TAG Consulting

Way More Than Just Another Cup of Coffee

March 29, 2017

Bitty and Beau’s is not your average coffee shop.

For one thing, they are housed on the grounds of and in the former facilities of a thriving automobile dealership.

For another, they are run almost exclusively by men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs).

But the thing that strikes you most is the culture. The culture hugs you around the neck the moment you step into their usually slam-packed crowded store in Wilmington, North Carolina.

You are greeted immediately. The baristas smile, welcome you, and are extremely knowledgable about the coffee, baked goods, and other items for sale. Even when the waiting line is long for service, customers and staff alike are exchanging greetings, waves, high-fives, jokes.

Here’s the thing you notice – everyone is smiling.

They do a great job with the ambience. The coffee is really good. Of course, the same can be said of plenty of other coffeeshops. But not every coffee shop goes viral on social media and is named the “official coffee of the Rachel Ray show”. And not every coffeeshop has communities across the state of North Carolina competing to host its second location (we’re not kidding – there is an online competition which includes community leaders and government officials asking to be considered).

What makes Bitty and Beau’s stand out is their organizational culture.

You see it painted on the walls, really nearly every available space.

“Changing the way people see other people”.

And the space filled in by the word “see” also gets filled in with a variety of other words:






That’s their mantra and their mission. Changing the way people relate to people.

And it’s way more than a slogan. It shapes their organizational culture.

It’s reflected in the hiring strategy – men and women with IDDs – at every level.

It’s reflected in the way that employees treat each other and their customers.

It’s reflected in their decor and in their social media presence and on their website – which you can find here.

And it’s reflected in their success.

At TAG Consulting, we believe that all of us have three innate desires:

…To belong

…To contribute

…To make a difference.

And the organizations which craft cultures where these desires are honored and cultivated will succeed.

We know that the number one controllable factor in organizational success and productivity is employee engagement. Employees are engaged when their innate desires to belong, contribute, and make a difference can find repeated and encouraged expression.

We serve as Culture Architects.

We help craft thriving organizational culture.

Where people love coming to work. Believe in their teammates and in their corporate mission. Are psychologically, emotionally, and even spiritually connected. And where those organizations are – as a result – leaders in their respective industries.

We’d love to work alongside you as you craft a thriving organizational culture.

To find out more, you can watch this short video:

And you can connect with a Culture Architect by clicking here.

Leadership Development or Developing Leaders?

March 20, 2017

This is the third in a series that focuses on Four Questions That Forge Great Leaders. You can get caught up by reading about question one here and question two here.

The third question is: What is the difference between “leadership development” and “leader development?”

When we talk about the difference between “leadership development” and “leader development”, we’re talking about the difference between the philosophical and pragmatic.

Leadership development is a concept, a philosophy. It’s outside of us. It requires reading the right books, knowing the right words, attending the right conferences. “Leadership Development” is a philosophy.

“Leader Development” is a practice. It is not a philosophy. It is not theory; it is not about a group of people.

It’s about you. It’s about me. It’s about growing a leader. It’s about investing in an individual life and operating from the deeply held conviction that everyone can be a leader.

Management can sign off on a leadership development initiative in their organization and remain untouched by it. Those in their charge may learn some useful tactical things and improve their managerial acumen but the chances are that they will not grow as a leader.

Leader development is deeply relational and requires a personal commitment on the part of the one being developed as well as the one doing the developing.

Truth be told, the one “doing” the developing is being developed herself along the way. Because these roles are fluid and relational effective leader development requires a high and growing level of self-awareness on the part of both parties.

An honest question for honest leaders – can you say that you are sincerely and completely committed to the process of developing leaders in your organization?


What’s Your Organizational Brand?

March 13, 2017

The very best brands in the world have gone beyond creating brands.

They have created “brand communities”. They all make you think of something, and cause most people to think of the same thing.

What do you think of when you think of these brands –
Star Trek
University of North Carolina Basketball
Notre Dame Football
Southwest Airlines
In-and-Out Burgers

Chances are that when you think of these brands you think of SOMETHING.

And, without a doubt, there are legions of people who are devoutly loyal to each one. They are part of a brand community.

A  brand community is a group of passionate customers who identify so strongly with the brand that they will organize parts of their life around it. They will go  miles out of their way to shop at a particular branded store. They will arrange family events around their team’s playoff games. They will spend more money than necessary to purchase the brand.

Brand communities make sense in a world like ours where there is such a palpable craving for community. People want to belong, contribute, and make a difference, and brand communities touch the longing for belonging. If you can create a brand community around your product or service you almost can’t help but be successful!

