TAG Consulting

A Trust Inventory For Leaders


March 31, 2016

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Trust is the foundation of all relationships. It is critical to business relationships, contracts between entities, marriages, friendships, even agreements between nations. Without trust, it would be impossible to have any social functioning whatsoever.

Both our research and our experience bears out the fact that trust is the essential ingredient for effective leadership.

Here’s a six question trust inventory which you might use at any time to take stock of your own personal trustworthiness and the trustworthiness of your organization.

1. Would the people who work for me say I walk my 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 we offer 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?
6. Is the way we treat customers, clients, and vendors congruent with what we say we believe as an organization?

These questions can be both a barometer and an action plan. You can answer them directly or with your team – both are beneficial!

We ask these sorts of questions with our leadership and executive coaching clients all of the time; having a trusted advisor is essential to personal growth and success.

To find out more about TAG’s leadership coaching opportunities, click here.

A Simple Definition of Organizational Culture


March 31, 2016

PictureUsing our online employee engagement tool called The Engagement Dashboard (TED), we have collected data from thousands of American workers from all three sectors of the American workforce – public, private, and social.

After more than fifteen years of gathering data, we believe that we have discovered the ingredients for the sort of thriving culture that results in healthy and winning organizations.

Culture is the realization of our desire to belong, to contribute, and to make a difference.

In other words, 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).

Each of these elements are absolutely critical to the crafting of a healthy culture. Leave even one out and your culture will be lacking, significantly. Put all three together and you have the makings of a winning, healthy culture that will result in employee engagement and deliver when it comes to the bottom line.

To find out more about TED and how it can help you evaluate the health of your organization’s culture, clickhere.

Five Ways To Create A Risk-Taking Culture


March 29, 2016

Our work with clients as well as our research has taught us that organizations that have a high tolerance for risk have the healthiest cultures and are usually the most successful in terms of results.

What we have discovered is that it’s not enough just to tolerate risk. To use a baseball metaphor, great organizations actively seek out risks and instead of hoping for a single encourage their team members to swing for the fences!

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Now, this doesn’t mean that great organizations will roll the dice without a reasonable chance of being successful or without doing their due diligence. But it does mean that their appetite for risk is such that their less successful competitors tend to look at them and think “What are they thinking? That will never work!”

Here are five ways you can increase your tolerance for risk and encourage a culture of experimentation:

1. Start by taking a number of small risks rather than one big one. If you’re not sure that your culture (or your own stomach!) can take an enterprise-gambling risk, take a few smaller ones that will ‘hurt’ a bit if they don’t pay off but won’t threaten the organization’s viability. Over time, you will learn more about your core competencies, your own appetite for risk, and where an educated gamble might pay off for your organization.

2. Support the natural risk-takers on your team.
When you assign a risky project or experiment, make sure you clear some things off the plate of those responsible so that they can focus. When their plans appear to be faltering, support them verbally and supply any needed resources. Praise them in front of other team members and tell their stories.

3. Build risk-taking into your compensation and rewards system.
Nothing communicates a culture of experimentation more than honoring successful risks and even praising and rewarding worthy risks that may not have yet panned out.

4. Make sure that the risks you take are around issues you and your team care deeply about.
It’s one thing to take a flier. It’s quite another to take a risk that, if it pays off, will advance your organization’s mission or live out the values you hold together.

5. Make sure that you build in ways to glean lessons from your experiments.
Have the whole team debrief a risk-taking project, both midstream and at its conclusion. The goal of this public debrief is not to scapegoat or shift blame when a risk has not paid off. It’s to tell the story of the adventure of the experiment, honor those who put themselves on the line, and craft takeaways for what you can do better next time. It’s important for a healthy culture to be a learning organization – all the more important that you learn from your experiments so you can consolidate gains and avoid future pitfalls.

How about you? What have been your most fruitful risks? Where can you initiate some new experiments in your personal life or in your organization?

Why Healthy Boundaries Can Save Your Career


March 28, 2016

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In our book, we offer many tools to insure that you can not only survive but actually thrive through conflict.

No tool is more vital than establishing, maintaining, and protecting healthy internal boundaries.

Healthy boundaries identify and separate the self from others and consequently are the foundation of life in the Blue Zone. Boundaries are the fences, both physical and emotional, that mark off our world, creating zones of safety, authority, privacy, and territoriality.

