Consistency matters in today’s workplace.  I was reminded of this fact the other day as I opened the Sports section of my newspaper and reviewed the NHL hockey standings. 

“Darn those Maple Leafs”

We are past the mid-point of the NHL hockey season.  Those of us who follow the Toronto Maple Leafs live in hope that the team: (a) will make the playoffs and (b) win the Stanley Cup.  It has been over fifty years since the Leafs paraded the Cup through downtown Toronto to what was then the new City Hall.  Most fans can’t even remember the Leafs having a winning season.

On paper, one would assume the Leafs have all the ingredients for a successful team.  They have high scoring players (i.e. Auston Mathews, Mitch Marner, Nazeen Kadri), a fairly good goaltender (i.e. Frederick Andersen), some veteran players (i.e. Patrick Marleau) and a few solid defensemen (i.e. Reilly).  They also have a successful coach who won several Stanley Cups when he coached the Detroit Red Wings (i.e. Mike Babcock).  The team started the year with high hopes and expectations, and while there have been times when their performance was stellar, as the season has worn on the team has periodically hit snags and is floundering during a critical point in the year. 

That realization was brought home recently as I watched the Leafs play the Boston Bruins.   While the Leafs may have more star players with high potential the Bruins are filled with what I call “good grunts”:  average to above average players who are filled with commitment, dedication and enthusiasm, and who consistently deliver high quality results time and again.  Players like McAvoy, Donato, Krejci, Miller, Backes, Krug and Wagner may not attract the notoriety of a Bergeron, Pasternak or Marchand but they play with enormous heart, grit and energy night in and night out.  While the Bruins have only won the Stanley Cup about six times over the course of years (most recently in 2011), one can usually count on them to make the playoffs and “go deep”.  The Bruins, unlike the Leafs, rarely put out a substandard effort. Even when they lose it isn’t for lack of trying.  In every hockey pool in which I participate I always make sure to pick a couple of Bruins players.

Consistency:  An overlooked trait

In today’s global workplace much is made of the importance of innovation, creativity, technology, cost control and process improvements.  No doubt that these are important qualities but what I look for in a business, an employee or even a hockey player, is someone who can deliver high quality results on a regular, sustained basis.  Show me someone who can produce spectacular results once and it may grab my attention.  Show me someone who can regularly produce spectacular results day in and day out and it will not only grab my attention, but it will turn me into a devoted fan.

How Do You Develop Consistency?

Is consistency one of those traits in which you feel you are lacking?  Is inconsistency something your supervisor or others have noticed?  If so, the following are some practical tips that may enable you to develop this all important business and life skill:

  1. Focus on what is your biggest priority.  In today’s workplace multi-tasking is the prevailing mantra.  However, multi-tasking is counter-productive because it often saps energy and divides attention.  Concentrating on one thing at a time and making sure you do it well is a key element in remaining consistent.
  2. Isolate one goal.  Being consistent means setting priorities.  People whose attention and focus is divided lack the ability to concentrate, and their commitment to completion is lacking.
  3. Avoid chaos and distractions.  Our modern workplaces are filled with numerous distractions (i.e. cell phones, e-mails, instant messaging, social media, etc.).  Learning to turn them off, and turn them out, even temporarily, is important as a way of remaining focused on the priority at hand.
  4. Set boundaries.  Consistency means understanding your role, and working within the parameters and scope of an undertaking to complete assignments.  Being preoccupied with tasks and activities that are not germane to your function, or that are beyond the scope of your role, can be distracting, time-consuming and wasteful.
  5. Commit to change.  If you really want to strive for more consistency you really have to want it…badly.  Unless you see this as an important goal that is deserving of your attention then in all likelihood, success will be elusive.
  6. Create a schedule.  Prioritizing your work, and setting realistic deadlines, is critical to success.  It also helps ensure you don’t over commit and, by extension, under deliver.
  7. Celebrate incremental improvements.  Change generally happens incrementally.  Expecting an overnight success is unrealistic.  Expecting reasonable improvement over the course of three to six months is achievable.

A Final Observation

I’m uncertain whether the Leafs will make the playoffs this year. I seriously doubt that they will win the Stanley Cup.  One thing I do believe though, and that is that a winning performance in one’s career, like the sports world, doesn’t happen by accident.  Many times I have seen bright, capable, talented individuals fall by the wayside because they lack that essential element of consistency that is necessary to build trust, confidence and provide assurance to senior management that things are in control.  All the talent or innovation in the world can’t compensate for erratic performance and a lack of regularity.