TAG Consulting

Remember This About Resistance

August 14, 2017

One of our go to coaching phrases is “Resistance is your ally”.

We love it because it’s true – and because it’s counterintuitive.

No one intuitively thinks that resistance to their opinion, leadership, point of view, way of being, is friendly. Our default response is to treat resistance as an enemy force and seek to outwit or vanquish it.

But in doing so we miss a real opportunity. An opportunity to grow in our understanding of self and others. And an opportunity to explore new ways of leading that may end up working a lot better. We find it really helpful to remember these four things about resistance:

  • Resistance is an inevitable part of change.
  • Progress without resistance is impossible – or the progress isn’t worth the effort.
  • People resist what they perceive to be costly or harmful.
  • Resistance offers us a really good opportunity to look underneath the surface at what is really going on at the moment in the relationship, organization, or team. And – perhaps most importantly – in ourselves!

You’ve Never Had A ‘Personality Conflict’

July 17, 2017


As I sink into the Red Zone of unhealthy conflict my personal story starts to dominate. That story has a theme of premise that is central to that story: Will I survive? Am I acceptable? Am I competent? Am I in control? As a person begins to sink into the Red Zone, it is usually these core themes that emerge.

Consequently, we will hear these same complaints over and over:

You’re trying to control me (control)!

Don’t you think I can do this (competence)?

You get the idea.

In the Red Zone the focus becomes personal. Even though the starting point of the conflict may be an organizational issue, the real energy is coming from a personal place.

But don’t confuse this with the mythical “personality conflicts” that many conflicts are blamed on. There is hardly any such thing. Our conflicts arise from our personal stories and experiences – which are much deeper than our personalities. Instead of trying to reconcile two very different personalities, the first step is to see how my story has influenced the way I am approaching the conflict.

Once I know this, I can start to identify my own Red Zone behaviors and how they are fueling the conflict. Here is a handy checklist that reveals when my own personal story may be weighing in in an unhealthy way:

  • I disengage
  • I distract
  • I become easily annoyed
  • I am resentful
  • I procrastinate
  • I attack someone personally
  • I medicate myself with a substance or habit
  • I avoid people and situations

The problem is not your personality, which is just fine! And it’s not the personality of the person with whom you are in conflict. They are just fine too.

The problem is when our stories crash into each other.

Take a look at the list above and note which behaviors you may tend to demonstrate when you are in the Red Zone. Consider adding other behaviors not listed which are unique to you. Now keep that list as a tool for self-awareness!

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.

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.

The Key To Attracting and Retaining Talent

May 23, 2017


Thriving organizational culture allows for plenty of conflict. But it’s the healthy, not the destructive kind. Teams that have ‘good’ conflict start by knowing themselves and each other. In particular, they know where their talent lies.

One essential component of self-understanding is your Prevailing Talent.

Prevailing Talent is “our spontaneous, reliable and measured pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving”. Your Prevailing Talent is what you do well without even thinking about it.

One of the greatest jazz saxophonists of all time was Art Pepper. Pepper lived a difficult life with bouts of drug abuse and prison time. Fortunately, in the last few years of his life he got himself together and enjoyed his greatest success and triumphant tours. Even in his darkest days the one thing that never failed him was his talent.

Pepper was in the worst depths of his drug abuse when  he received a unique challenge – and an opportunity. He had been asleep, sickened by his addiction, when he was awakened by his producer. He had come to take Pepper to a gig with the band of the legendary Miles Davis.

The only problem was that Pepper had overslept and had no time to get his drug fix before the session – and he was largely incapacitated without his drug crutch.

He was going to have to play his saxophone in his sickest, drug-neediest mode: half-conscious, physically ill, hardly able to stand up straight. You would think a disaster would ensue, right?


The sessions that day became Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section – one of the most highly regarded jazz albums of all time.

Imagine if you had to go to work or take care of a child while desperately ill. How could you not only function, but excel – have a legendary day?

