Change: the constant in financial services. Is it reasonable to think that changing tack in strategy or leadership is beneficial?
Leadership is critical in every business, influencing its culture, performance, and overall success. Effective leadership requires a clear vision, consistency, and the ability to inspire and guide others. However, when leaders change their mind or their vision from one day to the next or simply fail to make a decision, it can completely erode trust, breakdown workplace relationships and leave their credibility on the office floor.
Through our interactions with advice firms, we frequently observe a particular behaviour among business owners. This behaviour consistently has a detrimental affect on their team, as well as satisfaction and results they attain in their business. That behaviour is the inability to make a decision and stick to it. Feedback from team members is along the theme that their leaders “constantly flip-flop on decisions and nothing gets done”.
Flip-flop leadership entails a leader who frequently changes their approach, decisions and direction, causing uncertainty and diminished trust within their team. This behaviour often hinders progress and results in confusion.
Nor should it be confused with dynamic leadership; where a team is empowered to learn from mistakes, course-correct and explore alternative strategies to achieve the desired outcome. There’s a big difference between succumbing to indecisiveness and irrational shifts in direction due to the ever-changing environment, and incorporating the changing environment when devising new strategies.
One of the primary dangers of flip-flop leadership is the lack of consistency in decision-making. When a leader continuously changes their mind or reverses decisions, it creates confusion among team members, leading to frustration, as employees struggle to understand the direction they should follow. This constant shifting of goals and expectations by a leader creates instability in any business; leading to uncertainty among employees about their roles and responsibilities. Consequently, productivity and motivation are reduced. Furthermore, the lack of a clear and consistent vision makes it challenging for teams to align their efforts and work towards shared goals. As a result, business performance suffers, and innovation and creativity may be stifled.
Trust is a fundamental element in effective leadership. When a leader flip-flops on decisions, it sends a message that their words cannot be relied upon. This breach of trust undermines the leader’s authority and creates scepticism among team members. Employees may become hesitant to commit fully to projects or initiatives, fearing that the direction may change abruptly. This lack of trust erodes team cohesion and collaboration, as individuals become more focused on self-preservation rather than working towards collective success.
As a coach its not uncommon for us to hear “I’ll believe it when I see it, this is the fourth offsite we’ve had and every time there is a new plan, but the plan is either changed or it just never happens”.
Imagine the morale in a business like this, the constant shifts in direction and conflicting messages have a detrimental impact leading to disillusionment among team members. Employees may feel that their efforts are wasted or unappreciated if their work is rendered irrelevant due to sudden changes in plans. As morale declines, so does employee engagement, leading to potential increased absenteeism, staff turnover, and a decline in overall team and business performance.
One of THE biggest things you will always have the jump on in terms of “the war on talent” is where you can honestly reflect that your business is a great place to work, and your culture is gold standard. Culture is strongly influenced by your leadership style and if you are a leader who often changes their mind then your culture could be disrupted. When a team witnesses inconsistent decision-making and lack of direction from their leaders, it’s not unusual for them to adopt a similar mindset. Can you be an employer of choice in an environment where indecisiveness and a lack of accountability prevail?
These days the state-of-play when it comes to retaining great staff is so much more than money. Business Health’s 2023 ‘Staff Salaries & Benefits Research Report’ notes that staff expect you to communicate well and that means including them on not only operational updates from you as a leader, but they also want to check in on the bigger picture to understand how the overall business is performing.
The saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast” holds true, but only in a culture that values execution. As leaders we have three responsibilities: crafting a vision, fostering strong cultural alignment around that vision, and ultimately ensuring successful implementation.
Consistency is a hallmark of effective leadership. It provides stability, fosters trust, and enables teams to work cohesively towards common goals. A consistent leader is one who sets a clear vision, communicates effectively, and follows through on decisions and commitments. Such leadership instils confidence in employees, encouraging them to take ownership of their work and contribute their best efforts.
However, consistency also allows for adaptability within a stable framework. While adjustments may be necessary in response to changing circumstances, a consistent leader ensures that changes are communicated effectively, providing rationale and guidance to their team. This helps maintain a sense of purpose and direction, even amidst uncertainty.
Two techniques to ensure that your leadership style remains dynamic and consistent, rather than flip-flopping are to:
- Involve your team in the overall strategy decision-making – share your vision and seek their input to define and create clarity around that vision. Involve them in the process of designing the strategy to achieve it, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment.
- Establish a structured operating rhythm for strategy creation and stick to it. Your three-to-five year strategic plan should only be adjusted annually, your 12-month tactical plan should be designed once a year, and develop detailed operational strategies to achieve the plan every 90 days. Allow sufficient time for implementation and evaluation before making significant alterations. Shiny new ideas that pop up within the quarter can be discussed in relation to the plan – then either parked and revisited at the next quarterly or if they align with the vision and receive team agreement, they can be substituted for existing strategies.
These techniques promote a balance between flexibility and consistency, enabling you to navigate changing circumstances while maintaining focus on the overarching vision.