TAG Consulting

Four Traits Of Organizations with High Employee Engagement

January 27, 2016

The basic premise of our book and the key finding of our multi-year research project is that organizations with the strongest and best cultures could be counted on for operational stability and integrity, They were extraordinarily well-managed enterprises.

And, just as important, we discovered that these enterprises had highly engaged employees who have a God-designed desire to contribute, to belong, and to make a difference.

What frames our work with organizations today is our passion to see them develop these four characteristics of workplaces with high levels of employee engagement:

1. Team members consider themselves to be empowered.
2. There is a culture of collegiality.
3. Management attracts top talent and rewards them accordingly.
4. Team members are fully engaged in their work and the mission of the organization.

Those four characteristics can serve as an initial checklist to you as you journey with us on the quest to craft healthy, winning organizational cultures.
The only place to start is at the beginning!

So, how does your organization measure up – on a scale of 1-5 – on each of these four characteristics?

5 Skills For Selecting A Great Team

January 26, 2016

team stick figuresVirtually every client we are called upon to serve values teamwork. Some want to improve their already high-performing teams. Others want to sharpen their focus on how teams can work together for success. Others have challenges on existing teams and are looking for trouble-shooting. And many want coaching on what it takes to pick people who will be part of winning teams.

Over the years and through serving thousands of client, we’ve developed five best practices for “people-picking”. You can read even more in The Leadership Triangle, by TAG partners Kevin Graham Ford and Ken Tucker, available here.

If you want to become a great people-picker who picks great people (say that five times fast!), you will want to work on developing these skills:

Great People-Pickers Are Success-Intuitive 

If you are a great selector of people you can look at a potential team member and see what makes them tick. You see their passion, understand how their past has shaped them, have a sense of their dreams, and can visualize their future success.


Great People-Pickers Are Placement-Aware

The best selectors of people see exactly where and on which team a person can fit. They look at a potential team member and know the right seat on the bus for that person, the perfect role that will tee them and the team up for success.


Great People-Pickers Are Future-Oriented

As a good leader, you will see the future of your organization as well as your own future. A great people-picker sees the future of each team member. You can visualize not only their success and the success of the organization, but also the success of each individual.


Great People-Pickers Are Unselfishly Opportunistic

The late Don Clifton, a legendary leader and consultant who excelled at team selection, asked a great question which we use all the time:

“How can I help this person discover just how good, just how successful he or she can become?”

That’s a profound question which has great power for your life of leadership. If you are a leader who works to provide opportunities for individuals on your team to use their natural talents and traits the end result will be success for your as a team and for you as the leader of that team.


Great People-Pickers Are Time Conscious

In a sense, time is everything. Often, in the crucible of leadership, many things happen all at once. To be a leader is to deal with moving parts and contingencies on a daily basis. Sometimes, the door to success is just cracked open for a moment. Part of the art of leadership is seizing every moment for its full potential.

Great people-pickers are deeply aware of timing and have one eye on the clock and one eye on their teams.

Which of those five traits of world-class people-pickers do you possess? Which do you need to sharpen? What’s your strategy?


Seven Behaviors For Leading Change

January 22, 2016

change clock

Much of our work is focused on helping leaders and their organizations navigate change.

In many instances, this change is forced upon them due to changes in the competitive landscape or unforeseen internal challenges. In other instances, these leaders and organizations know that change has to happen to maintain their edge and so they are looking to be ahead of the curve.

Before we launch into in-depth diagnoses or offer prescriptions, we often encourage our leader-clients to consider the types of challenges they will face as they lead change. Once they have acknowledged that these things may happen, they are equipped to implement effective strategies. We coach leaders through these strategies on an individual basis, but it’s worthwhile offering a 35,000 foot view of winning change leadership behaviors.

Change leaders behave in these seven ways:

  1. Create a safe place where problems can be faced.
  2. Keep people focused on and not scared of the competing values in the group.
  3. Indeed, actively create conflict around competing values when there isn’t enough.
  4. Tackle problems at an organizational, not individual level (the problem is almost always in the system, not the people).
  5. Reframe seemingly insolvable problems into solvable ones.
  6. Allow overheated conflict to cool off by providing a safe holding environment.
  7. Care for people well as they cope with the inevitable loss that comes with change.

