TAG Consulting

The Change Resistance Avalanche

February 28, 2017

Here’s how it works…

If people do not feel like they can contribute, change will be impossible…
If they do not feel like they belong they won’t embrace change.
If they do not feel like they are making a difference they
will not support necessary changes.
So the organization becomes static.
And a static organization is headed for extinction.


Check Your Ego At The Door!

February 28, 2017

Grandiosity is an enemy of leadership because self-importance cannot co-exist with servanthood.

When I succumb to the temptation of grandiosity I believe that my perspective is the only right one, that my way of doing things is the one true way, and that I know what’s best in all situations.

Strangely enough, this perspective doesn’t usually arise from bad intentions. It usually grows out of the normal  human need to feel important. We don’t know a single human being who doesn’t want to feel valuable.

But unchecked, this desire to feel important can belittle those the leader ought to be listening to and supporting, even if the leader seems to be solving problems.

The more we demonstrate our capacity to solve problems, the more we take them off of the shoulders of others, the more authority we gain in their eyes. Sounds appealing, right?

Only until that train leads right down the track to grandiosity; until “I want to help” becomes “I have all the answers”.

How does this fit with conflict? It’s simple. If I operate from the assumption that I have all of the right answers then I can’t navigate conflict with you. I can only win or lose.

Much better to assume that both myself and those I am engaged with are good-hearted and competent, at least until definitively proven otherwise.

And to assume that I might be wrong.

That’s the opposite of grandiosity.

Cynicism Is A Good Thing

February 28, 2017

The most healthy organizations allow for a balance between trust and cynicism when it comes to the outlook of their members.



Cynicism gets a bad rap. We tend to picture the cynic as the cranky, world-weary know it all on the last barstool to the right, or the tiresome guy in the break room who can’t stop talking about how the system is rigged against the little guy,

We tend not to seek out cynics in our personal life. And if we are ever accused of cynicism ourselves we’ll likely quickly and defensively say “No – I’m not cynical, just realistic!”.

But here’s a reframe: trust and cynicism go together.

Trust is the glue that holds an organization together. Employees will invest more trust in an organization that trusts them.

Our research which led to TED – The Engagement Dashboard, our online employee engagement survey, found that the number one predictive factor for a high performing organization is the deeply held belief that “Management can be counted upon to come through when needed”. That’s trust.

Trust is the currency of leadership.

But there’s a place for healthy cynicism too.

Cynicism says that new hires are not as likely to immediately replace the performance and reliability of the people they replaced so they need watching, accountability and support. Cynicism spurs the creation of financial controls and risk management strategies because it realizes that people won’t always do the right thing.

Cynicism isn’t the absence of trust so much as it is a way of reducing complexity.

For example, you’re driving alone on a rain-slicked road at night. The car coming towards you appears to be veering into your lane, a head on collision imminent.

To fully trust you have to suspend all belief that anything could be wrong – that the driver could be impaired or texting or reckless. You simply continue on your way without making adjustments or allowances.

But a little balanced cynicism recognizes that something could be amiss, allows you to raise your awareness and alertness and prepares you to take evasive action if needed. Without over-thinking it.

Here’s the bottom line for your organization: You can’t do the things that build trust unless you’ve done the things that manage cynicism.

In other words, the accountability and controls which healthy cynicism encourages allow for trust to flourish.

What about your organization?

Are you characterized by a culture built on trust? Or is it one where there is suspicion and unhealthy cynicism?

Are the appropriate standards, agreements, protocols, and standards of accountability which manage cynicism in a way that leads to the freedom that comes from trust?



A 3 Step Checklist For Empowering Your Team

February 20, 2017

Two important things to know about empowering your team:

  1. We measure empowerment by how willing people are to offer us their maximum discretionary effort.
  2. We know that people feel empowered when they are motivated to give their all.

Who doesn’t want to lead a workplace environment like that?

So, how do you – in real life and in real time – empower your team?

We offer you the checklist below as a way of measuring your progress as an empowering leader. Think of it as a punchlist for your project of empowering your team. Or, even better, think of the metaphor we often use – of a team climbing up a high mountain together!


Provide Clear Direction

An empowering leader defines the task for the team with crystal clarity. A common misconception about delegation (a component of empowerment) is that it is described by this attitude: “Do your own thing as long as you are within the basic parameters and standards of the organization”. That’s mostly being lazy and settling for less than full alignment.

Empowering direction-giving sounds more like this: “See that mountain? We’re going to climb it together, and here’s how”.


Provide Needed Resources

Nothing is more dis-empowering to a team than not having the tools they need to complete the task they have been assigned. As an empowering leader you make it a priority to give your people the tools and resources they need to carry out their assignments with excellence and passion.

