Trust Is Consistency Over Time

I can’t tell you how many times I heard LinkedIn’s former CEO Jeff Weiner echo these words.

Trust is consistency over time. There’s no shortcut for either.

It’s great advice whether we’re an aspiring or experienced leader. And I think it’s just as appropriate for coaches. Why? We don’t have this pesky thing called authority, which tempts managers to impose their solutions on others. Instead, we coaches are naturally curious and have a desire to bring awareness to those around us. And since we’ve previously talked about trust, let’s talk today about what consistency looks like and why it matters.

In 2016, researchers conducted a study to investigate the relationship between uncertainty and stress. In it, participants were asked to play a computer simulation where they would turn over rocks. They received a mild electric shock when a snake was found under a rock but received no shock when no snake was found. The results were astounding. I had imagined that those receiving the shock 100% of the time would be the most stressed, but that’s not what the study found. Instead, those shocked 50% of the time–those dealing with the highest amount of uncertainty–had the highest levels of stress.

I think this research underscores the importance of consistency. Consistency is comforting because we can reliably predict our environment. We humans are creatures of habit. We like to know what to expect, and that holds true for our leaders. So what’s consistency look like? Here’s a few ways.

  • Consistency in attitude. Before a conversation begins, we know who is present. We don’t have to probe for temperament or demeanor before broaching a subject. These leaders possess emotional intelligence and know how to regulate their emotions. When they cannot, they know to find solitude to re-establish their base.
  • Consistency in principles. These leaders socialize their values. We know the principles that guide them and those that perturb them. Before a conversation, we know how to prepare and what questions to expect. They teach us where they’re resonant and dissident, and we teach them the same about us. We also appreciate their blind spots, and as much as possible, we work to complement them.
  • Consistency in operating model. Good leaders create tempo. They implement and evangelize a way of operating that’s resilient, straightforward, and consistent. They limit exceptions to this model and adapt it continuously, which helps those around them to be more effective and efficient.
  • Consistency in priorities. Good leaders make it clear what’s important to them and what’s not. They realize the value of repetition so be prepared to hear those priorities until we can recite them in our sleep. They possess discipline and don’t chase shiny objects. While they don’t hesitate to change course when an indicator compels it, they do so with intention. When these pivots occur, they clearly communicate the what and why.

Before I go, I owe a debt of gratitude to Jeff. It’s been a pleasure watching him operate as the CEO of LinkedIn. Thank you for the 11 years of consistent leadership, vision, and compassion you brought our company, and thank you for teaching me this valuable lesson.

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2 thoughts on “Trust Is Consistency Over Time”

    1. so true. i’m a private pilot in my spare time, and i was flying a buddy of mine for the first time yesterday. part of my safety brief is talking about when we can talk in the cockpit to one another and when we can’t. he told me after that he wanted to start doing the same when he goes off roading with friends, but it’s never occurred to him to mention it before they take off.

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