TAG Consulting

Crafting A Talent-Attracting Culture

June 27, 2017


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

The organizations that attract the top talent intentionally craft talent-attracting culture.

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!

Coaching For Conflict Resolution

June 27, 2017

Choosing to live in the Blue Zone is one thing (a very important thing!). But having the self-awareness and skills to maintain Blue Zone living when all around you are in the Red Zone is another thing. In addition, the skill of helping your team live in the Blue Zone – to craft a Blue Zone organization – doesn’t always come naturally.

We’ve found that Blue Zone leading is immeasurably easier when you have a trusted advisor – particularly a leadership coach – to help along the way.

This video describes one example of leadership coaching, from a team of people who understand the Blue Zone inside and out.

TAG Leadership Coaching – What To Expect from TAG Consulting on Vimeo.

Collaborate – With People Who Aren’t Even In The Room

June 25, 2017


One of the most critical aspects of thriving organizational culture is collaboration.

Collaboration invites people into partnerships that require commitment. Each person commits to give something to the initiative. Each person takes the risk of losing something. Collaboration is the advancement of a cause or purpose that is bigger than the sum of its parts. And this means that collaboration has a multiplying effect that can result in a change in direction, behaviors, awareness, and possibility for the organization.

When it comes to change, collaboration is paramount.

We’ll collaborate first with those on our teams. We start by paying attention to those people.

We’re paying attention to their roles, their desires, their hopes, their strengths, their anxieties. We’re doing everything we can to help each of them understand the change that’s coming and their role in that change, showing them where they will win and where they might experience loss.

We’re doing everything we can to help them thrive, with the end result being that they will be more engaged than ever and that the organization as a whole will go from strength to strength.

That’s a lot to handle!

But it’s not everything we need to handle.

Consider one of the most overlooked keys to change leadership:
The people IN the room have people OUTSIDE the room about whom they care and to whom they are accountable and we have to pay attention to them too.

These ‘outside the room’ people may be direct reports, customers, clients, vendors, even family members. But they will be affected in some way by the change happening to the person in the room.

One very simple yet extraordinarily powerful discipline of change leadership is for you as the leader to consider the constituencies of each person in the room and help them think through how to involve those people in the questions, struggles, deliberations, and solutions of the change process.

In doing this, you are serving your team members, pacing them as they deal with the rate of change, and demonstrating that you honor them and have their best interests at heart.

Put that together and you are increasing your odds for successful change leadership and an engaged, energized team.

And you’re broadening the scope of the team with which you’re collaborating.

Culture Works, Part 4 – Making A Difference

June 20, 2017

The news has recently been full of stories about organizations in crisis. From United to Uber, Fox News and Wells Fargo, major company after major company seems to lurch from misstep to misstep.

In our client work we try to instill this simple yet profound lesson: However a problem presents itself it is usually not the real problem.

So, what is the real problem at United, Uber and others? What is the real problem in your organization? Can you state it succinctly?

All too often the “wrong” problem is identified and then “solved”, leaving the real problem untouched. We are good at identifying symptoms of the problem. We are not good at identifying core issues and if core issues go unaddressed, we are doomed to a repeating cycle of problems.

Every organization has “culture” and we believe there are three types of culture:

1. Legacy Culture – this is culture that was created in the past by people no longer involved in the organization. Legacy Culture can be both good and bad.

2. Shadow Culture – this culture exists but we often times do not know where it came from, how it got here and often times we struggle to even define it. Most of the time we can only sense it. Shadow culture is usually negative.

3. Crafted Culture – this culture is designed, built and maintained with extreme intentionality. It informs every strategy, structure, system and space.

Ultimately, the result of Crafted Culture is a thriving organization where people feel like they belong, can contribute uniquely and ultimately make a difference.

In our work with thousands of people over the past nineteen years, we have discovered that people rarely leave their jobs because of pay. They usually leave their job because of broken promises and their inability to make a difference – both of which are evidence of weak culture.

When given the chance to belong and contribute, making a difference is a natural outcome. It does need some harnessing, however.

So, how can people make a difference in ANY organization?

· Creative problem-solving and processes. The best solutions to your biggest problems are most likely already in your organization. Engage people to reimagine things. Give them the time and space to streamline, rework, redesign.

· Empowerment as freedom. People need to feel trusted to succeed and fail. Empowerment is freedom; freedom to invent, dream and stretch. Empowered people are the ones who come up with new ideas, systems, processes and products. Empowered people are the high performers and the over achievers.

· Ownership in the Culture. All too often we want, even expect people to “own the vision” of our organizations. But, we believe that if they “own the vision” but don’t have a part in crafting the culture that will give rise to the vision it will ultimately fail.

