If Chaos Is Your Startup's Default Setting, Inconsistent Leadership May Be to Blame
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Starting a company is an exciting endeavor. Everything is shiny and new. Your employees believe they’re changing the world, and you’re convinced you’re leading the charge.
But a launch can also be sheer chaos. When I started my company, every task became a moving target. I didn’t have policies in place, my team didn’t understand the reasoning behind my decisions, and I was often sending employees mixed messages.
It felt as though we started every day with a new mission statement. This constant shifting made running the business challenging, to say the least.
This dynamic is common for startups in the beginning, but it’s no way to build a sustainable business. After some soul-searching, I realized the one thing the enterprise lacked was consistency.
Consistency is crucial for business leaders because it creates accountability for the team and establishes trust. Unfortunately, if you're inconsistent as a leader, your employees will be inconsistent, too. If you aren’t clear about your business’s vision or priorities, how can you expect your team to be? And if your inconsistent behavior persists, your team may lose confidence in your ability to lead.
Fortunately, you can correct your behavior by making a conscious commitment to change. Here are a few things I learned on my journey to more consistent leadership:
1. Look inward to identify shortcomings.
Inconsistency on the part of a leader can be caused by the fear of making a mistake, intimidation in the face of the unknown or a simple lack of understanding of the impact your behavior has on your team.
The first thing I did to get my company on track was ask myself why I was behaving inconsistently and what habits I needed to develop to make myself a more consistent leader. It took a lot of reading and mentoring, but I began to see where I needed to grow as a leader, and the whole experience had a positive spillover effect on my team.
2. Establish a clear vision for the company.
If you’re behaving inconsistently, it might be because you haven’t set clear expectations. Work with your team to develop a mission statement, set company values and create standard operating procedures, then make them highly visible to the entire team.
3. Always do what you say.
Being consistent is about matching what you say with what you do. If your actions and words match, you’ll be halfway along in setting a consistent example for the team.
Pay attention to the language you use and your tone to ensure the message you send is the message staffers are receiving.
4. Make decisions that align with your values.
Everything (including your business model) may change, but your values never should. When making a big decision, ask yourself whether your choice aligns with the values you’ve established
5. Communicate the “why” behind changes.
No one expects a business to remain static, especially in the startup world, but it’s crucial to communicate change clearly to the team and explain the “why” behind your decisions.
In the beginning, it might often feels as if you’re constantly reacting to changes in the marketplace. The hard decisions you have to make might not always align with what you’ve said or done in the past. But changing strategies doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being inconsistent.
If you explain why you’re making a decision and how that decision is aligned with your company’s values, members of your team will see your choice as a demonstration of your commitment to the company’s mission -- and your ability to communicate will reinforce their trust.