You could do so only if your Prevailing Talent was set free to shine – if you knew your Talent and were committed to expressing it. And if the climate you worked in allowed your Talent to flourish.

Your Prevailing Talent oozes out of you, regardless of how you feel. It is so deeply ingrained in you that no obstacles or limitations – even self-imposed ones –  can stop it from being expressed. As a matter of fact, your Talent is more than expressed – it PREVAILS!

Do you have a sense of your Prevailing Talent?

Our firm has special workshops designed to help you and your team identify your talents and learn how to work together to unleash the best in each other and avoid unnecessary conflict. We’ll help you craft a thriving organizational culture where talent and individuality is recognized and honored. You can learn more about those opportunities  here.

Image cred: jazzwax.com

4 Ways To Leverage Conflict For Good

May 2, 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. Conflict can actually provide positive leverage.

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?

7 Questions For The Heat of Conflict

April 23, 2017


So,  your team is embroiled in conflict. Emotions are high. Anxiety is too. It’s clear that there are real competing values underneath the surface. Fangs may have been bared. You’re anxious too. You know you need to maintain a non-anxious presence, acknowledging your own anxiety but managing it so you can provide a holding environment for the anxiety of others.

The ability to manage conflict in a healthy and productive way is one of the hallmarks of a thriving organizational culture, the kind of place where people want to work and to give maximum discretionary effort.

Most of all you sense the need to DO something. Anything.

But, get this – your very best move may be to ask questions. Especially in the highest heat of conflict.

Yes, questions.

The great thing about questions is that they honor the people being asked, by reminding them that the work is theirs in the end, and that each one of them is responsible for their part in the conflict and for working towards a just and productive resolution.

Maybe best of all, question-asking genuinely reduces anxiety because it takes the focus off of the tensions, drama, and angst of the moment and puts it on self-reflection and the solution at hand.

Here are seven great questions to ask your team (and yourself!) when conflict is high:

1. What exactly does each team member have at stake in this conflict?
2. What specific results does each team member desire?
3. To what degree does each person hold power and influence and how are they exercising those things?
4. What are the core, underlying values each person holds?
5. Where are each person’s loyalties and obligations?
6. What potential losses are at stake for each person? (think status, security, power, comfort, influence, and the like)
7. What hidden alliances are at play in the team?

These are great questions for a team to grapple with. But before that happens you should grapple with them yourself for your team. If you go through the process of getting answers to each one, you will understand your team, yourself, and the issues at stake in the conflict with a lot more clarity.

Asking and answering these seven questions may not solve the conflict – but it will lead you and your team to greater levels of self-awareness and understanding and tee you up to clarify the values at stake – for the greater good.

Oh, and you can leave the boxing gloves at the gym!

Identify The Resistance

April 3, 2017

As a leader you are going to face resistance. We spend a substantial amount of our time reminding leaders of this truth and telling that they are not alone! Resistance is part of the process.

That said, it can be very helpful to identify the types of resistance you are facing as you lead.

  • Immediate criticism. “What a dumb idea!”
  • Denial. “I don’t see any problem here”.
  • Malicious compliance. “I concur completely and whole-heartedly (only I don’t, at all)”
  • Sabotage. “Let’s go get him”.
  • Easy agreement. “No problem”.
  • Deflection. “How about those Red Sox!”
  • Silence
  • In your face criticism. “You’re the worst leader we’ve ever had around here”.

When faced with resistance we can choose to act in either the Red Zone or the Blue Zone.

In the Red Zone, we assume the resistance is about us personally (Why doesn’t he like what I’m proposing? Does he think I’m incompetent?”), not about our roles. Feeling personally attacked we resort to subterfuge and maneuvering.

When we’re in the Blue Zone we welcome the resistance as a normal part of forward movement, seek to understand it and the underlying issues generating it, and work to be effective with those who are creating the resistance.

Want to know more? Download a FREE white paper on navigating and thriving through conflict by clicking here.