TAG Consulting

Win By Asking The Best Questions


August 15, 2016

Picture

Question-asking is an increasingly lost art in an era of constant talk and ‘pushing content’.

But asking the right questions is of primary importance in thriving through conflict, because we can’t work through conflict well until we put ourselves in the shoes of the other.

Four elements make for a powerful question:
1. It comes from a place of genuine curiosity.
Great questions aren’t means to an end – to win an argument, elicit information for negotiation purposes, to create leverage. A great question comes from a place where the asker admits at least the potential of ignorance and is  open to the possibility of growth in understanding.

2. It is direct, simple, and usually open-ended.
If I ask a question programmed to get a response or maneuver the one answering into a one-down position, I’ve introduced noise and the potential of defensiveness into the equation. My question’s intent is  clear – I desire information and for the one I am asking to have the time, space, and freedom to answer truthfully, without fear of losing.

3. It generates creative thinking and surfaces underlying information.
A question opens a dialogue – it doesn’t win an argument. It shows that I am engaged, poised to grow and develop a relationship, not best a partner in a negotiating. It invites the one answering to be truthful, vulnerable, and trusting. When this happens, previously hidden truths emerge and point the way through the conflict.

4. It encourages self-reflection.
In a real sense, a good question gives me more information about me – it reveals what I value, what I hope for, my strategic choices, and my desired outcome. And it invites the answer to reflect as well. “Yes” or “No” or “You’re right” may have value, but they only scratch the surface of our stories, experiences, and values. Deeper questions deepen relationships and self-understanding.

What’s the best question you’ve been asked recently?
What’s the best question you’ve asked recently?

Take Your Team’s Temperature


August 15, 2016

PictureOne of the most important components of culture is Organizational Climate. This is rooted in our innate desire to belong to a creative community. We can learn a lot about an organization by walking through their work areas slowly, having casual conversations with people, paying attention to snippets of conversation during workshop breaks—in general, taking the temperature of the place.

In early 2014, Google made one of its biggest-ever acquisitions. It purchased a company called Nest, which makes a thermostat and a smoke alarm, for $3.2 billion.

Yep, Google—the worldwide leader in search and in organizing information—bought a thermostat and a smoke detector for just north of three billion.

Many observers scratched their heads. What would a technology firm want with a company that makes boring commodities that hang on a wall in your house and are only noticed when they beep or you become uncomfortable? No one has ever looked at a thermostat or a smoke alarm and said “Cool!”
At least not very many people.

But the acquisition made sense. Nest makes thermostats and smoke alarms that are connected to the Internet, and thus can be used to gather data about customers and potential customers. Google’s avowed mission is to “organize and simplify the world’s information” and certainly house fires, carbon monoxide levels, and how warm people like their living areas are part of that data set.

But there may be something more at play here. Google realizes that climate matters, that temperature makes a difference, that whether or not a room is warm or cool has a big bearing on the happiness and productivity of the people in that room! The climate in your home makes a difference. The same is true in your organization.

So, how is the temperature in your organization or on your team? It’s a great personal reflection question and also a great (and maybe even fun!) question for your team to wrestle with together.

Photo cred of Google Nest – amazon.com

Four Things To Which Leaders MUST Pay Attention


August 15, 2016

magnifying glass girl

If you are a leader – particularly one engaged in the work of driving change – you have to pay attention to a lot of things.

It can be hard to decide what to focus on the most.

Here are the four non-negotiable factors to which attention must be paid:

  1. Your customers or clients, who insure your company’s survival.
  2. The ever-changing regulatory environment, where laws can alter the competitive landscape in a single legislative session.
  3. Complementary businesses such as suppliers or vendors, upon which your organization relies for products, goods, and services.
  4. Competitors, who may anticipate the future first themselves or may be making strategic mistakes your company must avoid.

Here’s the reframe: each of these factors are not merely indicators on a dashboard but they are actually resources which can be leveraged for your vision to be realized.

The things you have to pay attention to are not merely early warning devices; a clear understanding of them is one of your best assets to competitive success and high performance.

Change Leadership From An Olympic Champion


August 8, 2016

David March SwimMac

This week the eyes of the world are on Rio, where athletes from around the world are competing in the Olympic Games. The U.S. women’s swim team is coached by David Marsh – who just might be the greatest coach of any sport ever.

No exaggeration.

Twelve national championships as men’s and women’s swimming coach at Auburn University. Eight time national coach of the year. Coach of more than fifty Olympians, and counting. Head Elite Coach and CEO of the US Olympic Committee Center of Excellence with SwimMAC Carolina.

We’re honored to know David Marsh personally and we got to interview him at length for our book The Secret Sauce: Creating A Winning Culture, by Kevin Graham Ford and James P. Osterhaus.

