TAG Consulting

5 Questions Culture-Crafting Leaders Are Asking

November 26, 2017

Crafting a winning culture is a long and challenging process. It’s important and encouraging to take inventory along the way – and helpful to know how you are doing based on the experiences of others.

Here are five great questions that leaders engaged in the process of changing or crafting a thriving organizational culture can ask as they go:

1. Would the people who work for me say I walk the 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 our organization offers 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?

Is Your Navigation System On Point?

November 26, 2017

All of us have internal maps that shape how we think, feel, react, and relate to others.

As we encounter new experiences, we take out our maps to give us perspective (or a “frame”) on those experiences. We’re directed through all of life using those maps to guide us.

Unfortunately, we rarely pull out and analyze our maps. We don’t see the map, we see WITH the map, all the while believing that the way we are perceiving the world is universally real. But everyone has a different map of reality. If you are listening to those around you, you’ll begin to intuit a person’s map of reality in the way they phrase their experiences when they speak.

Researchers find that the left side of our brains (the logic side) is committed to interpreting all of our overt behavior and emotional responses. Evidently, this is done so that the brain can have a consistent story of all that is happening at any given time.

Sometimes the left side will go to bizarre lengths to correlate events into a coherent story. Unfortunately, these explanations from the left side of our brains often contradict what we have in our maps on the right side (the “feeling”, emotional side), which results in incongruence, double messages, and confusion for the listener.

So our perspective (our map) helps us to interpret the meaning of our experiences. But our interpretations are always bound by context.

In other words, a particular map that suits us just fine in one situation may not work well at all in another.

When you are operating in the Blue Zone in the middle of a conflict, your job is to listen carefully to how people are framing all of the situations involved in the conflict. Your task is to look over their shoulders as they consult their internal maps. Note to yourself whether or not these maps are helpful in moving the project, the relationship, the organization forward.

If the map is not helpful and in fact you are heading in the wrong direction your job is to offer a new map so that people can get a different orientation on what is actually happening.

To use an updated metaphor, sometimes you have to hit “alternate routes” on your GPS!

Of course it goes without saying that before you can help people get oriented correctly in conflict you have to be willing to do the hard and good work of taking an objective look at your own map!

Is There Enough Cynicism In Your Culture?

November 15, 2017


It takes time to build trust in an organization…but cynicism spreads like crabgrass!

Cynicism can be a destructive, corrosive force, stalking your office corridors and internal comms channels, completely altering the environment of your organization.

But, let’s face it – cynicism can’t be completely eliminated. As a matter of fact, when it is tamed and leveraged cynicism can play a positive role in the life of your organization.

How can you balance cynicism and trust in your organization?

When you are driving down the road and see a car approaching you in the opposite lane you have to make the decision to trust that it is going to remain in its lane as opposed to crashing head-first into you. Hundreds of times each day, we make similar decisions to trust. There’s no other way to function in life. In a very real sense, trust is as necessary to our daily survival as food and water.

But, as counterintuitive as it sounds, we need cynicism as well.

Let’s say we are driving late at night in hazardous conditions. A car is approaching in the opposite lane, going too fast and weaving across the road. A healthy degree of cynicism would lead us to assume that the driver is intoxicated or otherwise incapacitated and to take defensive measures. In that case, I am right not to trust.

Same thing in our organizations. Trust is healthy – indeed it is the most important predictive factor in the success of an organization. But there is also such a thing as a healthy dose of cynicism.

You can’t do the things that build trust unless you’ve done the things that manage cynicism.

For instance, it is appropriate to be a little cynical when onboarding a new hire. They are not going to be as competent as a veteran in their first days on the job. They need to be supervised and mentored in the culture and processes of your organization, no matter how sparkling their resume and credentials.

This is healthy organizational cynicism. It’s not personal distrust. As a matter of fact, we put systems of accountability in place to remove the need for personal distrust.

People have strengths and weaknesses and we have to manage those as leaders. Healthy leaders aren’t shy about putting mechanisms in place to support both employees and the organization as a whole.

The art is in balancing trust and cynicism – distinguishing between cynicism that is healthy and that which is unhealthy.

Unhealthy cynicism never allows trust to grow. Healthy cynicism fosters a safe, controlled environment in which trust is the ultimate goal. Monitoring processes are in place but those processes are fair and flexible, not rigid and domineering. They create a climate of equity and ownership where employees can say “This is MY organization; I can trust and I feel trusted because I know our shared values and commitments will be honored by everyone.