TAG Consulting

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.


The Two Most Important Questions For Spotting Talent

February 19, 2017

In an organization with a healthy culture, the end result is that employees fulfill their desire to be engaged. When they reflect on their jobs they think things like this: “I matter around here. My strengths are being recognized and used around here. I am making a difference in and through my work”>

In our employee survey, The Engagement Dashboard (TED) those organizations with a healthy culture consistently saw that their employees answered ‘yes’ to questions such as “I get to use my talents and strengths every day at work”.

Some organizations do this as a matter of course, putting employees through widely available strengths-identifying instruments. We recommend such tools and use a few ourselves.

However, the very best organizations end up identifying and developing managers and leaders who themselves are talent scouts, whether or not they use the formal tools.

These leaders use two questions as indispensable tools to identify talent:

What does it take to win in our business?

How will we know a winner when we see him or her?

If you can identify these people – fueled by your leaders’ experience in the industry and the available tools – and then deploy and encourage them, you will have made an important first step toward engaging your people.

A Strategy Forecast

February 8, 2017

Strategy is what happens when an organization formulates a wise response to changing conditions outside of the organization.

A key element of an effective strategy is making sure to pay attention to the right external conditions. For the most part, they fall into one of four categories.

When you are formulating and implementing a strategic initiative, make sure that you are considering this checklist of potential external variables:

  1. The customers, who insure your organization’s survival.
  2. The regulatory environment, where policy can alter the competitive landscape in a moment.
  3. Complementary businesses, such as vendors, upon whom your organization relies for products, goods, and services.
  4. Competitors, who may anticipate the future first themselves or, on the other hand, may be making mistakes your organization must avoid.

Your Weaknesses Don’t Matter

January 21, 2017


Great leadership is not rooted in fixing your weaknesses. Goodness knows we all have enough of those. But greatness doesn’t come through addressing them.

Any competent golf professional will help his student build upon his strengths rather than try to fix his weaknesses. A student who is 5’5″ and 120 lbs. is not likely to crush the ball 300 yards off the tee! She is more likely to be adept at the short game, with touch around the green and on the putting surface. The pro will start there with his student.

An introvert is not likely to be a smooth pitchman. But he may well have a unique ability to read body language and unspoken cues.

Go with what you have. If you are logical and given to process, major in that. If you love people and love motivating others, make this your focus. Know yourself.

We make a case for this in our book Your Intentional Difference: One Word Changes Everything, which you can find here.

Here is our basic premise:

Eighty-five percent of what we do, select others can be trained and developed to do.

Ten percent of what we do , select others can be trained and developed to do.

But there is a unique five percent that you and only you can do the way you do it. This  is your uniqueness, lived large.

You were made different to make a difference and this difference is an expression of your Intentional Difference, your 5%!

It is vital that you know your strengths, whether or not you use the Intentional Difference process as described in the book. You will want to know who you are, what you are made to do and then organize your life around these endeavors.

If you lead a team, you have the great opportunity to help your team members identify, flourish in, and leverage their strengths as well.

Knowing and living into your Intentional Difference is a secret weapon for your career and for your team’s success. It’s a vital ingredient in your Secret Sauce.

To find out more about how you can find out more about YOUR Intentional Difference and how it applies to your life and work, click here!

And for a fun introduction to the concept of Intentional Difference, watch this:

Your Intentional Difference from TAG Consulting on Vimeo.

The Personal Energy Test

January 2, 2017

Think about the last time you went home at the end of the day happy and full of energy. If you work at home, think about the last time the sun went down and you were more full of energy than when the day had started.

Now, think about these two questions:

-What had you done that day?
-What particular talents were you tapping into that day?

Now, think about the last time you went home at the end of the day drained and exhausted, maybe even a little depressed. If you work at home, think about the last time the sun went down and you were listless and exhausted and relieved that the day was almost over.

Consider these two questions:

-What had you done that day?
-What particular talents that you have were you NOT tapping into that day?

These are great diagnostic questions to help you live more intentionally and to up your energy level.

Make it your goal to organize your life in such a way that you do more of the things that energize you and less of the things that drain you. We promise you will be a more effective leader for it.

And if you can create a culture where those on your team can spend more time on the things that bring them energy, your organization will be better for it.

3 Best Practices For Handling Transitions

December 13, 2016

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