or Maximizer strengths can assist by their ability to troubleshoot. Those with Empathy can pick up on when others feel a disconnect caused by inconsistency. The value of working with a team is that someone will likely have Consistency to bring this perspective, but if not, there are many other strengths that can assist here.
Take inventory of your own words and actions, get feedback from others, and work to identify and correct inconsistencies that could be harming your leadership credibility with the organization.