There are two key components to creating a brand community.
1. Your whole organization, not just your marketing people, must be committed. Your commitment to the brand must be reflected in everything from organizational structure to internal communication to the reputation you have in your surrounding community. In the book, we tell the story of how Harley Davidson turned a failing business model into a thriving brand community. They flattened management, hosted elaborate and impactful community service projects, and put their senior management face to face with customers at social events. Perhaps  most importantly, employees became riders! We tell the story here.

Whether you are in the business of motorcycles, machine tools, or mayonnaise you can take steps to create a brand community as well – IF your organization is all in.

2. You must get into the lives of people, not just their wallets.  Most of us love Goldfish crackers. They’re tasty, portable, and you can consume lots of them in a single bite. What’s not to love? Riding a cool wave, the marketing folks behind Goldfish tried to create a suite of interactive games for kids on its website. The effort flopped.

Then someone had an idea. Someone in the organization read the devastating statistics about low self-esteem among kids and childhood depression. So its website and marketing folks teamed up, pulled the silly games, and begin to create forums for conversations around the issues most important in the lives of kids and families, branching out to community-based initiatives to help kids with mental health issues. Kids responded, parents said ‘thanks’ and the brand went to new heights.

The Goldfish people said “We want you to buy our crackers but we also want to be a positive part of your life beyond your snack choices.” A brand community was deepened and a brand experienced new success.

Crafting a brand community makes good business sense – but there is another benefit as well: it helps build a fun and cohesive corporate culture.

How about your brand?
Do you understand the power of a brand community?
To what brands are you personally, even illogically loyal? Why?
Could your organization be all-in as to creating a brand community?

4 Steps To Leverage Conflict And Win

March 13, 2017


Very few healthy people enjoy conflict. But wise leaders realize that pushback can actually be their ally because it surfaces tension within the organization and open up options for alternative approaches.

Here are four ways you can make conflict your friend rather than your enemy.

1.      Maintain clear focus – one eye on the moment, the other on the big picture. Persevere and hang in there!

2.      Embrace resistance. Move towards, not away from the sources of resistance. This is a learned behavior, so be patient with yourself. Remember that the voice of resistance is almost always representative of others and once you know what the problem is you can move ahead.

3.       Respect those who resist by monitoring your emotions, avoiding overreacting, and always telling the truth.

4.      Join with the resistance. Begin together, looking for common values and themes and patterns, looking together for ways the situation needs to change.

How about you – how are you doing currently with conflict in your organization – and in your life?

Four Questions That Forge Great Leaders (Part 2)

March 13, 2017

Last time, we began a new series on four probing questions that help to forge great leaders. You can read about the first question here.

The second question is: What tools do you have in your leader’s tool belt?

Consider real-life tool belts, in the construction industry.

Framers have the simplest tool belt of all the trades. They need only a few tools to do their job; hammer, tape measure, nails. Simple.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the electrician.

Electricians have the biggest and coolest tool belts. Their tool belts have hundreds of pockets containing every conceivable tool. Their tool belts are the envy of their colleagues. For one thing, they look cool. For another, electricians never have to fumble around to find the right tool. They have it right there, at their fingertips.

When we think about a leadership tool belt, most of us have the framer’s tool belt or no tool belt at all. In leadership we should have the electrician’s tool belt.

If you are a leader with one tool (say a hammer) what does every leadership challenge look like?

A nail.

Whether it actually IS a nail or not. If your problem is in fact a nail and you have only a hammer, you’re good to go.

But if your problem is not a nail and you have only your hammer to employ, it’s a safe bet you are only going to make the problem worse.

Leaders should have lots of tools at our disposal, lots of different ways of thinking, lots of different ways of reacting, lots of different ways of conducting ourselves. That’s what will make us effective. That is what will make people actually enjoy working for us and allow us to create the kinds of organizational cultures where people experience the satisfaction of belonging, contributing, and making a difference.

No two people that we work with or for are wired alike. In our work with individuals, we place a lot of emphasis on talents and strengths and making sure that our clients know their own and how to use them at a moment’s notice. We emphasize the concept of Intentional Difference – living in that zone where you are able to offer your own best and unique contribution.

In our work with organizations, we make sure they have the tools they need to craft thriving organizational cultures.

Everybody who works for you is different. You, as a leader, have an obligation to treat and respond to them differently. Does that come naturally to anybody? No. You have to work at it every day. You have to be mindful of it every day. That means your tool belt has to be filled with lots of different tools.

