TAG Consulting

3 Things You Must Do To Attract Top Talent


June 29, 2016

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Truly talented people will not be drawn to  poorly managed organizations. And no organization can be successful without talent.

The late, great Peter Drucker was famous for saying “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things”.

What’s interesting about this quote is that it is generally used to denigrate management and to point out the superiority of leadership, as if one can exist without the other. However, in the absence of skilled management the strongest leadership will remain theoretical in nature.

Management is more than important – it is vital. We have to do things right.

People are hungry to be managed well – even if they are already high performers. We’ve found three crucial elements to skilled management as it relates to attracting and retaining talent.

1. Just the right amount of supervision. Managers who groom top talent know when to supervise and when to position themselves to offer help. The best managers are more like coaches than taskmasters, ensuring that their team members have all of the resources and support they need to do their jobs and that they understand the mission and objectives of the organization. After that, the best managers position themselves to make midstream adjustments and get on the balcony, taking a bird’s eye view of all of their team’s activities.

2. Timely and relevant feedback. In our research one word came up again and again as productive team members described their managers – “helpful”. There’s a lot in that word. When someone is helpful they provide the assistance, resources, and counsel we need. We know they are available if and when we need them. But they don’t hover or try to solve problems we should be solving. We know they will provide us with everything we need to do our work and the freedom to exercise our talents in so doing.  And they give us feedback along the way that is in the moment, relevant to the day to day, and illustrates how our work contributes to the overall mission of the organization.

3. Rewards commensurate with performance. The best performers can get rewarded anywhere. But they can’t get rewarded anywhere in ways that are relevant to them. This last bit is critical. It is a minimum expectation that good performance will result in appropriate rewards but what can steal the show and lead to higher and higher levels of employee engagement is when those rewards are tailored to the individual. Maybe it’s cash on the barrelhead. Or maybe it is expanded learning opportunities, flexible work schedules or time off, or a personalized career track with rapid advancement. Whatever it is, the wise manager knows her people and rewards accordingly and individually.

Manage with these three characteristics at the forefront and you will find that your team and your organization will begin to attract and retain the very top talent in your industry!

How Our Stories Shape Us


June 28, 2016

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Key to understanding how to navigate conflict and stay in the Blue Zone is understanding how our personal stories shape us in profound ways. We live our lives according to certain scripts, many of them crafted in our childhoods. If we know and own those stories, we can live in the Blue Zone. If they remain unexamined, life in the Red Zone is nearly inevitable. This is an excerpt from our book in which one of the main characters must grapple with the story of his life.

“‘Bob, here’s the deal. All of us are telling a story with our lives. It may be a good story, a bad story, or a mediocre story. But every life is a story. And every story has a script. Most of us were given our scripts at a fairly young age, and we spend our lives either living them out or writing our own unique script.’

‘So we are living out this story, and then the story starts to contain expectations- in your case, expectations that you would take over your dad’s company and enjoy smashing success. But the problem is that those expectations collided with your script’.

Bob held up his hand. ‘Script? Story? Look, David, I appreciate your trying to help but personally I don’t speak the language of Hollywood. I live in a world of balance sheets. P&Ls, and  hard-nosed decisions with very little margin for error.  You’re going to have to help me relate here’.

Undeterred, David pressed on. ‘Your personal script says that you don’t measure up. That you might not have what it takes.  That you might do ‘fine’ but you will never be as successful as Michael. And that script – which you hate , but which you are living into – collided with the expectation that you are  supposed to take the company from strength to strength. I can only imagine the pain and anxiety this has created within you, Bob.’

‘There is a part of you that believes the script that says you don’t have what it takes. It says that is people knew you, they would know you are a fraud who is only in the position he’s in because he is his father’s son. This message about incompetence is a message that far too many people get in our culture, and we internalize it at a young age. I believe you have done that.’

Bob felt dizzy. Everything in him wanted to swat away what David was saying, but he remained silent.