Katie Meili made the team for the Olympics in Rio in the breaststroke after being the longest of long shots. She gave Coach Marsh the lion’s share of the credit for her rapid rise. “He knew how to reach each of us in the way we needed to be reached”, she told Charlotte magazine.

When he took over at Auburn in 1990, he was only thirty years old and inherited a team that was, by any measure, terrible. The previous year, the team had scored no points (as in “zero”) at the Southeastern Conference championship meet. It’s tough to do that.

In the book, we tell the story of how Coach Marsh was able to turn Auburn into a perennial national championship contender and we hope you will read the story at length there – it’s inspiring and instructive!

At Auburn, Coach Marsh had to change a culture, entirely, from the bottom up. He accomplished this by living into a lifelong slogan – “A Culture of Excellence is a Culture of Struggle”.

Internal change is like that. It’s a struggle. External change is often forced upon us. Internal change is just as necessary, but we initiate it ourselves, often in the face of resistance. A winning culture-crafter has to be willing to lead the charge when it comes to internal disruption.

Coach Marsh highlighted for us a number of lessons he learned about leading internal disruption as you craft a winning culture.

Here are five:

1. Start with a simple change – but make sure it is a change related to values, behaviors, or attitudes. At Auburn, this was teaching his swimmers how to shake hands and look people in the eye and how to place a towel around their necks.

2. Make sure your rules have teeth. At one point, Marsh kicked all of his swimmers off of the team when they resisted some necessary changes. There was a path back, but Marsh insured that his important rules would be followed and honored.

3. Experiment and take smart risks. It goes without saying that firing his whole team was a tremendous personal risk for Coach Marsh. Leaders who are orchestrating internal disruption have to demonstrate that they are willing to place themselves on the line for the greater good.

4. Foster accountability, not bureaucracy. A few smart rules, yes, but not top down command and control management. Increase accountability and decrease bureaucracy. Accountability reinforces values while bureaucracy decreases independent judgment and ownership. You’re after a culture of high accountability and very low bureaucracy.

5. Find your own solutions. Don’t be quick to copy others. Too often, when leading internal disruption, leaders look for external solutions. But the real answers are organic, “in the room” as we like to say. Learn all you can from industry leaders but own the fact that change starts from the inside out. How about you?

Is it time for you to lead a cultural transformation through internal disruption? Are you confident in your ability to run the risks personally while leading others to risk themselves? Do your people sense a culture of accountability, free of all unnecessary bureaucracy?

To read more about Coach Marsh’s story and about our research into crafting winning and healthy organizational cultures, check out The Secret Sauce book here.

For a video introduction to The Secret Sauce, invest three minutes here.

And if your team is ready to take the transformation of your organization to a new level, take a look at how we can help you here!

 

Photo cred: queens.edu/Charlotte Magazine

Great Leaders Are Great Listeners


August 7, 2016

ear hearing

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force” wrote Brenda Ueland. And we are drawn to great listeners; those people who “really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and want to sit in their radius as though it did us good.”

And most of the leaders we have most respected and desired to emulate are great listeners. The irony is that the further we go up the leadership ‘food chain’ the harder it can be to find time to listen actively. And the reality is that is the very moment it is most important.

If we don’t, our normal need to feel important – “Let me help you” – gets transformed into grandiosity – “I have all the answers”. This is the very opposite of great leadership.

With that in mind, we offer this list of ten practices of great listeners. Consider how many you practice now – and which ones you want to add to your leadership repertoire.

  1. Face the person speaking to you.
  2. Maintain eye contact – to the degree that it is focused yet comfortable – not creepy.
  3. Minimize external distractions.
  4. Respond appropriately, to show that you understand what you are hearing.
  5. Focus solely on what the speaker is saying – not what you are going to say next.
  6. Minimize internal distractions. What happens next doesn’t matter in the moment.
  7. Keep an open mind.
  8. Avoid telling the speaker how you handled a similar situation, unless he or she asks.
  9. Wait until they finish to defend yourself, if they are critical of you.
  10. Ask questions for clarification – but don’t interrupt the speaker’s train of thought.

 

 

 

Conflict: Friend or Enemy?


August 7, 2016

Picture

There’s at least one thing that we all have in common – we have to face conflict! It’s inevitable – we are going to find conflict in our personal and professional lives. Conflict crops up between marriage partners, between employees and employers, between political partisans, and between nations.

If you are a leader, you deal with conflict. As a matter of fact, it’s not too much to say that much of leadership is about conflict.

Many of you who are reading this paper are in formal positions of leadership. You undoubtedly face conflict challenges daily in one form or another. Because we coach many leaders across the organizational spectrum, we know that a significant amount of a leader’s time is caught up in conflict.

But that’s not all bad. At least it doesn’t have to be all bad. The healthiest organizations are loaded with conflict.

So are the least healthy.

What matters is the nature of the conflict.

Most people run from conflict. And yet conflict has a habit of showing up continually, even though every possible measure is taken to prevent it.