If you are leading a change initiative (and what leader isn’t?) which of these behaviors are you excelling with?

Which ones do you need to shore up?

Do you have trusted advisors or a coach in place to help you navigate?


Five Check-Up Questions for a Culture-Crafting Leader

January 22, 2016

Crafting a winning culture is a long and challenging process.  It’s important and encouraging to take inventory along the way – and helpful to know how you are doing based on the experiences of others.

Here are five great questions that leaders engaged in the process of changing or crafting a  winning organizational culture can ask as they go:

1. Would the people who work for me say I walk the talk?
2. Am I clear on my own personal values and do I live them out?
3. Are others clear on my personal values?
4. Do the products and services our organization offers the marketplace match up to what we say are our core values?
5. When we say things like ‘our biggest asset is our employees” do we actually behave as if that is true?

What Exactly Is Organizational Culture?

January 19, 2016

Using our online employee engagement tool called The Engagement Dashboard (TED), we have collected data from thousands of American workers from all three sectors in American organizational life – Public, Private, and Social.

After fifteen years of gathering data through the efforts of our firm, TAG Consulting, we believe that we have discovered the ingredients for crafting the sort of thriving culture that  creates winning results and engaged employees.

TAG’s definition of organizational culture:
Culture is the realization of our desire to belong, contribute, and to make a difference.

So, a great culture is defined by three primary elements:
1. High levels of employee engagement (the desire to contribute)
2. A compelling organizational climate (the desire to  belong)
3. Consistently effective leadership (the desire to make a difference

TAG exists in large part to serve leaders as they endeavor to craft cultures like this, for the same of the common good.

For an idea of where your organization stands, read more about The Engagement Dashboard here.

Do You Have The Courage To Reimagine?

January 18, 2016

If you had to “go away and dream it all up again” for your life or for your organization, what would be the fulfillment of that dream?

We’re really talking about imagination when we ask that question and that is because the discipline of Reimagine is vitally important in crafting organizational culture, leading change, and sustaining excellent performance. And building a personal life that makes a lasting difference.

We believe it is so important that we have made Reimagine one of the three descriptors of where we lead organizations and their leaders.

President Thomas Jefferson never ventured more than fifty miles from his home. In his entire life. Yet he had a vision for the western expansion of the United States that has impacted millions of lives. When he built his home, Monticello, he built it to face West. He imagined clearly what America could become.

And he inspired others to follow. Two of that number were gentlemen you might have heard of – Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Their famous venture to the West resulted in the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the U.S.

All because Jefferson had the courage to Reimagine.

The ancient fathers of the Hebrew nation were known for planting tamarisk trees. The thing about the tamarisk is that it is one of the slowest growing trees. When it grows into full flower, after many, many years it provides shade in hot arid climates and is an effective windbreak against devastating soil erosion.


So, what kind of person would plant a tamarisk tree?

A leader, that’s who. Someone who cares deeply enough to leave a legacy. Someone who is fired by an imaginative vision. Someone who dares to Reimagine over and over again.

Leaders have the courage to see beyond the immediate and beyond their own self-interest to the long term legacy they will leave benefiting those who will follow them.

What about you?

What in your life, your work, your leadership can you Reimagine in a way that will lead you to make decisions and set priorities which will live after you?

The Mystery of the Angry CEO, Part Two

January 15, 2016

To recap our mystery….

We were working with a client in the Midwest who faced a seemingly unsolvable mystery. Their employee survey said their people longed for more training, but their product knowledge survey results showed that they were a well equipped workforce, indeed! To compound matters, there were reports that the CEO was a destructively angry person but no one had ever seen him lose his temper in person. We had three clues:

Clue #1 – Employees think they need more training.
Clue #2 –  Employees appear to be really well trained.
Clue #3 – CEO is reported to have a temper problem, but not one has ever actually seen him angry.

Thoroughly confused, we met with the Executive VP. She told us about her job. While she had a mostly operational role she fancied herself a ‘problem solver’.

“I have a line outside my door on Mondays”, she told us. “I tell everyone that if they have a problem I am the person to see and I will take care of things for them. And they line up!”

She was pretty pleased with herself.

