Ok, I'm confused. I just got on a flight at an airport where electronic boarding passes are now used. "Where's the problem?" you ask. Ah, well you see they still tell you to turn your phone off at the gate, leaving you with a bit of a problem when you get on the plane and are asked for your boarding pass.
A similar thing happens on arrival at this airport. After touch down you're told that phones must stay off until the aircraft doors are open. Then once they've opened the doors, they make another announcement saying that phones must not be switched on until well inside the terminal building. So which is it? Till the doors open or till inside the building?
Now personally I really don't mind where I'm allowed to turn my phone on, but the inconsistency creates confusion, and I have to say, to my mind defies logic. One moment I'm flying with an airline that gives wi-fi access during the flight (ok, with specially equipped planes, so this is still an exception), the next I'm with an airline which allows you to turn your phone on as soon as the wheels have touched the ground (while the plane is still braking as it lands), and the next it's not ok to turn on your phone until well inside the terminal (despite the fact that when flying out of the same airport you're allowed to keep phones on until the aircraft doors are closed for take off). Is it any wonder that people don't always follow what the airlines and ground staff request?
Of course the airline industry is not alone with its varied policies and communications, so it begs the question when was the last time leaders took time to understand their customers' experience first hand? When did they last question why people don't necessarily do as requested? For any parent this really isn't rocket science: you'll know all too well that kids very quickly spot and take advantage of any variation between their mother's and father's policies and rules. Adults aren't that different: we spot inconsistencies - and then behave in accordance with our take on the situation.
The importance of this related to leadership is very clear: the one thing followers most want from a leader is honesty. Honesty ranks head and shoulders above all the other wants of followers. It's the number one thing to get right. So just reflect for a moment on what varied policies communicate with regard to honesty. At a deep level, I'd suggest that it conveys a (possibly unintended) lack of transparency: why the variation? What's really at stake? What makes it so important for a rule to be one way in one situation, and a different way in another similar situation? If this isn't clear to the recipient then we get the sense we're only being told part of the message. And when that happens, we start to question the degree of honesty.
So for all you leaders, we suggest that if you haven't already, it's well worth while taking the time to see things through your customers' and followers' eyes. How do they experience interactions with you and/or your company? How aligned is your communication from their perspective?