The problems at United, Uber, Fox News and Wells Fargo are not system or process problems. They are culture and leader problems. Weak culture creates weak leaders and weak culture is costing them millions of dollars in lost revenue, employee turnover, lawsuits and tarnished images. The solutions are not simply found in new policies and new leadership. They will be found as we craft new thriving culture.

Trevor J. Bron is a Culture Architect and Executive Advisor with TAG

Is Your Culture Congruent?

June 12, 2017

Practices are our intentional behaviors. They are the things we set out to do.

From its earliest days, Southwest Airlines has been about “love” and so their people consciously try to love each other and their customers. A friend of ours who owns a bagel shop in Charlotte shows up for work each morning deliberately trying to replicate the process of bagel-making his father used on the Lower East Side.

Years ago, there was a commercial featuring the golfer Tiger Woods, at that time at the top of his game. The camera panned through his house and showed rain coming down in sheets outside. Tiger’s voice-over talked about taking days off – what most of us would do if we were a golfer and there was a downpour! But as the commercial ended, the camera panned outside and there was Tiger – beating practice ball after practice ball into the pouring rain.

Every organization has practices. They are sourced in what you believe to be true about yourself, what you value, the talents of your people, and the demands of your customers.

Here’s a key point: our practices flow from our principles.

Principles are stabilized beliefs that direct and shape attitudes, actions and systems. Within every organizational system there exists at least three intersecting and overlapping spheres; self, team and organization. Individuals bring personal sets of beliefs and principles. Teams and organizations operate from similar core foundations and principles that guide the operation, leadership and strategic objectives. Congruence is all about alignment. Aligning the three spheres of self, team, and organization is the delicate but essential work of congruence.

Congruence is about resonance. It is alignment around core non-negotiable principles that literally rings true with those who hold similar value propositions. Ensuring this alignment is critical for organizations to point every unit and person in the same direction, moving in a certain cadence, and honoring the essence of the organization, the team and the individual. When principles that are shared are honored, the energy that is produced propels the team and organization forward with greater ease and fluidity.

One of our clients, Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston, practices dollar for dollar giving – and have done so for more than fifty years. With a budget in excess of $10 million they give half of their money to worthy causes. They do this in good economic times and bad – when the church can easily meet payroll and when it has to stretch. It is just who they are.

Practices have to do with “the way things are around here” that are unique to your organization. These are largely determined by the principles we hold dear.

Another of our clients, The Cardiovascular Group of Northern Virginia, instituted a practice that prohibited their physicians from working more than four and a half days a week. This practice started fifteen years ago and they say that this very large medical practice has only experienced two divorces in that time period. This is congruence between personal and corporate values. Everyone thrives.

What about your organization? Is it congruent?
What are the non-negotiable things that you do on purpose?

What do those things say about you and what you value?


Crafting A Culture Of Change? Start Here

June 5, 2017

You’ve committed to crafting a thriving culture in your team or organization and you know it’s going to require a concerted effort at change leadership. And you know things are going to need to move fast!

You’re also realized this. Leading change is not a one-off occurrence. The ability to adapt and change has to be built into your culture. It’s more than an activity you engage in when you are forced to.

You need a starting place. Try these two actions first:

1. Distinguish between what needs to be preserved and what needs to change.
As you work through changes in your organization, always be mindful of what must NOT change – your values, code, and macro-strategy. These things should not change with every shift in the wind. When external realities do dictate that you must change, you will want to make sure that those changes are in keeping with your organization’s code and deeply held values – holding fast to the permanent things while allowing your strategy to evolve.

2. When you come into an existing situation to make changes, be very careful not to condemn the past.
Always frame your vision in a positive, upbeat way. Your job is not to erase the past but to help people envision a brighter future.  These people were part of the past – they lived it and shaped it to some degree. Dwell on everything good and worthy in the organization’s past, even if it is clear that many things must change.

Leadership, particularly change leadership, is not about being popular. There will be moments of decided unpopularity for you as you craft a new culture. But don’t borrow trouble – preserve what needs to be preserved and honor what can be honored from prior cultures.

You can actually lead change – perhaps profitable change – without these two actions. But you won’t succeed in building a culture of change without them.

TAG’s Discovery process helps you to discern what needs to change now and where you’ll see the maximum benefit from change leadership. Building on that understanding then helps you craft a thriving culture that seeks out change, rather than simply responding to your external environment. Find out more about Discovery here.

