TAG Consulting

Collaborate – With People Who Aren’t Even In The Room


June 25, 2017

 

One of the most critical aspects of thriving organizational culture is collaboration.

Collaboration invites people into partnerships that require commitment. Each person commits to give something to the initiative. Each person takes the risk of losing something. Collaboration is the advancement of a cause or purpose that is bigger than the sum of its parts. And this means that collaboration has a multiplying effect that can result in a change in direction, behaviors, awareness, and possibility for the organization.

When it comes to change, collaboration is paramount.

We’ll collaborate first with those on our teams. We start by paying attention to those people.

We’re paying attention to their roles, their desires, their hopes, their strengths, their anxieties. We’re doing everything we can to help each of them understand the change that’s coming and their role in that change, showing them where they will win and where they might experience loss.

We’re doing everything we can to help them thrive, with the end result being that they will be more engaged than ever and that the organization as a whole will go from strength to strength.

That’s a lot to handle!

But it’s not everything we need to handle.

Consider one of the most overlooked keys to change leadership:
The people IN the room have people OUTSIDE the room about whom they care and to whom they are accountable and we have to pay attention to them too.

These ‘outside the room’ people may be direct reports, customers, clients, vendors, even family members. But they will be affected in some way by the change happening to the person in the room.

One very simple yet extraordinarily powerful discipline of change leadership is for you as the leader to consider the constituencies of each person in the room and help them think through how to involve those people in the questions, struggles, deliberations, and solutions of the change process.

In doing this, you are serving your team members, pacing them as they deal with the rate of change, and demonstrating that you honor them and have their best interests at heart.

Put that together and you are increasing your odds for successful change leadership and an engaged, energized team.

And you’re broadening the scope of the team with which you’re collaborating.

Culture Works, Part 4 – Making A Difference


June 20, 2017

The news has recently been full of stories about organizations in crisis. From United to Uber, Fox News and Wells Fargo, major company after major company seems to lurch from misstep to misstep.

In our client work we try to instill this simple yet profound lesson: However a problem presents itself it is usually not the real problem.

So, what is the real problem at United, Uber and others? What is the real problem in your organization? Can you state it succinctly?

All too often the “wrong” problem is identified and then “solved”, leaving the real problem untouched. We are good at identifying symptoms of the problem. We are not good at identifying core issues and if core issues go unaddressed, we are doomed to a repeating cycle of problems.

Every organization has “culture” and we believe there are three types of culture:

1. Legacy Culture – this is culture that was created in the past by people no longer involved in the organization. Legacy Culture can be both good and bad.

2. Shadow Culture – this culture exists but we often times do not know where it came from, how it got here and often times we struggle to even define it. Most of the time we can only sense it. Shadow culture is usually negative.

3. Crafted Culture – this culture is designed, built and maintained with extreme intentionality. It informs every strategy, structure, system and space.

Ultimately, the result of Crafted Culture is a thriving organization where people feel like they belong, can contribute uniquely and ultimately make a difference.

In our work with thousands of people over the past nineteen years, we have discovered that people rarely leave their jobs because of pay. They usually leave their job because of broken promises and their inability to make a difference – both of which are evidence of weak culture.

When given the chance to belong and contribute, making a difference is a natural outcome. It does need some harnessing, however.

So, how can people make a difference in ANY organization?

· Creative problem-solving and processes. The best solutions to your biggest problems are most likely already in your organization. Engage people to reimagine things. Give them the time and space to streamline, rework, redesign.

· Empowerment as freedom. People need to feel trusted to succeed and fail. Empowerment is freedom; freedom to invent, dream and stretch. Empowered people are the ones who come up with new ideas, systems, processes and products. Empowered people are the high performers and the over achievers.

· Ownership in the Culture. All too often we want, even expect people to “own the vision” of our organizations. But, we believe that if they “own the vision” but don’t have a part in crafting the culture that will give rise to the vision it will ultimately fail.

The problems at United, Uber, Fox News and Wells Fargo are not system or process problems. They are culture and leader problems. Weak culture creates weak leaders and weak culture is costing them millions of dollars in lost revenue, employee turnover, lawsuits and tarnished images. The solutions are not simply found in new policies and new leadership. They will be found as we craft new thriving culture.

