When movies are described as ‘predictable,’ that’s typically a bad thing, right? But what about when people are described as predictable ... is that a bad thing too? I suppose that depends on who you ask. If you ask me, predictable people are great. Why? Because when people are predictable, you always know where they (and you) stand. But when they’re not, life can be a real roller coaster.
Think back to the last time you had to deal with someone who went from “hot” one day to “cold” the next. You never knew which person would show up, right? You probably sat back and timidly waited to see how to approach each interaction.
Now think about predictability from your current perspective. Every day, you navigate through variables and surprises that pop up with little to no warning. When you need to turn to the people on your team for help, who do you look to first?
Do you call someone who often says one thing and then does something else? No, you’ve probably already learned your lesson and you don’t waste your time making that phone call. Instead, you look to people who consistently do what they say, right?
Recently, U.S. Ambassador Mark Green posted the following statement online ... “I had an International Relations professor who used to preach to us, ‘When you’re a superpower, you must be the most predictable nation on earth. Everyone, friend and foe alike, needs to know that if they do X, America will do Y. The whole world is based upon that idea.’”
I like that statement a lot. And it doesn’t just apply to international relations involving “superpower” nations like the United States. I think it can be applied to anyone in the role of authority.
Whether you’re an owner, a department head or a parent, you teach people the cause and effect of their actions every day. Your response to each situation communicates to everyone what you expect and what you’ll accept.
Whether you’re giving one employee a raise and another one a warning, or one child a cookie and another one a timeout; your behavior should always be predictable. In these moments, you’re not just demonstrating this cause-and-effect outcome to the people who are directly involved, but you’re also teaching it to anyone who’s waiting to see what happens next.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to stay true to a predictable approach when dealing with people. For one thing, every circumstance is different. Depending on the situation, you may be easily persuaded to stray from your original, pre-determined course.
But if you have a few simple rules and guidelines firmly in place from the start, you’ll be prepared each time these moments arise. Once you’re clear about what your rules and values are, you’ll be able to effectively and consistently demonstrate them through your disciplined actions.
Some people call this being resolute; others call it being stubborn. Regardless of what you call it, when you do it predictably, everyone will know what to expect. PD