How about you? Where is your tool belt robust, and where does it have some pockets and slots that need to be filled?

Four Questions That Forge Great Leaders (Part 1)

March 5, 2017

You’ve decided you want to know what it takes to become a leader. We’re with you in this, but – be warned – we hit a pretty big obstacle pretty quickly.

That obstacle presents itself through this undeniable fact: there is a predictable set of lies we tell ourselves when it comes to leadership.

Worse, we tell these lies to ourselves and others repeatedly. Let’s come clean by looking at maybe the biggest leadership lie of them all: “Some people are just ‘natural born leaders”.

There is no such thing as a natural born leader. But we have heard, repeatedly, that some people just emerge from the womb as unbelievably gifted leaders.

Now, unless our ego is well above the average, most of us assume we are not one of these ‘born that way’ types. So, we start out in our life as leaders with a disadvantage, right?

Having worked with hundreds of organizations and thousands of people we’ve learned that leaders are not born; they are made.

In reality, leaders are forged.

And there are two flames that forge all the very best leaders: self-awareness, and the ability to ask and answer the right questions about leadership. This series of posts will examine these four critical questions that shape transformational leaders.

The most remarkable leaders we know are the most remarkably self-aware.

Self-awareness doesn’t just happen. You don’t wake up one morning in the land of self-awareness. You work at it.

Self-awareness means you know what you’re good at. You know what you’re not good at. You know what you bring to every meeting, every project, every encounter, because you’re attuned to who you are.

You don’t just talk a good leadership game, but you play one out on the field, where there is mud and blood and conflict and the stakes are high.

Given this rooting, here’s the first of four questions which forge great leaders:

How do I learn leadership?
If people aren’t born leaders that means they must learn leadership somewhere. And the best leaders can point to a moment in time when they realized: I have to learn to lead.

There’s a skillset that goes with management. You hone your craft and you learn to manage that skillset well. You’re a good manager. But then there comes a critical point, a very specific moment in your life where you think, “You know what? I’ve got to do something more than manage my people, I’ve got to lead them.”

There is a stark difference between management and leadership. We see this most clearly when we determine “I am going to be a leader not because I was born a leader, not because someone has called me to be one and not because I have a particular role or a rank or a position, but because I feel that it’s the right thing to do.”

So, how do most people learn leadership? Well, most people don’t learn leadership. They know all the right words, but they don’t actually learn it.

If you learned how to be a leader at all, you probably learned it from somebody who wasn’t one. Most of us have worked for somebody who, to put it bluntly, was horrific as a leader.

Our leadership style, if we have one, is based on what not to be. Our leadership, as a result, is reactive.

Now, you can learn some great things that way. People who work for you are probably thankful that you’re not like that other person you worked for. But knowing what kind of leader we are not isn’t enough.

We have to determine to become proactive leaders. We must decide firmly to learn leadership with an effort of heart, mind, and soul.

Are you ready to make that determination and take the decision to grow as a leader? Then you’re ready for the next three questions.

Next…”What tools do I need in my leader’s tool belt?”

3 Benefits of Healthy Conflict

March 5, 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?

Three Keys To Change When Change Is Tough

March 5, 2017


Change leadership is not for the faint of heart. Resistance is expected and inevitable and can feel like a slammed, locked door.  To keep your momentum going, here are three keys to unlock common change barriers.

1. Let Ideas Percolate
Your culture did not get to where it is overnight. And you won’t be able to change it overnight. Your job as a leader is to “stand on the balcony”, looking down on the dance floor, viewing the big picture. When you do this you are able to get out of the moment and its tyranny of the urgent and into a broader view, where moving parts mesh into a whole. Do not let up on your efforts at cultural change but do not be discouraged if there are times when the pace feels too slow for you.

2. Raise The Temperature
Expose competing values. Encourage conflict (for more on this, see here). The work of a leader is not to squelch but rather to spotlight competing values, especially when they relate to the core mission of the organization. Real change cannot happen unless people are allowed to see where their values compete and where they differ and when this is done in a climate of encouragement and acceptance. This hurts, it’s risky, and it can feel scary. But culture doesn’t start to shift until someone raises the tough questions and hence the temperature.

3. Give Grief Room
When people lose something, they grieve. And there are “losers” in cultural transformation. People lose the familiar, they lose perks, they may lose titles, positions, or power. When things change – even for the better – there is loss. This is OK. It’s necessary. People can’t heal until they do grieve and you can’t change an organizational culture without healing.

Situations and teams differ. But chances are one of these keys will unlock the door barring you from the change and progress you need.