Trevor J. Bron is a Culture Architect and Executive Advisor with TAG

Is Your Culture Congruent?


June 12, 2017

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Practices are our intentional behaviors. They are the things we set out to do.

From its earliest days, Southwest Airlines has been about “love” and so their people consciously try to love each other and their customers. A friend of ours who owns a bagel shop in Charlotte shows up for work each morning deliberately trying to replicate the process of bagel-making his father used on the Lower East Side.

Years ago, there was a commercial featuring the golfer Tiger Woods, at that time at the top of his game. The camera panned through his house and showed rain coming down in sheets outside. Tiger’s voice-over talked about taking days off – what most of us would do if we were a golfer and there was a downpour! But as the commercial ended, the camera panned outside and there was Tiger – beating practice ball after practice ball into the pouring rain.

Every organization has practices. They are sourced in what you believe to be true about yourself, what you value, the talents of your people, and the demands of your customers.

Here’s a key point: our practices flow from our principles.

Principles are stabilized beliefs that direct and shape attitudes, actions and systems. Within every organizational system there exists at least three intersecting and overlapping spheres; self, team and organization. Individuals bring personal sets of beliefs and principles. Teams and organizations operate from similar core foundations and principles that guide the operation, leadership and strategic objectives. Congruence is all about alignment. Aligning the three spheres of self, team, and organization is the delicate but essential work of congruence.

Congruence is about resonance. It is alignment around core non-negotiable principles that literally rings true with those who hold similar value propositions. Ensuring this alignment is critical for organizations to point every unit and person in the same direction, moving in a certain cadence, and honoring the essence of the organization, the team and the individual. When principles that are shared are honored, the energy that is produced propels the team and organization forward with greater ease and fluidity.

One of our clients, Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston, practices dollar for dollar giving – and have done so for more than fifty years. With a budget in excess of $10 million they give half of their money to worthy causes. They do this in good economic times and bad – when the church can easily meet payroll and when it has to stretch. It is just who they are.

Practices have to do with “the way things are around here” that are unique to your organization. These are largely determined by the principles we hold dear.

Another of our clients, The Cardiovascular Group of Northern Virginia, instituted a practice that prohibited their physicians from working more than four and a half days a week. This practice started fifteen years ago and they say that this very large medical practice has only experienced two divorces in that time period. This is congruence between personal and corporate values. Everyone thrives.

What about your organization? Is it congruent?
What are the non-negotiable things that you do on purpose?

What do those things say about you and what you value?

 

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.

Create A Culture of Listening In Your Meetings


May 29, 2017

In our last post, we wrote about how thriving organizational culture creates a space where the innate human desire to belong is met.

A very large part of belonging is being listened to, having your words and thoughts and point of view honored. Unfortunately, all too few of our organizations have cultures like this. Too many employees feel like cogs in a machine, interchangeable parts, not honored for their individuality. Our teams pay lip service to “people are our greatest resource” but all too often the implicit message is “Please be quiet and just do as you’re told”.

Nothing saps morale and decreases engagement faster than being told to keep your head down and cease to think for yourself. Nothing saps loyalty faster than feeling like you don’t have a say or a stake.

Organizations with thriving culture listen to their members. Particularly in meetings.

The best meetings aren’t one way monologues. They are an honest, open, frank exchange of ideas. They allow for creative and constructive conflict and are often free-flowing.

In other words, they can be scary for senior leadership!

Here are four ways to create a culture of listening, particularly if you are the one leading the meeting.

