Building Trust Through Consistency

Issue 39: How making your bed and the way you answer the phone leads to transformation

In a dream world, I’d tell you I’m consistent in everything I do. The reality is it's a habit that requires deliberate focus. In 2017, four-star Admiral William McRaven explained why you should make your bed every single day."If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed," the former Navy SEAL commander proclaimed. This sounds far-fetched initially. The commander of one of the most disciplined teams in the world is telling us to make our bed and we can accomplish great things?

Admiral McRaven expands on this:

“It was a simple task — mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”

The elements of consistency

Last year, during my On Deck Writing fellowship, guest speaker Polina Marinova shared these words I'll never forget: consistency builds trust. Here's what I discovered about how a small attribute can build trust and inspiration.

Consistency leads to mastery

It takes approximately 21 days of consistency to build a habit. If you want to build the habit, you need to make time for the task in your daily routine, scheduling it between routine tasks, and accomplishing it every day to make it stick. You’re bad at every skill you start out learning, and after many iterations of it, your consistent practices will allow you to do things at a higher quality and more effectively.

Consistency allows reliability

Keith Rabois, a Barry's Bootcamp instructor in Miami, told a story in a talk at Stanford when he was Chief Operating Officer at Square. Rabois shared how he was trying to get smoothies delivered to the engineering team at 9 pm to reward them for working so hard. Nobody was able to pull off these feat given the nature of the ask. An intern started and volunteered to do this on his second day. That night, the smoothies showed up cold and on time. This built trust to delegate more and knowing it'll get done. When you get things done consistently, people will rely on you more and for larger things.

Consistency makes or breaks credibility

Do you have a friend who always says they'll do something and never follow through, or you're that friend? These actions (or the lack of it) impact your credibility in what you do personally and professionally. One way of ensuring consistency is by doing less. I've been keeping a list of the things I say "no" to in order to commit to my consistencies.

Consistency inspires and influences

In the book, "The Score Takes Care of Itself", legendary football coach Bill Walsh talks about how he wrote a three-page memo on how to answer the phone for the receptionist. Getting the small things right influences the entire organization. Katie Dill, Head of Design at Stripe said in an interview on Lenny’s Newsletter:

"The details are notoriously easy to ignore, however when you think about a product that feels high-quality, trustworthy, and simple you’ll see strong attention to detail. While a user is not going to take the time to report a lack of consistency in the button types, and may not abandon your product right away, these gaps will start to make them wonder about where else you fail—Safety? Security?"

When you sweat the details and do it consistently, it’ll spread via osmosis throughout the people around you.

Do it even if you don't feel like it

When I first started this newsletter, I wrote two issues in six months. Since On Deck Writing I’ve now written 37 issues consecutively each Sunday, though the time hasn't been consistent (yet). It can be tempting to skip an issue, especially since I write on my own accord. I find myself finding the edges of time to write, even when I don't feel like it.

This past Saturday I was tempted to put it off until Sunday morning to write this newsletter. Instead, I decided to muscle out of bed to the sofa, played Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (one of my favorite "so bad, it's good" movies) on the background, and started writing on the iPad. The 95-minute runtime and 54 flips performed in the movie (I'm not kidding about the flips) enabled me to finish the writing instead of putting it off.

Consistency is a known commodity that builds trust recognized by everyone. When you are consistent, the quality of anything you do improves, and consistent quality builds trust that will exceed a lifetime.

Let's work on consistency together.