Craft A Culture That Honors Conflict

June 5, 2017

Thriving organizations have cultures where healthy conflict is honored, not avoided. In healthy conflict, competing values are allowed to surface, which gives the organization and everyone in it a chance to examine, discuss, and debate what really matters. This leaves the organization and its people in a stronger place.

By contrast, unhealthy organizations avoid or deny conflict or make it a zero sum game where there are winners and losers.

The work of crafting thriving organizational culture is the primary work of leaders. How are you doing with this crafting as it relates to conflict?

Here are four questions/activities we have found helpful for teams who are determined to engage in conflict in new and healthy ways. If you are a team leader, consider setting aside some time to have your team engage with these questions:

1. Ask each individual on the team to consider: “How do I typically handle conflict?” by giving a one sentence descriptive answer, i.e. “I typically back down” or “I usually go on the attack”. Once each team member has owned their own default mode, ask a corporate question: “How do WE as a team typically navigate conflict together?”.

2. Ask the team to commit to this statement: “As a team we are willing to consider a new way of handling conflict”. Once everyone has agreed (or not agreed) talk about how the team can be helpful to each other in this regard.

3. Discuss if and how the roles and expectations of team members clearly support the unfolding mission of the organization in a concerted way.

4. Have a candid discussion around this question: “Are performance evaluations and incentive structures in our team clearly tied to expectations in concrete behavioral ways?”

Don’t expect to be able to get through these questions in a single one hour meeting. Rather, think about making them the focus of an ongoing series of meetings. Over time – a shorter amount of time than you might expect – you will find that your team is embracing and living into a new way of navigating and thriving through conflict. And this will go a long way towards establishing and reinforcing the kind of culture where people are engaged and committed.

Culture Works, Part 3 – Making A Contribution

June 5, 2017

Every person in your organization has the innate desire to contribute, to believe that what they do at work matters and has value. Each of them wants to experience the joy that comes with doing something really valuable at a really high level.

Does your organization believe that everyone is great at something? Do you believe that everyone is great at something?

At the core of contributing is the belief that everyone is great at something. When people believe they can contribute, this greatness emerges. Unfortunately, a culture of compliance and complacency often prevails instead.

In most organizations people lead lives of quiet mediocracy and malaise. How many of us would say that the best part of our work day is when it ends? How many of us truly look forward to going to a place where contributing is not embraced or encouraged? At the root of complaining about work is the lack of ownership. If I am not asked to contribute to problem solving, I am relegated to only identifying problems and then vocalizing my disdain.

We believe that people in your organization want to belong and out of that sense of belonging they want to contribute. They want to know that what they are great at is valued; that they are part of solutions.

The work of leadership is crafting thriving organizational culture where people both belong and contribute.

To craft this kind of culture three things must happen:

1.    Shift away from weakness-based culture. Most of our present systems for managing people are based upon weakness. While we may call it “Performance Based Management”, it is centered upon identifying weakness and then developing plans to become better at those weaknesses. A few times a year we get our evaluations that outline what we are not good at doing and what we need to do to get better. Then we are tossed a few encouraging words in hopes it will make up for the rest.

Or we are subjected to the “360 Assessment”. This  tool is the equivalent of painting a target on your chest, placing a blind-fold over your eyes and then inviting your boss, peers and employees to shoot arrows at you, all the while being grateful for the “feedback”.

2.    Embrace a strength-based culture. This culture seeks to find what people are good at; what their strengths are and then empowering them to use those strengths to contribute. Everyone has strengths. It is a matter of uncovering them, embracing them and then setting them free.

3.    Encourage a new way of thinking and working that honors what people are great at doing.  What if you had a laser-clear focus on where people excel? What if you knew what people brought to every meeting, project and challenge? What if the driving force in planning was no longer someone’s job description, but their strength-profile? How would your hiring process change if you searched for needed strengths rather than prescribed skills?

The desire to contribute is a powerful one and it exists at every level of your organization. After a recent training session with the Office of Information Technology (OIT) at the University of Colorado, I had a conversation with a mid-twenty something manager. He had recently been promoted to his position and was now managing people quite a few years older than himself.

His anxiety was high. He expressed his desire to do a good job, but felt ill-equipped to manage people, much less lead them. I asked him why he thought he’d been promoted. At first he gave a very technical, skilled-based answer. But in a matter of minutes I knew that his new position had little to do with any of that. He had a strong desire to contribute to his department and to the University and he was demonstrating strengths in thinking strategically and achievement. Fortunately, he is working in a place that has embraced strengths and is crafting a culture based upon that.
Is your organizational culture like that?

Trevor J. Bron is a Culture Architect and Executive Advisor at TAG. You can learn more about Trevor here.