TAG Consulting

The Workplace Of Your Dreams…Or Your Nightmares?

July 31, 2016


We use “Red Zone/Blue Zone” as convenient shorthand for how we all respond to the inevitable conflicts that will come our way. This plays out in our personal life to be sure – but it is also writ large in our professional lives. Whole organizations can end up living in either the Blue or the Red Zone.

How do you know which is which? Here is our quick set of comparison characteristics to contrast life in the Zones.

In the Red Zone:

  • We focus on feelings more than on results.
  • There are no common standards and no way of  monitoring performance and behavior.
  • People in the organization assume ‘family’ roles – mom, dad, arrogant older brother, spoiled little sister, patriarch, etc.

In the Blue Zone:

  • There is a focus on efficiency and effectiveness.
  • The structures of the organization are closely monitored and respected.
  • Business issues are the top priority.

What about your organization? Does the Red Zone or Blue Zone more closely describe the way people interact there?
If you want to move more into the Blue Zone, keep reading this blog!

A Leader’s Personal Inventory

July 31, 2016

Every smart business takes inventory, to determine what it has enough of and what it lacks – where it is flourishing and where it has deficiencies that must be addressed.

The same thing is true for leaders as individuals, especially those who want to be part of crafting great organizational cultures. Over our decades of work with organizations we have identified at least six key inventory items you as a leader will want to make sure are always in stock – each item represented by a probing question. Consider your current stock levels and the health of your inventory!

  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. Does the way we treat customers, clients, and vendors comport with what we say we believe as an organization?

You’ve Got Talent – And It Can Help Beat Unhealthy Conflict

July 25, 2016

PictureLiving in the Blue Zone and heading off unhealthy conflict is dependent upon and begins with self-knowledge.

If you have a group of people who know who they are, are comfortable with that, and are using who they are to accomplish significant things in ways that give them life then conflict of the unhealthy variety is much less likely.

One essential component of self-understanding is your Prevailing Talent.

Our colleagues Ken Tucker, Shane Roberson, and Todd Hahn have defined Prevailing Talent as “our spontaneous, reliable and measured pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving”. Your Prevailing Talent is what you do well without even thinking about it.

One of the greatest jazz saxophonists of all time was Art Pepper. Pepper lived a difficult life with bouts of drug abuse and prison time. Fortunately, in the last few years of his life he got himself together and enjoyed his greatest success and triumphant tours. Even in his darkest days the one thing that never failed him was his talent.

Pepper was in the worst depths of his drug abuse when  he received a unique challenge – and an opportunity. He had been asleep, sickened by his addiction, when he was awakened by his producer. He had come to take Pepper to a gig with the band of the legendary Miles Davis.

The only problem was that Pepper had overslept and had no time to get his drug fix before the session – and he was largely incapacitated without his drug crutch.

He was going to have to play his saxophone in his sickest, drug-neediest mode: half-conscious, physically ill, hardly able to stand up straight. You would think a disaster would ensue, right?


The sessions that day became Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section – one of the most highly regarded jazz albums of all time.

Imagine if you had to go to work or take care of a child while desperately ill. How could you not only function, but excel – have a legendary day?

You could do so only if your Prevailing Talent was set free to shine – if you knew your Talent and were committed to expressing it. And if the climate you worked in allowed your Talent to flourish.

Your Prevailing Talent oozes out of you, regardless of how you feel. It is so deeply ingrained in you that no obstacles or limitations – even self-imposed ones –  can stop it from being expressed. As a matter of fact, your Talent is more than expressed – it PREVAILS!

Do you have a sense of your Prevailing Talent?

Our firm has special workshops designed to help you and your team identify your talents and learn how to work together to unleash the best in each other and avoid unnecessary conflict. You can learn more about those opportunities  here.

To read more about Prevailing Talent, you can order Your Intentional Difference: One Word Changes Everything here.

Image cred: jazzwax.com

The S.E.C.R.E.T. Of Great Communication

July 25, 2016

PictureOrganizations with healthy and winning cultures have great communication and great communication is always rooted in great conversations. More specifically, team cohesion and increased productivity are directly connected to the frequency of conversations happening within a team.

Our colleague Ken Tucker has conducted extensive research on what makes conversations work and details them in his book  Intentional Conversations: How To Rethink Everyday  Conversation  And Transform Your Career.

He uses the acronym S.E.C.R.E.T. to describe the intentional conversations that are career-transforming. Such a conversation requires six actions to be taken by those who are in dialogue. S.E.C.R.E.T works because it resets the social reality that occurs between people and within teams. Here’s a brief summary of this powerful frame for conversations – for more details be sure to pick up Ken’s book:

SUSPEND STATUS – communicate in a way that values and esteems the other person as equal to or higher than yourself.

EMPOWER EACH PERSON – serve the other person during conversation in a way that validates you have his or her interests and well-being in mind.

CULTIVATE CONNECTION – create an environment of mutual giving and receiving in order to forge a deeper relationship.

REFRAME REACTION – manage our responses during the conversation in a way that ensures that the conversation moves forward.

ENFORCE ENGAGEMENT – insist that your ideas, thoughts, and information are received and acted upon.

TRIAGE TAKEAWAYS – prune and select what really matters from the clutter of ideas, thoughts, and pieces of information that make up the deluge of everyday conversations.

Countless conversations happen every day in every organization – over email, phone, in hallways and cubicles, around the proverbial water cooler. Make sure that yours are intentional and that they are furthering the cause of building and crafting a healthy and winning organization!

The 8 Things Great Team Leaders Do

July 24, 2016

team people

Being a team leader is a lot of work, right?

Well, yes. But not in the way we often imagine.

The real work of a team leader is making sure that he or she sets the team up to actually do the work.