It sounds like this: “Here is the equipment we need to climb this mountain together. This is how you use it. Trust me, I’ve tested it and everything is safe, secure, high quality, and in adequate supply. Let’s get started!”


Provide Coaching, Support, and Feedback

Along the way, the empowering leader is providing constant, specific coaching (“Here’s our strategy for taking the mountain”, support (“You’re doing great – here’s what I can give you for your next steps”) and feedback (“OK, let’s set up camp for the night, reflect on what we learned today and focus on how we can get even better tomorrow”)

As you get ready to climb your next mountain as a team, review this list together. Does your team have the direction, resources, feedback, support, and coaching it needs? Does each team member know that they are needed and valued and that their very best efforts will rejuvenate them and help the team win?

The Two Most Important Questions For Spotting Talent

February 19, 2017

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.

Life In The Blue Zone – 3 Benefits

February 19, 2017

When we are in conflict we can choose to respond in one of two ways.

The first way is from the Blue Zone. This is where you maintain professionalism and you keep your emotional cool. You can tell you are in the Blue Zone when you are demonstrating several behaviors and leading a workplace where these behaviors are widely demonstrated by others.

Focus on energy and efficiency
This is a workplace where everyone shows up to do their job, they have the right tools, and they are motivated to do good work. They’re not distracted by drama and political intrigue. There’s a buzz and energy in the workplace. People are moving freely and enthusiastically, the conversation is focused and yet lighthearted. Stuff is getting done by focused people who seem to enjoy each other, at least most of the time!

Structures of the organization are closely monitored and respected.
Performance reviews, goal-setting, follow-up evaluation get done. Reporting structures are respected and honored. There is real accountability but it is not the accountability of soul-crushing bureaucracy and micromanagement. The workplace is characterized by the trust that exists when everyone agrees on standards and expectations.

Business issues are the top priority
When a business has a clear sense of mission, strong and vibrant core values, and a winning strategy it has a chance to succeed. This chance becomes reality when core business issues are seen as the first thing, not personal rivalries, territory-marking, and clawing for territory – all of the things that make for a miserable professional environment.

The Blue Zone is the place of emotional health and professional focus.

How about your workplace?
Are these three characteristics of the Blue Zone true of where you work?
Would you say that your workplace is a “place of emotional health and professional focus”?
What needs to change in order to make it so?

When Your Co-Authors Went To Prison (Part 3)

February 13, 2017

Conflict is common to everyone – parents, children, business leaders, public servants, pastors, inmates. We all face conflict. We can choose to ignore it, try to defeat it, or let it defeat us. We can try to simply survive it somehow.

Or we can choose to see conflict for what it is – a revealer of our true selves and a rare opportunity for growth and change – and leverage it as an experience that will help us to thrive.

We’ve seen these principles play out in therapy sessions and in boardrooms, in the halls of churches and in agencies of the federal government, on playgrounds and in penitentiaries. We’ve seen men and women learn how to embrace conflict, see it as their ally, and learn to lead others wisely and well.

This new perspective changes everything, just as our lives were changed that day in Solano.

We offer this blog and these principles and exercises in the hope that you will learn to thrive through conflict as well, and that all our lives will be better because of it.



People Aren’t As Important As You Think

February 13, 2017

Whether or not you believe your organization functions as a whole or as a collection of separate parts has a profound influence on the way you lead and the nature of your organization’s culture.

An important part of  being an effective leader is thinking in systems – looking at the forest, not just the trees. A leader knows that her organization is in fact a dynamic and complex whole, not just a collection of parts.

Individual humans are complex and so a collection of humans is very complex. The network of relationships within the system of your organization – whether 10 people or 10,000 – is inherently complex. Any change in the group affects the group as a whole.

Effective leaders focus on the relationships, the lines between individuals, more than on the individuals themselves.

When there is a problem in an organization, the easy thing to do is to find an individual to blame (Jim has a bad attitude, Susan is overly ambitious, Bob is careless, Mary runs over people). So, the solution appears to be an easy one – get rid of Jim, Susan, Bob, or Mary and the problem in the organization goes away!

Only, the problem remains and we wonder why.

It’s because there are issues in the system – the interrelationships – that aren’t solved by scapegoating.

The answers to chronic problems in the organization are rarely if ever safely laid at the feet of any one person. The wise leader sees past personalities and focuses on the ways in which individuals within the group relate to one another.

In organizations with healthy interdependence, members say things like these responses from our survey, The Engagement Dashboard  (TED):
-When a problem repeats itself, I understand that I may be part of the problem.
-My actions are influenced by those around me, even though I am ultimately responsible.
-In turn, my actions influence those around me.
-The way people interact with each other takes on a predictable pattern over time and that offers real insight into the way things work around here.

Find out more about TED here.

A great resolve for a leader is to learn to think and see in systems rather than problems and relationships rather than individuals.