The 4 Keys to Crush Inconsistency in the Workplace


July 30, 2011

Lessons for how to be a better leader, mentor and coach can come from anywhere.

Lately, I’ve been attracted to a show called Tabitha’s Salon Takeover because it is chock full of lessons in each episode.  If you haven’t heard of it, it is now casting for it’s fourth season and is being shown in re-runs on Bravo channel.  The show highlights hair salons who are in desperate need of intervention.  Tabitha Coffey, a professional stylist and educator with many years of experience, comes into a salon in order to asses why the salon is in dire straits, communicate what is and is not working, make recommendations for improvement and redesign the salon for a grand re-opening.  It’s not really about hair or salons, it’s about how to take a critical look at a business or department and see things with a critical eye in order to improve.

I watched an episode today that caught my attention.   The real issue of the salon was inconsistency.  The owner was inconsistent in her behavior, in her rules of running the salon, in her treatment of the stylists and of her overall expectations of what a successful salon should be.  Her stylists were inconsistent in their skills, their application of the skills they did have, their attitude and response to caring for their work environment and in their relationships with the owner and with each other.

It was one BIG mess!  Why?  Because an arbitrary approach to work leads to chaos and ultimately failure to reach business goals.

Creating a Paradigm

If you are advising a leader who behaves inconsistently or if you ARE the leader who demonstrates inconsistency in leading, how can you create a new model that will support and achieve new levels of success?

  • Get honest-  Take a look with a critical eye.  If you are the leader or if you are working in a department where you’re not achieving success,  step back and try to look at how things get done, or don’t, as if you are a stranger seeing the group for the first time.  What are the behaviors you see that are supporting reaching the business goals?  Who are your informal leaders who can help turn the morale of the group around?  Are the inconsistencies coming from one or a small group of employees, or does the inconsistent behavior run rampant throughout the department?
  • Share the results-  In human resources, we see leaders who not only turn a blind eye to what is really going on in the department.  We also see leaders who know what is going on but do not share their concerns with staff.  Part of being a good leader is being able to teach staff and without sharing results, you won’t be able to adequately teach so that the behaviors can improve.
  • Set or “re-set” expectations–  We all have goals.  Most organizations set them each year.  Instead of just creating some formal document that is pushed to the side until the end of the year, gather your team together and talk about what specific behaviors and actions will achieve the goals. Your only chance of achieving success is by soliciting the feedback and gaining the buy-in from staff.  Skip this step and the house of cards will fall.
  • Redesign–  This is another step that is so important but is often skipped.  As leaders, we tend to communicate that change is needed and even what needs to change.  Then, the staff are told to just get back to work.  This does not inspire change.  In order to get the ball rolling, think of some way to visually show that something is different.  Whether that means changing some work assignments, creating a new work group, making plans to change the physical work environment or another creative idea, the point is that staff who see that something has already changed and for the better will be more likely to embrace additional changes.  Shake it up!

The point is to be able to ban inconsistency and inconsistent behavior from our workplace.  What have you seen or done in order to support the change where you work?  What other tips do you give to support consistency?  



  • I fully agree with the topic; i think it’s important and commonly overlooked. Yet – i’m sorry to tell you – your last point is inconsistent with the previous three 😉
    Redesign is somehow abstract and quite a topic on itself. The first three items are operational and easy to digest. I’m eager to change already after reading these points! Wow what an energy you give me. But then comes #4, redesign … and all my energy is gone… (thanks anyhow).

    • @Hans- Thanks for commenting. The best part of blogging is hearing someone else’s opinion. I can understand how redesign can be abstract but in the sense I was attempting to convey it was an operational, concrete approach to make at least a small change so that the staff can feel like the ball is rolling. It was also my attempt to follow the process of the salon takeover show. I agree that it is certainly something that can be a topic in itself. I may just have to expand on that in the future. 🙂

  • The problem is that when something is going that poorly whilst the supervisor/owner/leader is in the midst of it, the ability to view with a critical eye is gone. What is needed IS an outside intervention.

    There is consistency in a seemingly inconsistent environment, and it is a consistent lack of quality control. Usually, the best work is only performed when there is an eagle eye viewing. If the supervisor is consistently inconsistent, then it fosters an environment of mediocrity.

    This is where the consultant probably needs to come and look into why there is a lack of consistency.

    Yes- Tabitha’s examples can be used everywhere!!!

    Good stuff.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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