  1. Allow for silence. It’s easy to feel that you have to rush to fill every silence, to have all the answers, to know just where to take the group next. Resist that feeling. Sometimes, it’s best to slow things down to make sure that everyone who wants to speak has the opportunity and that the group can absorb what has just been said.
  2. Respond with questions, not commentary or answers. Questions are immeasurably powerful and they honor the one being questioned IF their intent is not to interrogate or box in but rather to help the one being questioned hear more deeply what she is saying and communicate it more clearly to others.
  3. Protect the dissenting voices in the meeting. You’ve been there before. Someone says something that feels offbeat or threatening and the rest of the group responds with rustling papers, averted eye contact, jokes, or hostile silence. If you’re leading the meeting and a dissenting voice speaks, honor it as you would the voice that thoroughly agrees with you. Chances are, that dissenting voice has an element of truth the group needs to hear and honor. Most of all don’t let the dissenter be marginalized or shamed.
  4. Speak for yourself. Leaders of meetings don’t have to be experts or dictators, pushing the group towards a predetermined outcome. We know that members of organizations long to feel and believe that their leaders are trustworthy. Part of trust is honesty and authenticity. If the leader can also be a person – not just play a role – the rest of the group will gradually become more free to be themselves, which means that they will bring all of their gifts and talents and strengths to the team. This doesn’t mean that the leader is absolved of his or her responsibility to protect the mission above all else. That is a given. But the leader is not a mission automaton. She is a living, breathing person. It is OK – even necessary – to show this.

Every person in your organization has an innate desire to belong. If you create a culture characterized by active and receptive listening, your team will be drawn more deeply in to your mission and as a result your organization will be more productive and healthy.

Culture Works, Part 2 – Do I Belong At Work?


May 22, 2017

What if I told you that there was a way to transform the organizational culture you have for the culture you want in three easy steps?

I wouldn’t believe that either. My inner skeptic would charge in with a heavy dose of reason and remind me that there is no such thing as “three easy steps” to almost anything; especially not culture.

Culture is complex. It doesn’t just happen and there are very powerful forces at work against thriving culture.

Now, every organization has “culture”. Either it is a purposeful culture or a default culture.

We call default culture the “Shadow Culture”.

Shadow Culture is what exists without intention – it just “is”.

This kind of culture usually shows itself in systems or processes that no longer make sense, but we live them anyway. A shadow culture can be one that prohibits speaking up, pushing back, offering suggestions.

The shadow culture always operates behind the scenes and is very powerful. While the Enron Corporation had a strong stated set of Core Values, its shadow culture of greed was much more powerful and ultimately resulted in the downfall of the company and the loss of thousands of people’s jobs and retirement accounts. It was devastating.

When all the dust had settled and the stories were told, it became quite clear that the shadow culture ruled. More recently we’ve read about and experienced the shadow cultures of United Airlines, Uber and Fox News. Their recent “incidents” are not isolated but are indicators of deep underlying culture issues.

So, while there are not three easy steps, there are three very important ingredients that go into creating a healthy, thriving culture. We believe that people have three innate desires:

1.    The desire to belong
2.    The desire to contribute
3.    The desire to make a difference

The desire to belong is a very powerful one. I can remember back to the early days of elementary school and how badly I wanted to fit in, to belong. In between my 5th and 6th grade year of school we moved. I changed schools and I was devastated. I thought I would never fit in or be accepted in my new school. It felt like a life consigned to the shadows.

We’ve all faced rejection at some point. So, when it comes to creating a thriving organizational culture the first thing to focus on is belonging. Do your people feel like they fit in?

I have been a part of many organizations that had a “feeling like family”. While on the surface this feels right and good, it can also be quite dangerous. With family, either you are a part or you are not. This can be counterproductive to creating a thriving culture.

Instead it helps to think of work as that place “where everyone knows your name”. Our places of work should serve as a place of validation, acceptance, growth, stretching and belonging.
Your coworkers don’t need to be your best friends, but they also should not be your worst enemies.

No one in your workplace or on your team should have to live in the shadows.

Work should not be a dreaded place; we spend most of our lives there. Work should a place that is life giving. And it all starts with a sense of belonging.

Is your organizational culture one of belonging?

Trevor J. Bron is a Culture Architect and Executive Advisor with TAG Consulting. To find out more about Trevor, click here.

Culture Works (Part 1)


May 7, 2017

 

Is Complaining About Work Inevitable?

On a recent flight from Denver to Washington, D.C. I overheard the flight crew talking about their work. They were complaining about the airline, critiquing the competition and griping about passengers. This is not the first conversation like this I’ve overheard. It seems to happen everywhere all the time.

