TAG Consulting

Conflict – What’s Your Attitude?

February 26, 2016

If we have the wrong attitude toward conflict, it will be impossible to face the emerging conflicts within our lives and deal with them effectively.

We realize that the word “conflict” is loaded emotionally. Many of us associate the word with destructive images of people shouting at each other, of countries bombing one another, of gangs shooting one another.

Certainly, these are conflicted situations! But conflict at its core involves things that are not necessarily bad, and may even be productive:
-Differing ideas and opinions
-Evaluations and judgments that take different paths.

People are different. Each person walking the earth has a different slant on things, different ways of seeing what is unfolding, different strategies for dealing with all the situations life throws at us.

Issues regarding conflict are confusing. Is conflict good or bad? How do I manage it?

Let’s put this key point on the table:
Conflict is necessary and beneficial – at least, conflict that is focused properly (in the Blue Zone) is necessary and beneficial.

It’s only when conflict strays away from issues and accesses personal stories (in the Red Zone) that it becomes unmanageable and destructive.

How about you? What is your default toward conflict? Do you see it as negative, hurtful, frightening, counterproductive – and so run away from it?
Or do you see it as necessary and potentially beneficial, a source of growth and self-knowledge?

Leaders Drink Lots of Water

February 26, 2016

PictureOne of our “Ten Commandments” for crafting a great culture is “Use The Water Cooler”.

It’s hard to describe the impact of obeying this command. Leaders who are managing change are, by definition, busy men and women. The good ones know that they must listen to their people so that they can understand, filter accurate information from people saying “what the boss wants to hear” and communicate personal care and concern for the team.

There are lots of things you can do to create virtual water coolers, whether or not your office has a burbling blue machine with a tap.
-An “I read every email” policy from senior leaders.
-Town hall meetings.
-Focus groups where the boss reads the transcripts.
-Open door policies within set office hours.

Now, these are good  but none pack the punch of tons of informal, off the clock,  in the moment unplanned conversations. Some of the very best leaders we have worked with schedule unscheduled time.

Yep, you read that right. They build into their calendars time for NO formal meetings, phone calls, or strategic planning. They simply get out of the office and into the “field” and talk to people.

Unscripted conversations, heartfelt ‘thank yous’ , and the simple visibility of the leader all go a long way towards creating engagement, high morale, and loyalty – all key ingredients for culture change!

How To Increase Your Energy Level

February 23, 2016

PictureIf you are tired, depleted, exhausted, burned out or just generally bummed there could be a variety of reasons.

Here’s one that gets overlooked often:

You are not spending enough of  your time using your top talents.

When you are functioning using your talents to their fullest you are engaged, energized, alert, passionate, and productive.

We’ve developed a great exercise to help you understand your talent and how great it is to spend time using that talent.  Shockingly enough, we call it the Energy Exercise.

(OK, OK,  no points for creativity, but at least it’s clear!)

First, think about the last time you went home energized at the end of the day. Ask yourself two questions:
1. What did I do that day?
2. What particular and individual talents did I tap into  that day?

Now, ask the opposite question. When was the last time you finished a day tired, drained, maybe even a little depressed? Ask yourself three questions:
1. What did I do that day?
2. What particular and individual talents did I tap into that day?
3. What particular and individual talents did I NOT tap into that day?

Look at your answers and make some strategic decisions about where you spend your time and energy.
Make the right calls and watch your energy skyrocket!

Who’s Responsible Here?

February 23, 2016

circle of hands

One of the signs of a healthy organization is that responsibility – for decisions and results alike –  is widely shared and not hoarded by a select few.

But the catch is that many leaders like to think of themselves as responsibility-sharing leaders when in fact their actual behavior is designed to protect their own turf out of either insecurity or fear that they and only they can get the required results.

Here are three tell-tale signs we look for in determining whether or not an organization is committed in fact to sharing responsibility:

  1. The reward and incentive system in the organization is at least in part tied to the performance of the organization as a whole and not just individuals. While individual performance is important and must be recognized, healthy organizations avoid becoming a confederation of solo superstars by linking individual rewards to overall achievement.
  2. Team members are generous with their own resources to help others. This includes time, people, money, and physical resources. The organization thrives with a mentality of plenty, not the fear of scarcity.
  3. Information flows across boundaries.  New ideas, learnings, best practices, and data are not piled high in silos but rather disseminated across functions, org charts, and even geographical locations. “Need to know” is assumed to be as broad and inclusive as possible.

Where is your organization doing with these metrics of shared responsibility? Where can you raise your game right away? Who can you get on board in that shared enterprise?

Resistance Is Your Ally

February 15, 2016

If there’s one sentence that sums up the message of Red Zone/Blue Zone it’s this one:
Resistance is your ally.

Doesn’t sound quite right, does it?

So, let’s get under the hood…

Call it what you will – resistance, pushback, challenge, opposition – it’s basically an opposing force that slows or stops movement. Anyone in leadership will come to expect resistance, sooner or later.

It’s important to NOT be surprised when resistance happens. As a matter of fact, it is an element in the process that should be welcomed – IF you learn the skill of handling it correctly.

