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!

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.

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.

How To Handle Organizational Transitions

May 23, 2017


Part of crafting a thriving organizational culture is building in resiliency – the ability to navigate change and transition with strength and wisdom.

Transitions are almost always wrenching for an organization or a team within an organization, even when the result of the transition will be beneficial to all concerned. Leaders can make transitions worse by insensitivity or tone-deafness to the effect the music of the transition has on the ears of the team.

Organizational transitions of all kinds are navigated well when you use these three practices:

  1. Gain credibility – leaders are even-handed and fair, and so make deposits of trust, which can be borrowed against when tough changes have to be instituted.
  2. Practice transparency – unless trade secrets which would compromise competitive advantage are at stake, default to sharing details about the conditions that shape transition decisions, the rationale for unpopular decisions, and the long-term effects on those in the organization.
  3. Demonstrate honor – in the case of terminations and layoffs, unless an employee was dismissed for ethical or legal reasons make every effort to honor those leaving, thank them for their contributions and point out their positive characteristics. This is the right thing to do for the one leaving and it engenders trust and loyalty among those staying!

How Hot Is Your Team?

May 2, 2017

PictureOne of the most important components of culture is Organizational Climate. This is rooted in our innate desire to belong to a creative community. We can learn a lot about an organization by walking through their work areas slowly, having casual conversations with people, paying attention to snippets of conversation during workshop breaks—in general, taking the temperature of the place.

In early 2014, Google made one of its biggest-ever acquisitions. It purchased a company called Nest, which makes a thermostat and a smoke alarm, for $3.2 billion.

Yep, Google—the worldwide leader in search and in organizing information—bought a thermostat and a smoke detector for just north of three billion.

Many observers scratched their heads. What would a technology firm want with a company that makes boring commodities that hang on a wall in your house and are only noticed when they beep or you become uncomfortable? No one has ever looked at a thermostat or a smoke alarm and said “Cool!”
At least not very many people.

But the acquisition made sense. Nest makes thermostats and smoke alarms that are connected to the Internet, and thus can be used to gather data about customers and potential customers. Google’s avowed mission is to “organize and simplify the world’s information” and certainly house fires, carbon monoxide levels, and how warm people like their living areas are part of that data set.

But there may be something more at play here. Google realizes that climate matters, that temperature makes a difference, that whether or not a room is warm or cool has a big bearing on the happiness and productivity of the people in that room! The climate in your home makes a difference. The same is true in your organization.

Your culture matters. Thriving cultures are the ones that succeed and they do so in part by tapping into the universal, innate human desire to belong, where the climate leads you to think and feel “I think I’ll stay awhile!”.

So, how is the temperature in your organization or on your team? It’s a great personal reflection question and also a great (and maybe even fun!) question for your team to wrestle with together.

Photo cred of Google Nest – amazon.com

4 Keys To A Trustworthy Organizational Culture

April 23, 2017

We live in a society characterized by distrust.

Trust with the political process is at an all time low. Occupations once considered trustworthy – such as the law and the ministry – rank low on trust indices. And a recent poll found that only seven percent of employees strongly agree that they trust their senior managers to look out for their best interests.

Even worse, only seven percent agree that they trust their coworkers to do so!

The reality is that we live in a world that is saturated with distrust and your employees or volunteers bring this distrust in the doors with them every day.


But there is hope. The same poll found that 58% of employees who had strong trust in their management were ‘completely satisfied’ with their jobs and 63% would consider spending the rest of their careers with their organizations.

It’s indisputable – there is a direct link between trust in leadership and employee engagement and retention.

It gets even more game-changing. Employee engagement is one of the hallmarks of a thriving organizational culture – the kind of culture where people experience the fulfillment of their innate desire to belong, to contribute, and to make a difference.

As we show in the research for our book The Secret Sauce: Creating a Winning Culture, employees who work for an organization defined by trust feel valued, work harder, experience greater satisfaction, and do not think about leaving for somewhere else. They belong, contribute, and make a difference.

An annual survey of “Best Places To Work In America’ found that the most appealing workplaces were distinguished by high levels of trust, cooperation, and commitment and did better than their peers and competitors in these ways:

  • They have stronger long-term financial performance
  • They experience lower turnover
  • They receive more job applications
  • They are more diverse in their employee/volunteer base

Inspired by these workplaces and others which we visited and chronicled in our book, we discovered four components which go into creating trustworthy leadership:

  1. Dependability
  2. Communication
  3. Learning
  4. Integrity

Find an hour of quiet ‘on the balcony’ time. Work carefully and thoughtfully through that list of four. Define them for yourself. And then take an honest look at your organization and rate yourself on a scale of 1-5 for each measure. Where can you celebrate? Where can you initiate enhancement efforts?

Dependability – You Can Count On It

April 3, 2017

In today’s organizations, people expect many things from their leaders, but dependability is not a word that is high on their lists. People expect power plays, unreasonable expectations, skillful politics, and my-career-first sorts of attitudes. But not dependability.

And that is precisely why dependability is so important.

When a leader is dependable it creates a sense of safety in her followers. And safety is something that is in short supply in our organizational cultures.

This is not a “soft skill”. People who feel unsafe act in self-protective ways, which shut out collaboration and are often dishonest. It’s understandable – when your wellbeing is on the line you are likely to act to protect yourself. But a bunch of people acting in self-protective ways makes for a rotting culture.

Dependability involves leaders coming through on their commitments, honoring the values the organization claims, treating people with both individuality and equity and genuinely caring for employees as people who have lives, families, interests, and needs that are outside the scope of the organization.

When people can operate within a thriving organizational culture that feels safe to them, they can venture beyond themselves. This is what allows them to belong, contribute, and make a real and lasting difference.

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?

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.


The Change Resistance Avalanche

February 28, 2017

Here’s how it works…

If people do not feel like they can contribute, change will be impossible…
If they do not feel like they belong they won’t embrace change.
If they do not feel like they are making a difference they
will not support necessary changes.
So the organization becomes static.
And a static organization is headed for extinction.


Download TAG's newest white paper - Red Zone/Blue Zone: Turning Conflict Into Opportunity Click here!
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