Is complaining about our work just part of the job? Is it something that is inevitable? Unavoidable?

I’ve done it. You’ve done it. And it’s easy to justify it.

Work is, after all, a four-letter word. So is “boss”! So why not talk bad about it and them?

As a Culture Architect, I believe that humans have an innate desire to belong, contribute and make a difference, not just at work but in life. So, what happens when we don’t belong, can’t contribute and aren’t making a difference?

We feel like an outsider. We experience rejection. We feel undervalued.

So we complain.

The late Peter Drucker wrote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In other words, the culture that surrounds us either encourages us to belong, enables us to contribute and empowers us to make a difference or it doesn’t.

Millions of dollars and employee hours are invested in creating “strategic plans”, but the best strategy in the world will never create a thriving organizational culture or overcome an unhealthy culture.

The correlation between a thriving culture and employee engagement is undeniable. And employee engagement is the key predictor of organizational productivity and success. People who work in a place where a thriving culture is cultivated are more positive, less likely to quit, take fewer sick days, spend more time at work and take greater initiative.

But this kind of culture doesn’t just happen. It takes time and effort. As Plato said, “What is honored is cultivated”.

What does your organization honor? What does your organization cultivate?

Ask yourself a few of the questions we use at TAG to diagnose organizational culture:

1. Our average employee can articulate why the organization exists. True/False
2. Our organization’s mission is clear and concise. True/False
3. Our organization’s communication tools are effective. True/False
4. Our organization’s leaders are all headed in the same direction. True/False
5. I know where we are headed in the next year. True/False
6. People in the organization honor our Core Values. True/False
7. Team members know how they contribute to the ‘why’ of our organization. True/False
8. Every department feels ownership around the driving purpose of the organization.
True/False
9. In our team meetings push back and challenges are encouraged. True/False
10. Our organization fosters an environment where new ideas surface. True/False
11. We provide time and space for people to think differently about challenges we face.
True/False
12. People are encouraged to embrace conflict and work through it. True/False
13. Our employees feel connected to each other and the mission. True/False
14. People are encouraged to connect regularly to learn from each other. True/False
15. We are encouraged to collaborate with other teams in our organization. True/False
16. Managers and Leaders make a priority of developing connections between team members
and other teams. True/False
17. Our company has a system to regularly reward people. True/False

Add up your “True” scores:
• 1-6 Your Culture Needs Some Serious Attention.
• 7-12 Your Culture Is Good but Could Be Great.
• 13-18 Your Culture Is Vibrant and Should Be Maximized.

The conversations that happen while in the break room at work, the hallway after a meeting or even standing in the airplane galley are also a good indication of culture. Create a habit of listening carefully to the conversations around you – not just the ones you start.

Want to talk to one of our Culture Architects about creating a thriving organizational culture at your workplace? Click here.

Next up in this series – What makes for a thriving organizational culture?

Trevor J. Bron is a Senior Consultant and Culture Architect with TAG Consulting. To find out more about Trevor, click here.

Why Work Should Be Like Jazz


May 2, 2017

Think of the last time you heard a jazz ensemble.

A group of gifted musicians bringing their unique talent on their particular instrument together into a riot of sounds that make a spectacular expression of art. It’s truly the sound of collaboration.

The word ‘collaborate’ means “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.” It comes from Latin, originally possessing a meaning of ‘laboring together.’

But wait. What do jazz and labor have to do with one another?

After all, we often assume labor is something difficult, less than fun. You know, laborious.

But labor is simply the act of work, of doing something. The saxophonist labors at her craft. The bassist labors at plucking the right note in the right pattern to hold the bass line. Labor isn’t always hard; it simply connotes action. The jazz musician labors by playing a guitar, horn, bass or drums. For a good (or even just enthusiastic) musician this labor is play – anything but laborious!

What if we played at work?

When jazz musicians collaborate, they give of themselves, pour their entire being into the music, take the notes and bring life to them with each inhale and exhale, each beat, each rhythm, each riff. Jazz provides the perfect blend of eclectic instruments converging together to create a sound like no other. It becomes a soundtrack of tonal resonance that is unique and unmatched. Each musician plays at bringing their own gift to the mix.