All of us resist at times. It’s a way of protecting ourselves from real or perceived danger, most notably when change is unfolding. In and of itself, resistance is not a bad thing. It’s merely energy and if we can redirect that energy in a positive way we can move it in the direction of change.

The first signal that resistance sends to my mind is “I don’t like this change”. The second signal is “OK, I can tolerate some change but you are going too fast here!”.

As with all signals, it’s important to pay attention to their cause. When a shrill smoke detector awakens me from a dead sleep I can cry out “Stupid smoke detector!” and rip it off of the wall. Or I  can try to figure out what the signal means. If there’s a fire, I surely want to know about it so that I can act accordingly.

Resistance tends to signal issues that are lurking underneath the surface and are tapping into our most deeply-held values. That’s one of the great benefits of resistance. We’ll say more about how to recognize and deal with these issues later this week.

For now, it’s enough to dwell on the possibility that resistance may not be your enemy, but in fact your friend!

Where You WON’T Find The Secret Sauce

February 15, 2016

When you write a book with a title like The Secret Sauce, it sort of begs the question.

As a matter of fact, we are asked all the time (usually) tongue in cheek – “OK, save me some time; what IS the Secret Sauce?” In a lot of ways our book is about organizational culture and so people assume that there is an element – a secret ingredient, if you will – that constitutes the Secret Sauce.

But, there’s not.

We’ve made a remarkable discovery – the Secret Sauce for a winning organizational culture is not found in the culture itself. It is found in the quest that results in that culture.

The context of a winning culture may be built around a great product or service. But that product or service is not the Secret Sauce that sets great cultures apart from good ones.

As we work with clients – whether in leadership development, executive coaching, change leadership, or strategic planning – we emphasize that the quest, the process, is more important than the end product.

The quest that leads to a great culture is shared by a team which is willing to undergo risk and sacri ce in pursuit of a shared mission. They are acutely aware of their talents as individuals and as a team and they – daily – leverage and support those talents in themselves and in each other.

This is counterintuitive, particularly in North America. But we have found it to be true in all three sectors of the American workforce and we have customized our consulting and coaching services so that organizations of all types can embark on this quest for themselves.

We can’t emphasize this enough – The quest is more important than the product.

The first step for discovering your own Secret Sauce and building a great and winning and healthy culture is simply being willing to engage in a Quest, often without a road map!

Are you up for the adventure?

The 1 Most Important Quality of a Winning Organization

February 15, 2016

Our online employee survey, The Engagement Dashboard (TED) has collected data from hundreds of companies and thousands of employees to reveal what it takes to unlock a healthy organizational culture, with productivity, engaged employees, and the hidden talents and capabilities of its people.

TED reveals a host of dimensions that go into making a great organization, but one stands out as the only dimension in the entire survey that requires only one sentence to sum it up – Dependability.

guy with chains

Here’s the sentence:

Management can be counted upon to come through when needed.

It is nearly impossible to overstate the importance of this metric.

People will put up with almost any “what” if they get the “why”  – the knowledge that we are engaged in something great and life-altering and useful and good and we can count on our leaders.

The single question – ‘Can I count on my leaders?’ – was the only other question to correlate to every other question in TED. Dependability is nearly everything.

Dependability is all about the leader. The leader must provide the support needed and then get out of the way. The leader matter less than the cause.

Can you as a leader be counted upon to come through for people no matter what? Will you get your hands dirty, will you walk out the talk of your shared values, will you incarnate the organizational code, will you risk losing yourself to disrupt the status quo?

Can YOU be depended upon to come through when needed? And, if you are just beginning your career of leadership, are you putting into place the conditions and habits which will develop the kind of character where you will be depended upon at the end of the day?

Are you dependable? And is your organization?

To find out more about TED, click here.

Leading Your Team Through Conflict

February 11, 2016

Our work is designed to take you on a personal voyage of discovery about who you are in conflict, how you  engage in conflict, and how you can grow so that you thrive through, not just survive conflict.

But even with this individual focus we are always thinking about ways that teams can learn how to “do” conflict better.

Here are four questions/activities we have found helpful for teams who are determined to engage in conflict in new and healthy ways. If you are a team leader, consider setting aside some time to have your team engage with these questions:

1. Ask each individual on the team to consider: “How do I typically handle conflict?” by giving a one sentence descriptive answer, i.e. “I typically back down” or “I usually go on the attack”. Once each team member has owned their own default mode, ask a corporate question: “How do WE as a team typically navigate conflict together?”.

2. Ask the team to commit to this statement: “As a team we are willing to consider a new way of handling conflict”. Once everyone has agreed (or not agreed) talk about how the team can be helpful to each other in this regard.

3. Discuss if and how the roles and expectations of team members clearly support the unfolding mission of the organization in a concerted way.

4. Have a candid discussion around this question: “Are performance evaluations and incentive structures in our team clearly tied to expectations in concrete behavioral ways?”

Don’t expect to be able to get through these questions in a single one hour meeting. Rather, think about making them the focus of an ongoing series of meetings. Over time – a shorter amount of time than you might expect – you will find that your team is embracing and living into a new way of navigating and thriving through conflict.