This week, I was in a workshop facilitated by the Future Fund for Education
, one of the funders of Fundi Bots
, the STEM education nonprofit I run. In all the wonderful learning that the workshop brought, what really stood out for me was when someone mentioned consistency over intensity
as an important tool for leadership.
It stuck with me then, and I’ve been ruminating about it all week. I’m generally pretty focused when it comes to learning, goals, leadership growth, etc. I’m more laid back in the other parts of my life, but for the things that are truly important, the intensity steps up a notch.
I’ve also been told that I bring a little too much intensity to the things I do, and I have noticed - more and more over the past couple of years - that the high intensity I bring to conversations, partnerships, teams, etc. is not always welcome or immediately beneficial, especially when the person/team on the other side is not in the same mental space or growth level as I am.
While intensity is often designed to correct or fix something, it unfortunately, almost always comes at the tail end of the problem, after having watched the pressure build up for ages.
So the reason why this particular message of consistency vs. intensity stuck with me is because I remembered all of the times when I saw a problem looming, and trusted that the people/systems involved would correct the problem, but realized - too late - that it hadn’t been resolved and that now, it needed urgent fixing. And what then followed was a frantic and intense effort to fix the problem, which only resulted in the creation of more complex scenarios and general resentment or apathy across the board.
Intensity vs. Consistency In Our Interactions With Others
Consistency vs Intensity is not a new thing. If anything, it’s the primary reason why we’re encouraged to break down big goals or long-term habits into small, incremental improvements in order to have more success achieving the goals, establishing the habits, or preventing burnout and fatigue.
But how much of this do we bring to our interactions with people, teams or partners? Often, we focus on the problem after it’s manifested, and retroactively try to resolve it when it’s at crisis level, which is always the worst time to be solving a problem that could have been avoided, much, much earlier.
On the flip side, the process of building checkpoints or creating a system to pre-empt a crisis through small, consistent interventions can seem like a futile or unnecessary effort to fixing a problem that doesn’t exist. But the intentionality needs to be maintained otherwise when the problem does eventually manifest, it’s more likely to be a more complex beast that could end up destroying the parties and relationships involved.
I like to think that in this dichotomy, intensity forces us to focus on the symptoms more than the cause, because the crisis stage is too chaotic and too critical to address root causes. Consistency, however, allows us to take periodic evaluations and discover and resolve potential causes for challenges or conflict before they flare up into major problems.
Consistency also helps us lay a strong foundation for behavior, relationships and collaborations that can last a lifetime, as opposed to the immediate and unpredictable urgency that intensity usually brings. Over a long enough timeline, consistency is the manifestation of Kaizen - the Japanese philosophy of continuous growth and improvement.
Consistency Builds Stronger Cultures
“Great culture—no matter where we are no matter how big the organization—is not about intensity, it’s about consistency. You can’t get into shape by going to the gym for nine hours. It won’t work. But if you work out every single day for 20 minutes, you will absolutely get into shape.“ Simon Sinek
Consistency vs Intensity is especially true when it comes to building cultures within teams and organizations. Culture needs to be organically nurtured, not created through forced and superficial social structures.
While the results of intensity can seem immediate, and be more gratifying in the short term, it rarely carries over into long-term impact. In fact, it can lead to more failure down the road. Consistency, on the other hand, manifests its results much more slowly, and can seem and feel like nothing is happening until you look back over a longer period of time.
Consistency builds long-term, reliable and strong growth, and - just like compounding in finance
- this absence of evidence can often be discouraging in the short term, but it’s important to maintain the practice, and discipline with the bigger picture in mind.