‘Bob, I want you to consider the possibility that Michael represents that core message for you: that you are not a adequate, that you don’t have what it takes, that you are a fraud. You have excellent prowess as an interpreter of balance sheets and profit and loss statements but all of that pales in comparison to what you really believe deep down: that you are a fraud…’

‘Right now, you are transferring your fears and anxieties to Michael because that’s safer than facing them in yourself. your new strategy must be acknowledging these things in yourself and holding them up to the light where they can be seen for what they are'”.

What about you?
What does the script of your life say about you as a person – better, what is it TRYING to say?
Do you see ways in which the script of your life affects your actions in the present, especially in relational or professional conflict?

To read more of  Bob’s story, get the book here!

Management Mistakes You Don’t Have To Make (Part 2)


June 27, 2016

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Last time, we began taking a look at a number of common management mistakes that only seem obvious when we’re looking back. Because we are strengths-based in our thinking, we spend more time focusing on what’s going right in an organization – or with a leader – than what is going wrong. But these mistakes can be career-killers if you make them often enough. The good news is that you don’t have to make them at all! We continue our series today…

(To read part 1, click here).

Playing favorites. The best way to create sibling rivalry is to treat one sibling in a special way. This immediately generates rivalry and resentment in the family. And when an atmosphere of rivalry has been created, all manner of mischief will unfold (e.g. sabotage, blame-shifting). It’s the same thing in organizations.

Peers do not normally celebrate the fact that a coworker has been acknowledged and accorded special favors (e.g. access to the boss, special assignments, etc.). But for a variety of reasons, not everyone on a team can be treated the same.

As an example, resources are often distributed unevenly. The issue becomes apparent when special favors are granted to certain team members over others. More often than not this has to do with access to the manager – I can ‘grab the manager’s ear’ more than you can!

If there is a need for certain team members to have greater access, resources, etc. over other team members, this needs to be acknowledged up front, in the presence of the entire team, so that the rationale can be spelled out. Generally speaking, the only good reason is when such an arrangement is critical to the accomplishment of the organizational mission in some way.

Not minding the political landscape. Every organization of three or more people is a political organization. This is inescapable.

Organizational politics are informal, unofficial, and sometimes behind-the-scenes efforts to sell ideas, influence an organization, increase power, or achieve other targeted objectives. Work in organizations requires skill in handling conflicting agendas and shifting power bases. Effective politics isn’t about winning at all costs but about maintaining relationships while achieving results.

Organizational politics are not inherently bad. Instead, it’s important to be aware of the potentially destructive aspects of organizational politics in order to minimize their negative effect. Of course, individuals within organizations can waste time engaging in political behavior.  HR Magazine found that managers waste 20% of their time managing politics. However, as John Kotter wrote,: “Without political awareness and skill, we face the inevitable prospect of becoming immersed in bureaucratic infighting, parochial politics and destructive power struggles, which greatly retard organizational initiative, innovation, morale, and performance.”

Power issues often arise around scarce resources. Organizations typically have limited resources that must be allocated in some way. Individuals and groups within the organization may disagree about how those resources should be allocated, so they may naturally seek to gain those resources for themselves or for their interest groups, which gives rise to organizational politics.

Simply put individuals will ally themselves with like-minded others in an attempt to win the scarce resources. They’ll engage in behavior typically seen in government organizations, such as bargaining, negotiating, alliance building, and resolving conflicting interests. Politics are a part of organizational life, because organizations are made up of different interests that must be aligned.

In fact, 93% of managers surveyed reported that workplace politics exist in their organization, and 70% felt that in order to be successful, a person has to engage in politics. In the negative light, saying that someone is “political” generally stirs up images of back-room dealing, manipulation, or hidden agendas for personal gain. A person engaging in these types of political behaviors is said to be engaging in self-serving behavior that is not sanctioned by the organization.

