It’s not the first time I’ve written on this topic. I’m drawn to certain topics over and again. Now before you think that’s repetitive, what it actually is is consistent. Being consistent helps to develop a stronger voice on certain themes and to become known for key messages. The truth though is that I want to better understand why consistency matters and how it can help.
Why is consistency desired?
In his bestselling book Influence, author Robert B. Cialdini says that consistency is a powerful motive. He says “the power of consistency is formidable in directing human action”. The way consistency can make us take action is what makes it worth noting. Under the glow of consistency you are “satiated with personal and intellectual strength” and “it is at the heart of logic, rationality, stability, and honesty”. When you demonstrate consistency you demonstrate these characteristics and can influence behaviour. Influence behaviour. Take action. All ‘can do’ concepts that can get you out of a funk.
And the secret to consistency being powerful lies in commitment, that is, the commitment you make to something precedes the need to be consistent. Cialdini explains that this can be used negatively too to get you to agree to something just to appear consistent. That’s why it’s important to understand so you don’t get taken down a path you don’t want to go down.
Then we have David Maister in The Trusted Advisor who talks about consistency as it relates to reliability. He says a good advisor will find or create a number of opportunities to demonstrate both rational and emotional reliability, by making promised, explicit or implicit, and then delivering on them. Consistency is an element but in this case not enough unless the advisor can also deliver on the client’s preferences too. However consistency is needed to create institutional relationships, when multiple contacts must experience consistency of service and attentiveness to strengthen those relationships. In a firm if everyone operates to the same standards AND those standards are valued by client, then the firm will make an impact with the client.
Consistent messages consistently shared
Consistency is also very important in corporate communications, where being clear on your strategic messages and regularly sharing those messages among the various channels is best practice. For example, if you’re ranked number one in your market, then you want to be clear whether this is a key message worth sharing (why wouldn’t you?) and then make this known repeatedly across your marketing and internal communications. If you want this message to stick with your audience you have to keep consistent the message of being number one until you have a new message that’s more important to share. Consistency enables the stickiness of your message. If you’re having issues getting your message through, whatever that may be, check how consistently you’re applying it or making it known.
Consistency drives consistency
In a content dominated environment where business is increasingly shifting online, consistency matters more than ever. Content consistency supports SEO. Google algorithms are notorious for being changeable however that doesn’t stop the need for SEO to be practiced. Search engines are always on the lookout for fresh content so the addition of regular new content or improved content is a must. That’s why it pays to blog or to keep a constant repository of new material appearing on your website. To do so requires a commitment to blogging or content production at regular intervals. Choose your frequency and then be consistent in following through with new content. Being consistent helps to strengthen your habit too. When you commit to blog every Wednesday between 10 and 12, you are more likely to keep to that practice. Behaviours repeatedly done become more consistent over time, more automatic, like any good habit. It’s an investment of time and resources. The more you stick to your planned practice, the more you are likely to keep it up and that gives you confidence to keep at it. The regular behaviour, no matter how small, is what delivers the results.
13 benefits of consistency
So that you’re in no doubt as to the benefits of consistency I’ve compiled a list of the many reasons it works in your favour.
- Develops discipline – Small actions done repeatedly build into habits. Habits are consistent actions, and if positive, will get you closer to the outcome you want. Being consistent can help you overcome a lack of motivation. You just do it because you made a commitment to deliver a certain outcome at a certain time. Discipline trumps excuses.
- Builds upon itself, strengthens messages – Like in the corporate communications example, consistent messages, repeated consistently are more likely to stick. Consistent actions build and if you stay the course you enhance the results to your reputation, finances, productivity, or morale.
- Make progress – Being consistent supports you to take repeated actions towards a goal you set. A steady practice of doing something, versus not doing anything, is what helps to make progress. Even if what you’re doing isn’t the right thing, it will be more measurable and enable you to course correct.
- Builds trust– Makes you more familiar and others equate that with trust. No matter what your business, your customers are likely to return if your products or services meet their expectations every time. It means you can be counted upon.
- Helps decision making - Employees and customers need a predictable flow of information to help them make decisions. It’s your responsibility to help them with consistent content.
- Supports creativity – The more often you do something the more likely you’ll arrive at some new insight. Only by ‘doing’ can you position yourself for inspiration to take hold. The constraint of being consistent is also what fuels creativity. Great designs are borne from consistent guidelines or budget limitations that need to be worked around, not a carte blanche environment. Creative juices love discipline.
- Is unifying – Creates work that is repeatable, not repetitious. With consistency, there is always a direction. There is always something to work toward. Even at the beginning of a project, all parties know what exists, what should exist, and what needs to be done to reach those goals. It brings teams and individuals together.
- Makes you more identifiable – Supports profile raising. You’re more likely to get attention for doing something repeatedly rather than once or randomly. Advertising works like that. The more often it’s seen the more effective it is. Decide if you want to be a one hit wonder or be a producer of a constant, steady stream of output. I saw it written that “consistency facilitates replication, and replication is often the key to growth and expansion”.
- Helps you to stand for something /give something back - The more consistent you are, the greater service you can be to your audience and the greater the value you can provide them. When you’re consistent with what you do you get to hone what’s important and what isn’t. You have the ability to remove the unnecessary and focus on what matters.
- Takes the pressure off - You can be forgiven for when you don’t deliver to your high standard when you are consistent all the other times. Or sometimes it takes a lot of attempts to produce gems of brilliance that you otherwise wouldn’t have arrived at without consistent effort. For example, you might need to write ten books before you produce a best seller.
- Allows for measurement- Your effectiveness is best able to be measured when you do your work consistently. Without enough of a body of work how can you tell if what you’re doing is effective or not?
- Consistency creates accountability – Customers and employees know what to expect from you. For example, in project management, consistent and regular meetings create an expectation that issues, wins or updates will be regularly reported. Everyone understands what’s expected of them and that’s a good thing.
- Time saving and efficient – Being consistent requires organisation, discipline and promotes efficiency. Just like with exercise, when you do the same movement over and again, the repeated practice makes the exercise easier to do. Inconsistency is inefficient.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” - Aristotle