Here’s what we believe – foundationally – about conflict:

➢    You can’t escape conflict.  The issues on which we can disagree are endless.
➢    Conflict isn’t really the problem. The problem is how people relate to one another when they are in conflict. Conflict is NOT a bad thing; in fact, it’s a good and necessary thing.
➢    Conflict offers a unique and priceless opportunity to grow in self-awareness and maturity as a leader and as a person.

Understood properly, healthy conflict is actually your friend – not your foe! Why? Because it allows for possibility of growth in self-understanding and for an  increased range of options for leaders to deal with challenging dilemmas.

An Olympic Champion Talks About The Secret Sauce


August 7, 2016

david-march-swimmac_orig
David Marsh may be the greatest coach of any sport ever.

No lie.

Marsh is the coach of the 2016 United States Olympic women’s swimming team but, as great an honor as that is, his resume in total is even more stunning.

Twelve national championships as men’s and women’s swimming coach at Auburn University.
Eight time national coach of the year.
Coach of 47 Olympians, and counting.
Head Elite Coach and CEO of the US Olympic Committee Center of Excellence with SwimMAC Carolina.

We’re honored to know David Marsh personally and we got to interview him at length for the book. When he took over at Auburn in 1990, he was only thirty years old and inherited a team that was,  by any measure, terrible. The previous year, the team had scored no points (as in “zero”) at the Southeastern Conference championship meet.

It’s tough to do that.

Katie Meili made the team for the Olympics in Rio in the breaststroke after being the longest of long shots. She gave Coach Marsh with lion’s share of the credit for her rapid rise. “He knew how to reach each of us in the way we needed to be reached”, she told Charlotte  magazine.

In the book, we tell the story of how Coach Marsh was able to turn Auburn into a perennial national championship contender and we hope you will read the story at length there – it’s inspiring and instructive! And this week we celebrate along with him and his team as they represent the United States before the eyes of the whole world!

At Auburn, Coach Marsh had to change a culture, entirely, from the bottom up. He accomplished this by living into a lifelong slogan – “A Culture of Excellence is a Culture of Struggle”.

Internal change is like that. It’s a struggle. External change is often forced upon us. Internal change is just as necessary,  but we initiate it ourselves, often in the face of resistance. A winning culture-crafter has to be willing to lead the charge when it comes to internal disruption. Coach Marsh highlighted for us a number of lessons he learned about leading internal disruption as you craft a winning culture. Here are five:

1. Start with a simple change – but make sure it is a change related to values, behaviors, or attitudes.
At Auburn, this was teaching his swimmers how to shake hands and look people in the eye and how to place a towel around their necks.

2. Make sure your rules have teeth.
At one point, Marsh kicked all of his swimmers off of the team when they resisted some necessary changes. There was a path back, but Marsh insured that his important rules would be followed and honored.

3. Experiment and take smart risks.
It goes without saying that firing his whole team was a tremendous personal risk for Coach Marsh. Leaders who are orchestrating internal disruption have to demonstrate that they are willing to place themselves on the line for the greater good.

4. Foster accountability, not bureaucracy
A few smart rules, yes, but not top down command and control management. Increase accountability and decrease bureaucracy. Accountability reinforces values while bureaucracy decreases independent judgment and ownership. You’re after a culture of high accountability and very low bureaucracy.

5. Find your own solutions.
Don’t be quick to copy others. Too often, when leading internal disruption, leaders look for external solutions. But the real answers are organic, “in the room” as we like to say. Learn all you can from industry leaders but own the fact that change starts from the inside out.

How about you?
Is it time for you to lead a culture transformation through internal disruption?
Are you confident in your ability to run the risks personally while leading others to risk themselves?
Do your people sense a culture of accountability, free of all unnecessary bureaucracy?

photo cred: queens.edu

Looking For Talent? Ask These Two Questions


August 3, 2016
Woman Playing the Violoncello

Woman Playing the Violoncello

In an organization with a healthy culture, the end result is that employees fulfill their desire to be engaged. When they reflect on their jobs they think things like this: “I matter around here. My strengths are being recognized and used around here. I am making a difference in and through my work”.

In our employee survey, The Engagement Dashboard (TED) those organizations with a healthy culture consistently saw that their employees answered ‘yes’ to questions such as “I get to use my talents and strengths every day at work”.

Some organizations do this as a matter of course, putting employees through widely available strengths-identifying instruments. We recommend such tools and use a few ourselves.

However, the very best organizations end up identifying and developing managers and leaders who themselves are talent scouts, whether or not they use the formal tools.

These leaders use two questions as indispensable tools to identify talent:

What does it take to win in our business?

How will we know a winner when we see him or her?

If you can identify these people – fueled by your leaders’ experience in the industry and the available tools – and then deploy and encourage them, you will have made an important first step toward engaging your people.

To find out more about TED and how it can help you spot the best talent for your team, click here.