Examples of these self-serving behaviors include bypassing the chain of command to get approval for a special project, going through improper channels to obtain special favors, or lobbying high-level managers just before they make a promotion decision. These types of actions undermine fairness in the organization, because not everyone engages in politicking to meet their own objectives.

Those who follow proper procedures often feel jealous and resentful because they perceive unfair distributions of the organization’s resources, including rewards and recognition. Researchers have found that if employees think their organization is overly driven by politics, the employees are less committed to the organization, have lower job satisfaction, perform worse on the job, have higher levels of job anxiety, and have a higher incidence of depressed mood.

The negative side of organizational politics is more likely to flare up in times of organizational change or when there are difficult decisions to be made and a scarcity of resources that breeds competition among organizational groups. To minimize overly political behavior, company leaders can provide equal access to information, model collaborative behavior, and demonstrate that political maneuvering will not be rewarded or tolerated.

Furthermore, leaders should encourage managers throughout the organization to provide high levels of feedback to employees about their performance. High levels of feedback reduce the perception of organizational politics and improve employee morale and work performance. Remember that politics can be a healthy way to get things done within organizations.

Not doing the little things that build trust and a positive culture. Trust is built on numerous little behaviors performed – often unconsciously – in the course of relating to people. These ongoing behaviors establish a pattern of behavior, which demonstrates to everyone the priorities and commitments to which a person is dedicated. Because these ongoing behaviors are largely unconscious, the danger of acting in violation of our stated values is very high.

In other words, I may say that I am committed to the value of developing the professional competence of my direct reports, but in actual behavior, I rarely if ever demonstrate this by carefully discussing a report’s career trajectory and how I can assist in helping that report realize their goals and aspirations. This incongruence between stated values, and lived values and priorities is the principle cancer that eats away at trust.

Failing to discuss a report’s career goals may seem like a small thing, but this type of casual and forgetful behavior often points to a larger pattern that demonstrates that the things I say do not match the way I live.

Photo cred: Mathis Group

Management Mistakes You Don’t Have To Make (Part 1)


June 23, 2016

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At TAG, we wake up every day committed to helping leaders and organizations perform at a higher level, in ways that lead to productivity, employee and team engagement, and success as measured by a chosen mission.

Because we are strengths-based in our thinking, we spend more time focusing on what’s going right in an organization – or with a leader – than what is going wrong. But combine decades of experience and you’ll see some common mistakes managers make that can be organization- and career-killers unless they’re addressed. We’ll take a look at a number of those mistakes we have seen again and again – and that YOU don’t have to make!

Lacking self-awareness.  Like the general population, managers tend to have little self-awareness, all the while thinking that they know themselves perfectly well. But study after study continues to confirm the fact that our minds generally are very unreliable. And this is especially true when it comes to knowing ourselves and analyzing our own behavior.

A question we like to ask is “What is it like to be on the receiving end of you”? Many leaders have no clue as to their own ‘wiring’ and how their behavior is perceived by those around them. That’s why in our consulting practice, we take a great deal of time to assess people and organizations, to get a handle on how people are wired, and how they go about ‘doing life.’

Managing and leadership generally has many behavioral facets: how I deal with superiors, with peers, with subordinates. How I communicate both verbally and non-verbally. What activities energize. Which drain and deplete. One of the most interesting facets of leading is the decision-making process. Most managers will tell you that they make decisions logically and reasonably, my desires conform to the plan, and then I execute the plan. But studies indicate quite the opposite. Your desires decide what you want. Your logical brain crafts an explanation, and you execute.

Mistaking ‘care’ for affirmation. A manager has taken a new position in a new city in the non-profit organization in which she has worked successfully for some time. This is a significant promotion which carries with it a great deal of responsibility and a team of eight direct reports. After she has been in this new position for six months, one of her direct reports levels the charge on her that she “doesn’t care.”

