TAG Consulting

5 Deliverables of A Thriving Organizational Culture

July 21, 2017


We’ve heard it a lot and even understand it – “This culture stuff is fluffy. It’s soft stuff. ‘Have a nice day’ and all that is great but I have sales targets to hit, products to get to market, customers to serve. What matters is if I have good people who know how to do their jobs – that’s all”.

And it’s true that you can maintain a decent enough organization with no attempt at crafting a thriving culture. But you can’t have a great one – one that energizes and fulfills you, your team, and your customers.

The writer and blogger Shawn Parr defines culture like this: “A balanced blend of human psychology, attitudes, actions, and beliefs that combined either create pleasure or pain, serious momentum, or miserable stagnation”.

We love that definition because it’s vivid and sounds like someone who has been there. It’s no fun to experience misery and boredom at work, even if the paycheck is good and the job is relatively secure. We’d much rather come to work at a place that is pleasurable and marked by momentum!

Execution is key, strategy is important, marketing is crucial, research and development provides an edge – for sure. But culture eats all of these things for breakfast.

Here are some of the results (with a hat tip to Parr) that flow to an organization with a thriving culture:

Everyone knows why they are there and are on point in terms of mission.

If you know why you are doing what you are doing, it’s easy to get keyed up to do it!

Healthy cultures breed teamwork and there are few things as satisfying as being part of a group who accomplishes a shared purpose. People come out of their silos and join one another on the playing field.

Healthy cultures are  unified – everyone knows their  role and the importance of their contribution and at their best they work together seamlessly.

Spirit is what brings life to an organization, the thing that animates it to be more than a series of soulless objectives or bullet points in a strategic plan. Think of the last time you flew Southwest airlines with its culture of “love” as opposed to your last flight on – you know – one of those ‘other’ big airlines.

That’s the value proposition of a thriving culture – experiencing much more often than not the sorts of workplace qualities that bring life, good relationships, a sense of mission, and lasting accomplishment.

The kind of workplace where everyone can live out their innate desire to belong, to contribute, and to make a difference.

Interested in your organization developing and sustaining a thriving culture? Talk to one of our Culture Architects. You can reach out to one right here.

What’s Your Why? (And Why That Matters)

July 10, 2017

Organizations with thriving cultures know their ‘why’.

Why they exist, why they make a difference, why they make the world a better place, why what matters to them most matters to them most.

But the organization as a whole can’t know its ‘why’ unless the leaders as individuals do.

Do you know your why?

Here’s a classic exercise to help you get to your why – your greater purpose.

  1. Make a list of ten purposes or values to which you feel most connected.
  2. Once you’re happy with your list, rank them from most to least important. Take your time with this step. Now, rewrite the list ordered that way.
  3. Now, draw a line underneath the top five.
  4. Finally spend some time with those five. What do they tell you about yourself, what you value, what matters to you? Where are there common themes?

Simply setting aside a few hours for this exercise lets you ‘get on the balcony’ of your own life and better prepares you to help you answer the ‘why’ question for your organization.

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?