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Training for Inconsistency
Author: Sue Pivetta
Ironically, consistent achievement is not produced by consistent behaviors. In some situations, being consistent may be the worst advice you can give your Trainee! “You’re being inconsistent!” “You’re so inconsistent!” “You’ve got to be more consistent!”
How often have you heard these common reprimands that imply inconsistency is a bad thing? If you conform to those scoldings and always strive to be consistent, you may be passing up opportunities to increase your trainees and your own success. Ironically, consistent achievement is not produced by consistent behaviors. In some situations, being consistent may be the worst advice you can follow. Consistency may have been more useful in the past when agencies had more simple work. With rapid changes and increased diversity, certain kinds of inconsistency have become virtues, not vices.
A fly repeatedly striking a window behaves consistently-and unsuccessfully. So, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again try something inconsistent.
By being inconsistent, we don’t mean being random or arbitrary. Random behavior is impulsive, independent of your goals, and without regard to your circumstances. And we all know that this doesn’t fit in well in a Comm Center environment with every call a new adventure. But, random behaviors will not bring you success — unless you get really, really lucky — and all your calls are the same.
Deliberate, strategic inconsistency focuses on your specific goals and your specific circumstances. Strategic inconsistency can bring you consistent success. You can quickly recognize the many advantages of these strategic inconsistencies:
Communication. Your co-workers, responders, callers have different needs and different communication styles are needed. Some people want to get to the bottom line quickly without a lot of fluff in the conversation If you communicate in the same, consistent manner to everyone, you’ll reduce your effectiveness — and theirs, too.
Flexibility. Behavioral inconsistency is at the core of the admirable quality of flexibility. Rigid consistency across all situations is rarely as successful. Navigating change. Inconsistency is particularly beneficial during rapid transitions. If you behave consistently while conditions change, you’ll probably struggle during your transitions. You’ll impede your success.
Breaking the mold. You’ll never break the mold by obeying the dictate to be consistent. Although you may not be able to break from procedures, if you find you cannot accomplish your goals with consistency, just recognize the reality that things do change and possibly you need to address the needed changes with your administration.
Multitasking. Instead of directing your energy consistently toward one orderly sequence of activity from start to finish, you can accomplish more by shifting your attention deliberately and inconsistently among your multiple projects. This thought pattern is very useful for Trainers and Supervisors — who understand the need to multi-task in the work but not in their own situations.
Situational leadership. Effective leaders display inconsistency in their responses to different conditions. Sometimes, you optimize your achievements by doggedly sticking to a goal (getting what you want in the budget after years of trying) . Other times, you achieve optimally by giving up, letting go, and moving on (e.g., Viet Nam). Strategic inconsistency allows leaders to avoid the sunk-cost trap of throwing more resources into unprofitable methods. No need to do status quo if it isn’t working.
Thinking outside the box. Try to do this while you follow the directive to be consistent! Unless of course you consistently think outside the box (now it gets confusing!).
Personnel decisions. When confronting dicey personnel issues, tactful leaders and trainers practice inconsistency by trying something new to try to achieve the seemingly impossible. What works for one person may not work for another — and a dogged approach to treating each person the same isn’t necessarily the smart move.
Reward systems. Inconsistent reward systems tailored to individual employees are more motivating than consistent rewards for everyone. For some employees, public recognition for a good job increases performance and morale. For other employees, public recognition is embarrassing and punishing. Haven’t you ever noticed this with the Telecommunicators of the Year Award?
We appreciate the advantages created by innovative people. Demanding consistency curtails innovation and creativity. Pause for a moment to review your day. See if you can identify three ways that you have already enhanced your performance by being inconsistent. Plan three additional ways that you can increase your success later today by being strategically inconsistent.
Congratulations for being so inconsistent! The next time someone admonishes you for being inconsistent, you don’t have to accept that feedback as a reprimand. You can think or say, “Thanks for noticing. I’ve been working on that strategically! I did that on purpose to allow myself to think outside the box!”
Sue Pivetta is president of Professional Pride, Inc. She has worked in emergency communications since 1989 as a college instructor, consultant, workshop leader and author. She teaches adult learning through her book and workshop The Exceptional Trainer. Contact Sue through her website www.911trainer.com