Sue, our manager in question, is a brilliant woman who has always made significant demands on herself, always expecting the highest performance, and needing little if any outside encouragement or motivation. All of her motivation is internal. This profile has translated into superior performance, and has led to one promotion after another.

Now with the charge of ‘not caring,’ she is baffled, and wonders if she is doing the wrong thing by her team. When asked about some of the history of her new team, as best she understands it, she explains that they have been led by managers who were very empathetic, constantly asking reports about their current personal situations. Accountability was another matter. Yes, there were the usual number of high performers. But mediocrity and poor performance went unchallenged.

Now Sue has entered this organization with high standards and a very specific vision (endorsed by leadership) as to where she wants to take the organization, and the performance needed by everyone to achieve.

Sue needs to have her situation reframed, so that she can refocus on what is actually going on, and what she now needs to do. She has become semi-paralyzed with the ‘not caring’ charge. But is that charge valid? Does she in fact need to alter her behavior?

The reframe is the fact that this is the organizational system pushing back on her higher standards, and need for accountability. She definitely is not the empathetic person delving into the personal lives of her reports. She is the high-achieving manager with a definite program that requires particular performance goals. And now the system is reacting and pushing back on her, attempting to alter her behavior (as she is trying to alter the behavior of her people) and become more in line with what the system has experienced down through its existence.

Caring has to do with nurture. It is a valid characteristic, when used at the right time in the proper context. But it often competes with another value: challenge – the value that sets goals and expectations of performance to reach those goals. Proper parenting is a mixture of nurture and challenge. When one of these values is emphasized too strongly over the other, difficulties will begin to emerge for the children.

As a first step for Sue, clear performance standards and metrics need to be established for each position. This first element is unfortunately lacking time and again across the organizational spectrum. When there is unclear performance standards, expectations become fuzzy (what am I to do, at what intensity, over what period of time?).

As people are clear on what is expected of them, it becomes clear what represents superior, average, or subpar performance. As people perform in expected to above expected levels, the manager can then affirm them. These people will then feel appreciated for the work they are doing, and understand clearly how they are contributing to the successful completion of the mission.

Failing to hold people accountable. This builds on the point made above. First, people need clear expectations. Then they need periodic feedback (accountability) as to how they are measuring up to the expectations. What often happens is two fold: 1) no precise performance standards are ever laid down specifically tailored to each position, and 2) no periodic performance reviews are scheduled wherein employees are evaluated on the specifically tailored performance standards. Evaluations, when they are conducted, are general and subjective, and therefore of no practical use in helping employees understand how their performance fits into the overall mission of the organization. These evaluations are useless in assisting employees to understand how they are performing with a view toward making modifications for improvement.

Failing to provide due diligence in hiring. Turnover in the workforce is the largest bottom line killer across the organizational spectrum. Yet in spite of these grim figures, managers time and again make the same mistakes when it comes to hiring.

Research has shown that most decisions about new hires is made in the first twenty seconds of the interview. Because of this, most hiring is subjective. If the potential hire is attractive and likable, then she is hired. If not, she is not. Often only a cursory consideration of skills and ‘fit’ is performed.

IDMatch©  – developed by TAG  – first takes care to first establish clearly what the position involves and what specific behaviors will be expected. Then candidates are carefully screened as to ‘fit’ for the composite of the behaviors.

Inability to confront a dysfunctional situation, allowing it to grow into an organizational nightmare. The CFO of a large organization (let’s call him Mike) is conflict averse, as is one of his direct reports (Joe), the director of a budgeting office. Joe has a peer (Bill) who also reports to Mike.

Bill is very ambitious, and has found ways, due to reorganization and lack of clarity around specific office functions, to syphon off more and more responsibilities away from Joe’s organization, which have historically been Joe’s to perform. Mike has refused to address the situation, and draw clear boundaries as to who is responsible for what. Joe refuses to address the situation, not wanting to ‘rock the boat’ and cause unpleasantness within the organization. Bill is therefore given free rein to do pretty much what he pleases by way of appropriating more responsibilities into his organization.