Boundaries are essential components of our lives because they fulfill four functions:

1. They define who we are – what we believe, think, feel, and do – and where my story ends and yours begins.
2. They restrict access and intrusions.
3. They protect priorities.
4. They differentiate between personal (Red Zone) and professional (Blue Zone) issues.

Think about the opposite of those four functions:
-I am not clear on who I am, what I believe, what I think, what I feel, and why I do what I do.
-I don’t know my story.
-I don’t have any way to restrict access to myself or to establish my priorities.
-I have a hard time distinguishing between personal and professional issues, meaning I invite personal drama into the workplace.

All of those ways of living are career-killers (not to mention the havoc they will wreak on your personal life!).

The truth is that we have to fight to protect our boundaries, to maintain in good repair those fences in our lives that are strong enough to protect that which needs protecting but accessible enough to allow us to relate well to others. Today begins a short blog series on how to make sure you have the right boundaries for you and that you can protect them.

How A Reframe Transformed A Nursing Home (And Can Change Your Life)


March 28, 2016

PictureWhere in your life or in your organization could you use a new way of thinking about things – a “reframe”? Where do you need – maybe even crave – new possibilities and ways of thinking?

Dr. Bill Thomas provides us a great example of how to do this.  A brilliant Harvard Medical School graduate who could have had his pick of high-paying, high-profile jobs, Dr. Thomas prized the trait of self-reliance above all else.

He lived on a farm, grew most of his own vegetables, and used solar and wind power for electricity. While many of his colleagues from medical school were earning incredible amounts of money staffing prestigious hospitals, Thomas chose a simpler path. He took a staff position at Chase Memorial Nursing Home in upstate New York.

What he encountered at Chase was the opposite of self-sufficiency. He found despair, depression and hopelessness on the part of both residents and staff. His initial ‘frame’ on the situation was a medical one. That was the kind of framing in which he had been trained. So he had all of the residents examined thoroughly, prescriptions evaluated, and probed the background and training of his staff.

After all of this evaluation he discovered, to his shock, that he had the wrong frame after all. His Harvard education had given him an initial possible frame – clinical medical treatment. But as he dug deeper he realized that the problem was not medical, but emotional.

If the problem was not medical, the solution was not going to be treatment. The solution needed to be “life”. And there was very little life at Chase; all of the facility was sterile, plastic, clinical.

So, Dr. Thomas went about becoming a “nursing home abolitionist”. He got a grant and created life at lifeless Chase. He brought pets into the nursing home to provide companionship for residents. He replaced plastic potted plants with real flowers. Staff brought their children by after school.

He even went so far as to apply for and receive an exemption to bring 100 birds into the nursing home, offering birdsong as competition to the electronic beeps, muted television noise, and human moans more typical of nursing homes.

Chase became a place of life. And Dr. Bill Thomas became the founder of a movement and one of today’s most influential pioneers in the field of aging.

All because he replaced an outmoded frame (clinical) with an accurate one (emotional).

That’s the power of a Reframe – it can change the way you view your life, your work, your team. A Reframe can change everything.

In our practice we specialize in helping organizations and leaders Reframe their reality so that they can Refocus their efforts in the present to Reimagine their future.  We help organizations develop the sudden ability to see things clearly, and in a completely new way and, in so doing, spark change.

We’d love to help you! You can read more here, and reach out to us here.

(You can read more about Dr. Bill Thomas in Atul Gawande’s book  Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters Most In The End, published in 2014 by Metropolitan Books)

3 Ways To Welcome The Elephant In The Room


March 24, 2016

One of the most reliable signs of a healthy organization is that elephants in the room are welcomed, even invited to meetings.

You know what we mean – elephants in the room are those issues that are just “too sensitive” to be discussed, that threaten to cause pain or discomfort, that promise to surface the need for change which will be difficult to lead or absorb.

Here’s the thing about elephants, though. They are used to being able to go pretty much wherever they want to, without a lot of concern for your feelings or plans. They make a lot of mess and noise, crush the furniture, and ultimately demand the attention of everyone.

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You can only ignore the elephant in the room for so long. And if you do choose to ignore the elephant, your followers will call your credibility into question.

Welcoming elephants into private conversations is important but it is essential to craft a culture where the elephant is welcomed into public meetings. Part of the art of leading a meeting is knowing how to say hi to the elephant and making sure everyone acknowledges your elephant guest.