Thriving organizational cultures invite people to “play” at their work! Now, many of us don’t consider our work environment as being a place to play. But why not? Are we not to contribute something of value and meaning, fulfilling a greater purpose? Why can’t we reframe our work as play and not something to be dreaded, but rather something to be celebrated?

We believe that thriving organizational cultures allow for the expression of three innate desires common to all human beings:

-To belong
-To contribute
-To make a difference

That sounds a lot more like “playful” than “laborious”.

Like a jazz ensemble, your work environment has a distinct sound. What is it?

The Sound of Your Work Culture

Ever experienced a ‘work’ culture like jazz? An experience where each person comes to the ‘table’ or the ‘studio’ or the ‘stage’ with their instrument?

They tune together, start with a simple chord progression and then contribute their own unique interpretation and contribution to the masterpiece. Probably even the thought of coming to ‘work like jazz’ is silly, frightening or just laughable. Knowing a lot of work environments, I get it.

There are not many work environments that are set up to allow the unleashing of creative energy to be harnessed in such a way as to produce a melodious outcome. Yet, down deep that’s what we desire. Down deep we have a yearning to honor what is inside each one of us.

Maybe your workplace needs a new soundtrack. A soundtrack that brings meaning out of life and allows us to explore places that words cannot express. One which cultivates meaning and a deep sense of purpose that escapes the rational, intellectual brain. A soundtrack that enlivens and unleashes us into a more creative space, giving permission for our hidden talents to emerge.

What if we approached our work more like jazz? Co-laboring together with our instruments, our skills, talents, our passions and seeing what sound comes out of what we contribute.

Keep in mind too that true jazz music is never a solo. Sure there may be a bandleader, a conductor of sorts. They set the tone, pace and notes, but each person gives to the project, plays into the rhythm, and plays out of who they are.

Work like jazz. Collaborate, create, contribute. Don’t worry about who gets the credit. Credit is for scorekeepers and the points in the end don’t matter.

What matters? Honoring the music in you, honoring the difference that you make and living more fully into that difference. Offering to the world the best of what you have every time, giving yourself in the moment to the work. Giving what you have because it’s in you, it’s who you are; it’s what makes you feel most alive.

Thriving organizational cultures allow people to contribute to the work so that the work is not just about outcomes, but the journey. A journey where people are celebrated for who they are and what they offer, how they labor together in a way that draws with it meaning and purpose, not just outcomes. Sure, the outcome will arrive. But the outcome in jazz music is not the end – it’s the whole experience.

Tune your instrument, gather others who like to play, provide space and time and watch your work turn into a soundtrack that will be life-giving and dare I say fun?

Shane Roberson

Is Your Culture Clear?


April 23, 2017

It’s Spring, which means I am out in the yard more. The other day, a small furry caterpillar caught my eye. I decided to watch it.

Which got boring really quickly! For me, at least.

I’m sure the caterpillar was on an epic journey to form the temporary shell of a chrysalis so that it could undergo the necessary transformation into a butterfly. The remarkable transformation from one species into another.

Watching that fuzzy creature reminded me of an experiment conducted by Dr. Thomas Watson. Dr. Watson placed a caterpillar on the rim of a large pot containing dirt and several of a caterpillars’ favorite plants. One by one each of the furry crawlers would inch along that edge.

Researchers look for patterns and trends. Dr. Watson noticed that the first caterpillar stayed on the edge of the rim. The second followed the first caterpillar’s lead. This was repeated across all the caterpillars, a half a dozen or so all making the assumption that the caterpillar in front of them knew where he or she was going.

Around and around the rim they went until every last one died of starvation. The food they were roaming around the rim of the pot looking for was just below, inside the pot the entire time.

This isn’t a story about leaders, but about an even more powerful force…..

Culture.

At TAG we get the privilege to work with many different organizations across the world. What we find is that people thrive in cultures that are crafted to help them belong, contribute, and make a difference. Realize these three elements in full and you have a thriving culture. One thing every organization with a thriving culture has as a leading asset is clarity.