When Joe’s direct reports complain that they don’t know who they now actually should report to, and who is actually setting policy for their work, Joe chides them and tells them to ‘play nice.’ Needless to say no one is happy, and morale plummets.

When managers are conflict avoidant, critical issues that need to be addressed are allowed to grow and then fester. This creates ‘elephants in the room,’ where everyone knows there’s a problem, but no one is willing to address the situation. From this, work arounds are created (“We do need to somehow get things done!”).

In other words, no one is talking and everyone is either in denial or furious at the high level of denial in others!

Do you recognize any of those mistakes in your own career? Stay tuned and we’ll survey a few more and then talk about how to avoid these mistakes you don’t have to make!

Image cred: aresprism.com

Good Fences Make Good Leaders


June 20, 2016

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

Simply put, we can’t live in the Blue Zone consistently without healthy boundaries.

Boundaries are essential components because they fulfill many functions:
-They define who we are – what we believe, think, feel, and do.
-They restrict access and intrusions.
-They protect priorities.

It’s important that our boundaries are neither too open (everyone and everything gets in) nor too rigid (no one ever gets in or has access to me).

We have to start with internal boundaries. Internal boundaries allow us to define ourselves – and absolutely critical component of leadership. When I am self-defined I have a good answer to the question “Who am I – other than an extension of you?”

Here are eight steps towards creating healthy internal boundaries:

  1. Learn to recognize your own internal responses.
  2. Become aware of when you are reacting (in whatever way) to an authority figure, a peer, a stress, or a given situation.
  3. Become aware when another person is reacting to something in you.
  4. Recognize situations where you repeat the same behavior and produce the same result.
  5. Recognize situations that create fear for you and acknowledge that fear to others.
  6. When conflict arises talk it over with someone you trust. Avoid focusing on the behavior of the person with whom you are in conflict.
  7. Become aware of the people who provoke emotional responses in you. Identify the characteristics that provoke that response.
  8. Recognize that if you are unable to resolve an issue with another person after talking with them about it then there is a deeper issue at play. Bring in a disinterested third party for conversation or help.

This is a pretty challenging, in-depth list. But to invest in creating healthy boundaries is a wise use of your time, which will pay off in your own contentment, lessened anxiety, and effectiveness in relationships – both personal and professional.

Your Greatest Purpose In Life


June 20, 2016

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In our work  – much of it with TAG Consulting – we focus on all three sectors of work in American life – the Public, the Private, and the Social. It is vitally important to have engaged and passionate employees in each sector.

For instance we work extensively with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), whose aim is the keep the flying public safe. We work with private companies whose objective is to maximize shareholder investment by sharing profits while serving the common good. And we work with not-for-profits in the Social sector that are committed to improving the lives of all in their communities – such as the church that seeks to  be “the place where kids drag their parents to on Sunday”.

The measure of success in each sector may look and feel different. However, every organization in each sector must have engaged employees if it is to live up to its aspirations.

Here’s a quick side note for those of you who are not working in corporate America. While we use the term “engaged employees”, the concept applies to volunteers as well. In our discussion of the Secret Sauce, “employees”, “volunteers”, and “people” are interchangeable terms.

Each of us desires to contribute, to belong, and to make a difference.

In fact, we could argue that our greatest purpose in life is to be part of a creative community. This is at the core of what it means to be human.

Such creative communities exist in each of the three sectors. Not all workplaces, to be sure, are such communities. Some are destructive and toxic – to employees, customers, and vendors.

But the workplace CAN be a place where we live as a creative community – a place where we belong, contribute, and make a difference.

Perhaps your highest calling in life is to be part of such a community.

Or, if you are a leader, perhaps your highest calling is to give your very best to do your part to create such a community. That’s our calling – to help leaders do this. There is no greater purpose in life.

