TAG Consulting

Why Resistance Is Your Ally

December 11, 2017

Call it what you will – resistance, pushback, challenge, opposition – it’s basically an opposing force that slows or stops movement. Anyone in leadership, be it parenting, teaching, directing a government agency or pastoring a church, should come to expect resistance. Resistance is everywhere!

It is important to NOT be surprised when resistance emerges. In fact, it is an element in the process of leadership that we should welcome. Welcome it, then learn how to handle it correctly.

All of us resist at times. It’s a way of protecting ourselves from real or perceived danger, most notably when change is unfolding. In and of itself, resistance is not a bad thing. It’s merely energy. If we can effectively redirect this energy we can move the resistance in the direction of change.

The first signal resistance sends to my mind is ‘I don’t like this change. In fact, I don’t like ANY change!’.

The second thing resistance signals is ‘OK, I can tolerate some change, but you’re going too fast’. When we receive the signal – whatever it is – it’s up to us to determine what the signal means.

Resistance signals issues that are lurking underneath the surface and that are tapping into our most deeply held values. That’s one of the great benefits of resistance and why we don’t hesitate to call it our ally.

Resistance is our ally because it lets us know that there is something important on in our life, our leadership, or both. It lets us know something needs to change and that change will be for the better.

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!

Conflict: Are You Winning Or Losing?

October 31, 2017

We use “Red Zone/Blue Zone” as convenient shorthand for how we all respond to the inevitable conflicts that will come our way. This plays out in our personal life to be sure – but it is also writ large in our professional lives. Whole organizations can end up living in either the Blue or the Red Zone.

How do you know which is which? Here is our quick set of comparison characteristics to contrast life in the Zones.

In the Red Zone:

-We focus on feelings more than on results.
-There are no common standards and no way of monitoring performance and behavior.
-People in the organization assume ‘family’ roles – mom, dad, arrogant older brother, spoiled little sister, patriarch, etc.

In the Blue Zone:

-There is a focus on efficiency and effectiveness.
-The structures of the organization are closely monitored and respected.
-Business issues are the top priority.

What about your organization? Does the Red Zone or Blue Zone more closely describe the way people interact there?

How Anxiety In Your Organization May Actually Help You

October 10, 2017

Who is the most anxious person in your organization?

Perhaps your answer is “me”! Whether you put your finger on yourself or someone else comes to mind, anxiety in an organization is an exhausting, distracting, and sometimes frightening thing.

When we encounter a person who is anxious, our own anxiety level tends to skyrocket. Driven by our own anxiety we want to do anything possible to either eliminate the source of the anxiety or, often, to eliminate the anxious person!

And anxiety has a nasty tendency to spread like wildfire through an organization, sapping morale, cutting productivity, eroding trust in leadership.

If you think of anxiety as a form of resistance, though, and remember our mantra that “Resistance is your ally” you will have a better shot at managing and reducing chronic anxiety.

And remember this:

The most anxious person in an organization is always a symbol of the organization as a whole.

When a group is anxious they need more than anything else for their anxiety to be recognized and understood and brought into the open. What the group needs is a leader who is managing his or her own anxiety and in so doing creating a “holding environment” where the anxiety of a group can be acknowledged but contained. Over time, as the anxiety in the organization is reduced the very best resources and creativity of the team gets freed from focusing on anxiety to tackling the challenges the organization is facing.

Such a leader is called a non-anxious presence. There’s no bigger challenge for a leader than to be this person, especially when you own anxiety is so high.

To be a non-anxious presence on a daily basis requires balancing two emphases – self-awareness and other-centeredness.

You have to be aware that you are anxious yourself and be calm and shrewd about determining the source of that anxiety. Realize that the anxiety of others is not primarily about you but that you are the one in position to help them navigate and manage it. Like resistance, anxiety can be your friend in that it reveals deeper forces at work in an organization and gives you the chance to adjust your strategies. Anxiety is both an early warning sign and a gift to a leader – pointing the way to new ways of thinking and being, new approaches to chronic problems. But you can’t lead in this until you have the courage to name and face your own anxiety.

Once you have learned to be a non-anxious presence in your own life you have the opportunity to turn to others. Anxious people are not your problem; they are given to you as a trust. Your job as a leader is to create the holding environment where their anxieties can be acknowledged, honestly named, and dealt with by truth tempered with compassion.

Such a holding environment results in business measurables such as increased productivity , energy for customers and clients, and productivity. But it also results in more fully engaged employees who are willing to give more and more of their discretionary energy because they are being honored and affirmed.

As always for a leader, your fundamental challenge is not to save your organization, but to save yourself! And that can start with the very real anxiety you may be experiencing.

One of your best resources for managing your own anxiety and that of your team is working with a leadership coach, someone who can serve as a trusted advisor to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of leadership. If you or a member of your team could benefit from such an ally, we would love to talk to you – we have a deep bench of experienced and skilled coaches who can serve as a non-anxious presence for you! Simply click here to get more information.

A Personal Conflict Inventory

September 18, 2017

It’s controversial but we believe that the starting place when we face conflict is to say (and believe) that “The problem is me!”. This is because I am usually the only part of a conflictual situation that I can control or have influence over. I may not “win” or “solve” the conflict when I start with me, but I will grow in self-knowledge.

One of the most valuable areas of self-knowledge has to do with recognizing internal areas which cause me to trip up and fall into unhealthy conflict.

Here’s a challenge – take a look at the list below and take an honest inventory of yourself. How many of these might describe you?

  • I know exactly what things set me off and cause me to overreact.
  • I find myself reading other people’s minds.
  • I know what I fear the most – whether it’s rejection, loss of control, abandonment, or something else.
  • I have a clear read on the exact characteristics in others that annoy me the most. And I am aware of where those characteristics might reside in me.
  • I know what things about myself I work hard to keep hidden from others.
  • What things do I rarely if even do – even though they might benefit me?

Conflict Can Be Win-Win (Video)

August 25, 2017

Over the years we have consulted with many hundreds of organizations and leaders showing them how they can thrive through, not just survive conflict.

Virtually every time, those leaders are surprised to hear us say that “Resistance is your ally, not your enemy”.

The simple truth is that conflict doesn’t have to destroy, doesn’t have to result in winners and losers.

When conflict is on the level of values and beliefs that are shared, we can both find common ground and grow in self-awareness and self-knowledge.

Organizations that have a culture where healthy conflict is not only allowed but encouraged are the ones who thrive and where team members are engaged and invested.

Co-author Jim Osterhaus offers an introduction to Red Zone/Blue Zone thinking in this short video. Give us just a few minutes and see how conflict can work for, not against, you.

Conflict Is Your Friend! Jim Osterhaus Introduces The Blue Zone from TAG Consulting on Vimeo.

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!