This requires both strength of purpose and a willingness to hold one’s ego in check. The leader has to bear the anxiety of the team while managing his own anxiety. She has to provide all of the resources the team needs to do its job. And the leader has to make sure that all of the stakeholders involved are having the right conversations especially when those conversations involve competing values and priorities.

And all the while the leader is leveraging the talents and passions of the individual team members.

When we think about all the work a team leader must do, we define eight priority tasks which every team leader must be accountable for:

  1. Build rapport and create a safe environment for everyone. Team members don’t have to be best friends but they must hold mutual respect and be able to communicate clearly and honestly.
  2. Define reality by distinguishing between tactical, strategic, and truly Transformational issues.
  3. Engage the real issues, not the peripheral ones.
  4. Reframe seemingly unsolvable problems into ones that can be solved.
  5. Manage personal baggage, fears, ego, and anxiety.
  6. Make sure that any conflict that arises is about competing values alone, and not about personalities, side issues, or warring egos.
  7. Initiate change at a rate that can be tolerated.
  8. Mobilize the team to do the work themselves by providing the needed resources and asking the right questions.

If this list sounds challenging, it’s because it is!

But it’s not impossible. And it is thrilling when it all comes together.

At TAG we are committed to teams and leaders of teams. From leadership coaching to help you navigate tough decisions and conflicts, to workshops which will reveal and highlight the talents of your team members and how they come together, to cutting edge facilitation and learning for all levels of teams in your organization, we are here to help your organization move from good to great.

Find out more here – and lead with passion and purpose!

3 Traits For Navigating Transitions

July 18, 2016


Transition and change is inevitable in every organization. Whether it is people going or coming, shifts in strategy, succession planning, mergers and acquisitions, or internal transformation due to a change in the external competitive environment transitions will occur as predictably as the rising and setting of the sun.

In the most healthy organizations, changes rarely surprise people because a premium has been placed on communication. People are encouraged to discuss their opinions and points of view on change, and those who leave are honored as they go, even if the reason for their leaving was difficult.

Transitions of all kinds are best navigated when leaders possess these three traits, and put them into practice:

  1. Credibility – leaders are even-handed and fair, and so make deposits of trust, which can be borrowed against when tough changes have to be instituted.
  2. Transparency – unless trade secrets which would compromise competitive advantage are at stake, leaders default to sharing details about the conditions that shape transition decisions, the rationale for unpopular decisions, and the long-term effects on all those in the organization.
  3. Honor – in the case of terminations and layoffs, unless an employee was dismissed for ethical or legal reasons every effort is made to honor those leaving, thanking them for their contributions and pointing out their positive characteristics. This is the right thing to do for the one leaving, and it engenders trust and loyalty among those staying!

Organizations are both tested and reveal themselves in times of dislocation. The best way to insure healthy change initiatives is to put in place these characteristics of trust in the few “placid” times that occur in between transitions.

4 Things You Must Know About Resistance

July 18, 2016


Last post, we argued that even when it feels like your worst enemy, resistance (and even open conflict) can actually be your best friend because it opens up new options for leadership and offers a pathway to new levels of self-awareness.

Continuing with that theme, here are four essential, never-to-be-forgotten truths about resistance that – if you keep them top of mind – can save you heartache, worry, and ruptured relationships:

1. Resistance is always a part of change. You can’t avoid it, short-circuit it, or find a way around it. So use your precious energy moving through it in a healthy way.

2. Progress without resistance is impossible. Nothing worth achieving has even been achieved without a struggle of some kind. Successful leadership or deepened relationships are no exceptions.

3. We resist change when we fear we will be harmed or we will lose something. Our bodies even reflect this – when we start losing weight, our body slows our metabolism, fearing we will starve. When people resist change it is if often from fear. If you can accept this, you can empathize with them and help them along.

4. Resistance alerts us to what is really going on at the moment, often underneath the surface. Conflict has a way of crystallizing reality. If you as a leader can see that for what it is, leaving personal defensiveness and anxiety behind, you will have a priceless tool at your disposal to help you lead with more confidence, wisdom, and focus.

What  would you add to this list?

10 Commandments For Building A Great Organizational Culture

July 18, 2016

PictureWe are not reductionistic in our thinking, but we do want to be practical. We have decades of work invested in helping leaders and organizations change and shape culture. We have worked with well-intentioned leaders who pushed through change initiatives but never saw a cultural change. We have worked with talented leaders who could never quite grasp all that goes into leading a cultural transformation.

What both groups lacked was that they never learned to lovingly and expertly cook the secret sauce.

With that in mind, we offer Ten Commandments for  Creating Culture. Think of these as the indispensable ingredients in the Secret Sauce.

1. Create safe places for people to express opinions and pushback.
2. Direct intentional conversations where people can speak their minds and hearts.
3. Manage anxiety levels, acknowledging and providing outlets for the inevitable sense of loss which accompanies change.
4. Use the water cooler to encourage fruitful, informal conversations which are unscripted and so authentic.
5. Reward risk taking, so people can know they can fail and still have a place on the team if that failure was for a good cause.
6. Resist consensus building remembering that leaders get input to make more informed decisions, not to go with the prevailing wind.
7. Let ideas percolate, remembering that time is on your side and people will only accept change at a rate they can tolerate.
8. Raise the temperature by allowing worthy and healthy conflict to come to the surface not be squelched.
9. Give grief room as people mourn the losses – often very personal – that often come with change.
10. Create the quest – if people believe they are needed in a journey which will result in a great new future, a journey that will require the best of them, you can call out their better selves and insure maximum discretional effort. Remember that the Secret Sauce is found in the process itself!

How many of these ‘commandments’ are being practiced in your change initiatives?
To read more detail about each, check out our book, which offers a roadmap to cultural transformation – you can find it  here.