So, how do you do that?

Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky remind us helpfully that in any organization there are actually four meetings taking place at once:

-The actual meeting itself.
-The informal meeting before the meeting in the hallway or breakroom or cubicle or office.
-The conversation going on inside the head of each participant in the meeting while the actual meeting is going on.
-The informal meetings after the meeting at the coffee machine or hallway or over text or email.

The latter three meetings are where the unacknowledged elephant rears his head (or his trunk, as the case may be). As you lead the public meeting it’s important to balance the reality of the three other meetings in your mind.

Here’s how you prepare yourself to lead public meetings where the elephant is welcomed.

1. Remind yourself of the consequences of ignoring the elephant. Trust will leak. People will bite their tongues when you really need their input. You’ll miss the chance to respond to crucial external and internal challenges that can lead to crises.

2. Acknowledge the elephant by name. Simple, but important. Everyone already knows the elephant’s name – so eliminate the tension and anxiety in the room by saying the name out loud.

3. Routinely ask questions designed to surface the elephant. “Is there something we are missing here?” “Is there something we aren’t saying?” “Are there aspects of this issue that haven’t been brought to the surface yet?” “Is anyone here biting their tongue to keep from saying something that needs to be said?”. Questions such as these grant permission and freedom to name the elephant.

Elephants are big and scary and potentially destructive. But they respond unusually well to hospitality and acknowledgment. And your confidence in leading your team – and their trust in you – increases as you show you are courageous enough to acknowledge the elephant and encourage others to as well.

At TAG, we believe that the answers to your organization’s challenges are already in the meeting room! By helping you to reframe, refocus, and reimagine your organization’s opportunities and challenges we serve as trusted advisors who can help name and tame your elephants! Find out more here.

How To Keep Conflict From Destroying You, Part 3


March 23, 2016

In the last two posts, we’ve seen that  the Red Zone tends to elicit  one or or a combination of four personal themes in each of us:  survival,acceptancecontrol, or competence.

When we sink deeply in the Red Zone, the feelings aroused by those themes become more prominent than the ability to think clearly. As a result we  carry on the conflict, immersed in our own story and the feelings associated with it. This colors everything and determines our actions and reactions. As a result, we lose our ability to clearly understand the issues involved in the conflicts we face.

So, what to do?

We recommend getting a crisp, clean sheet of paper and drawing two lines vertically, making three columns.

In the first column, write what you believe to be your core Red Zone issue (survival, acceptance, control, or competence). If you believe you have more than one, list them all, but do your best to narrow it down to one if possible.

Example: My core issue is acceptance.

In the second column, list the thoughts and behaviors that flow from that issue – actual thoughts and behaviors you have experienced and exhibited. It’s a time for complete honesty!

Example: I’m always trying to be ‘the nice guy’ so that I’m loved and accepted.

In the third and final column, write down the results of these thoughts and behaviors.

Example: I can never hold people accountable, because I’m afraid they won’t like or accept me anymore.

This exercise will  provide tremendous clarity and help you begin to see the conflicts in which you find yourself in fresh and more accurate ways. If you feel really daring, try having your closest and most immediate team do the exercise together.

There’s no reason conflict has to destroy your relationships or poison your workplace. You can thrive through conflict!

6 Questions To Inventory Your Trustworthiness


March 23, 2016

3773550_origA huge emphasis of our work is that trustworthy leaders build the kinds of trustworthy organizations known for winning and healthy cultures. We’ve never seen a great organizational culture without great leadership.

It’s tough to lead an organization – your days are full of competing demands and intense time pressures. That makes it all the more important that you build in time to take stock – a personal inventory – of how you are doing as a trustworthy leader and how your organization as a whole is doing. Here are six questions you can include in your own trustworthiness inventory:

  • Would the people who work for me say I walk my talk?
  • Am I clear on my own personal values and do I live them out?
  • Are others clear on my personal values?
  • Do the products and services we offer the marketplace match up to what we say are our core values?
  • When we say things like “our biggest asset is our employees” do we actually BEHAVE as if that is true?
  • Does the way we treat customers, clients, and vendors comport with what we say we believe as an organization?

How many of these questions did you answer “Yes!” to?
If you had any “No” answers, what can you do to being immediately turning No into Yes?