All of a sudden, it hit us (cue mystery solved music here)…

She was communicating that she was a problem solver. That was a piece of data to the employees. And data requires interpretation. So their interpretation was twofold.

Interpretation #1 – “If we have a problem, we are incompetent to solve that problem. We need a problem-solver”

Interpretation #2 – “If we have a problem, we’d better go to the VP, not the CEO. Therefore something must be wrong with the CEO. Like a bad temper.”

Data cries out for interpretation. Interpretation demands action. Actions demand  reactions. And pretty soon, people are stuck.

Our suggestion to the VP – try closing your door for a few months. It worked.

But what if we (and she) had gone with the prevailing interpretation? Agreed that the employees needed more training. We’d have come up with an elaborate and costly plan for employee training . And then we’d have addressed the angry CEO by saying he should be fired or, at a minimum, required to complete an anger management program.

In either situation, the solution would have become the problem.

That’s why it’s so important to diagnosis clearly and well and why it’s important to remember that our unchallenged interpretations set our framework for viewing reality and, all too often, lead to the wrong actions and responses.

If you have a challenging problem in your organization today, make sure you question your interpretations and those of your team before responding.
If you have recently addressed a challenging problem, only to find that action has not helped (and things are maybe even worse), try reviewing your initial interpretations and asking if they were correct to begin with.

Three Steps To Diagnose Your Organization

January 12, 2016


Our client work begins with a diagnosis of the system of an organization – particularly a close look at the Transformational issues the organization is challenged by and how well prepared it is to respond.

There are three components to a thorough diagnosis of an organization – take a look at these and try a quick, beginning diagnosis of your own organization! (We note here that we are indebted to the work of Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky as well as the work of TAG partners Kevin Ford and Jim Osterhaus in their new and important book The Secret Sauce: Creating A Winning Culture.)

The three components are Structure, Culture, and Default Processes.


Structure includes rewards and incentives, organizational charts, reporting relationships, communication practices, hiring and termination processes, and compensation philosophies.

A key question here is “What behaviors are supported and rewarded by our structure?”. It’s an old and reliable adage that we get the behavior we reward, not the behavior we say we value. While structure feels like nuts and bolts engineering, it is in fact a powerful, subtle reinforcer of what the organization values and how agile and adaptable it has the potential of being.

Exercise: List all of your organization’s structures on a whiteboard in one column. In the next column, describe how and if each structure either supports or restricts your ability to carry out your mission.


Ford and Osterhaus have written perhaps the most thorough and useful work on crafting a winning and healthy organizational culture (yes, we are biased, but…).

In their book they prove the ‘why’ of the saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. In fact, culture snacks on almost anything else. The great differentiator between pretty good and really great organizations is a winning culture which is on its way to finding its own unique “secret sauce”.

A winning culture is an expression of the universal desire “to belong, to contribute, and to make a difference”. This culture is expressed in such facets as stories, heroes, architecture, group norms (such as dress codes) and meeting practices (who is ‘need to know’, who gets invited to what meeting, who leads meetings).

Culture sometimes feels ‘squishy’ because its standards are generally not written down, but it is a powerful, unseen, all encompassing force that largely determines attitudes, behavior, and employee engagement.

Exercise: List the elements of your culture. Which of these make it easy for you to respond quickly to internal and external challenges, and which slow you down?

Default Processes

Most all of us become comfortable with things that have worked in the past. This goes for individuals and for organizations. And it goes for groups in organizations. As Heifetz, Linsky, and Grashow say “When people in an organization find that a certain response to a particular kind of situation worked well previously, they will likely repeat that response whenever they encounter an apparently similar situation”.

Over time, this gets worked into the fabric of the way our organizations work. What’s worked generates predictable ways of looking at things, which generates predictable actions. Default interpretations become default instincts become default responses become default processes.

But there are problems with defaults. What works in one time and place – even repeatedly – may not work in others. A default can blind us to new ways of seeing, responding, and deciding.

Exercise: Choose a default process your organization practices. Dig a little deeper. What point of view about the world does this process represent? What behavior does this point of view result in every time? Are there times when this behavior has NOT been effective? Contrast that instance with the times it was effective.

It will take some time, thought, and courage but working through these exercises in three steps will present a good diagnosis on how prepared your organization is for change and where you might need some coaching and encouragement to get to the next level!