What might this mean for you?
Would you like to know more about how we develop leaders and workplaces in all of the sectors to help people belong, contribute, and to make a difference? Click here.

Where Leaders Earn Their Pay


June 16, 2016

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Transformational leadership challenges are where leaders “earn their pay”.

Technical challenges simply require the right expertise or the right expert. Strategic challenges are more complex than tactical but they are found simply in a skillful reading of how changes external to the organization must be met and leveraged by drawing together the right people with the right skill sets.

Transformational leadership takes place when there is a significant and painful gap between what the organization aspires to and what it is experiencing. Transformational leadership is exercised at the level of deep and significant conflict – over values, loyalties, and beliefs. Often there are “winners” and “losers” in transformational change. At a minimum there is wrenching change and new expectations of all involved.

The results of transformational leadership are exhilarating – a new lease on life for an organization, an embrace of a new and more promising future, engaged and passionate employees or volunteers liberated to make greater contributions in accord with their talents, passions, and uniqueness.

But it’s tough to get there. Resistance marks every step. At times the transformational leader will feel that everyone is against her, that no one sees what she does.

At moments, she may be right.

So, if you are going to embark on the harrowing, rewarding journey of transformational leadership, it’s wise to make sure you have the knowledge to identify accurately the nature of transformational challenges.

You know you are facing a transformational issue when:

  • There is a persistent and obvious gap between what the organization wants to be and what it is.
  • You’ve tried everything you know how to do (including what has worked well in the past) and it’s getting you nowhere.
  • People across and at all levels of the organization are starting to experience a sense of disease and crisis.
  • There is a palpable sense of frustration, stress, and anxiety.
  • Conflict, frustration, and tension are on the rise.
  • The same cast of characters keeps failing to deliver results.
  • Short-term fixes reveal themselves to be band-aids and the problems they were designed to “fix” reappear, often getting worse.

Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? A little depressing and overwhelming, perhaps?

Well, be realistic but – ultimately – take heart!

Transforming leadership IS hard, make no mistake. It will require your selfless best, your most creative and risky effort. Perhaps most important, you will have to be willing to change yourself.

But, take heart to be sure. It’s worth the pain and energy and resistance. You can do this.

Transformational leadership will require people to accept and even embrace radical changes in their beliefs, priorities, values, habits and loyalties. But once this work is done, new options and new futures are open to all involved. You have it within you to be a transformational leader!

At TAG, we thrive on and specialize in helping leaders and organizations embrace transformational challenges, through Discovery, Facilitated Learning, and Coaching.

Our approach to consulting is a truly customized one. While we have proprietary methods and intellectual property to apply to any type of challenge or opportunity, we are committed to a process that always begins with thorough DISCOVERY.

Once information is captured, interpreted, and discussed we are able to develop a plan of action with you. Regardless of the plan, our method always involves the FACILITATION of outcomes. We believe each client has what they need to resolve their most difficult challenges and improve their overall leadership health. Our role is to shed light on the real issues and help focus that light so that you achieve your desired results. And we are skilled at coming alongside leaders as coaches and trusted advisers.

We’re here to help and serve. Find out more and connect with us here!

The 2 Most Important Things To Know About Conflict


June 16, 2016

Most people run from conflict.

Yet conflict has this nagging habit of continually showing up, even when we take every possible measure to prevent it!

We dread its coming and wish its quick passing, most of the time.

But we have a different slant on conflict. We believe that there are two things  we must know about the very nature of conflict, two truths that if held close and acted upon will enable us to thrive through, not just survive conflict.

1. You can’t escape conflict. The issues on which we can disagree are endless and inexhaustible. To have conflict is to be human.
2. Conflict isn’t really the problem. Conflict is not only NOT a bad thing; it is a good and necessary thing. The problem is how people relate to one another when they are in conflict.

If we can accept the inevitability  of conflict and learn to actually embrace it we are well on our way to actually transforming ourselves through the way we engage in the conflicts we will experience.