These organizations are aligned with a clear focus and their direction is clear. That doesn’t mean they get it all right, but when it comes to clarity, they have a very real sense of purpose and meaning. In other words, they know why they exist and they have crystal clear focus on pursuing that purpose.

Thriving organizations know why they exist. They are filled with people who embody that purpose in very real and concrete ways. Too often, we encounter people more like the caterpillars in Dr. Watson’s experiment. Circling around the rim, filling days with busyness and movement that lead nowhere. Organizations suffer from the O-Curve, the monotonous meandering in circles that look busy, but lead nowhere. An O-Curve culture is characterized by a senseless pursuit of things that don’t matter and subsequently lead an organization to irrelevance.

Circuit City was featured in Jim Collins’ book Good To Great. One of those long time establishments that cornered the market in electronics, prided themselves on their customer service, and knew that they couldn’t fail. In fact, reports from those who stuck around to the bitter end state they thought they were going to be salvaged by last minute investors.

The O-Curve set in. Going around the rim waiting for the right investor to buy them and save them from impending peril. Looking back, many close to the company and even the founding family (who were not in the company at the end) say that Circuit City lost their way. They lost their why, their meaning and purpose. In other words, they lost their clarity. They were traveling around the rim of the pot thinking someone was going to show them the lush green vegetation for them to feast on.

We’ve found a solution for this lack of clarity and it comes with a name:

The Frames of Clarity

Your organization or team might be due for a check up. Instead of a vision test, maybe it is time for a Clarity Test? Why does your organization exist? Why does it matter to the people you serve? Are you leading people around the same rim of your organization, or to a place of thriving success? How do you know?

There are at least three frames through which to view your organization in order to assess clarity.

Your first frame is the balcony frame. Getting out of the weeds, the day-to-day and taking things in at a new angle. Seeing the bigger picture, not of what is coming, but what is happening. Asking questions that seem obvious, maybe even foolish, about the day-to-day occurrences on the dance floor of the organization. When you force yourself out of your normal viewing area into a new realm, you start to see things differently. It’s in that difference that clarity is discovered, where sights and sounds resonate more clearly. A place where you can begin to see the moving parts, the chemistry, or lack thereof, the synchronized connections of the individuals, groups and teams that comprise the organization.

Leaders belong on the balcony so they can gain clarity and offer it to others. The balcony view is not an elitist, club level view however. It is the leader’s role to bring other people onto the balcony. Effective leaders seek to bring others to clarity, connecting with people in such a way to show them new perspective and learn about their perspective.

That introduces the next frame. Clarity comes when we look through the frame of another individual’s perspective and context. Clarity emerges when we shift angles, change directions and look differently at the same thing.

Take some time to think about how what you see looks like to someone else. How do you do that? Ask them questions. Walk a day or a few hours in their world, their shoes, gaining insights from their viewpoint. It’s what the show Undercover Boss brought into the popular culture. CEO’s disguising themselves as part of the workforce in order to learn and grow. Most every time the CEO’s eyes are opened. It’s because they have the opportunity to look through another person’s frame.

Finally, look through the frame of your customer or stakeholder. Think about who that is first. Many teams don’t even have clarity about that. Why do they do business with you? What are their other options for the product or service you deliver and provide? What compels them to do business with your organization? Often times in organizational life we get so caught up in the day-to-day operations of the internal processes and structures that we neglect the external viewpoint. Looking through the lens of the customer’s perspective sheds the filter that working and existing within the organizational system tends to overlay.

Whichever frame you choose to use, look for misalignment and areas of disconnect. And look for fresh perspective and new insights. Such clarity refuels the organization’s capacity for growth and innovation. Without it, organizations struggle, people become disengaged and we start roaming around in caterpillar circles.

Break the cycle, seek clarity and craft a thriving organizational culture, one where everyone involved realizes the fulfillment of their innate desire to belong, to contribute, and to make a difference.

Shane Roberson is one of TAG’s Culture Architects and its Vice President for Client Services. He is the co-author of Your Intentional Difference: One Word Changes Everything. To get to know Shane better, click here.

5 Questions To Shape Your Organization’s Culture


April 17, 2017

If you’re leading change and crafting a thriving culture, you are going to confront tough problems.

Probably daily.

When facing a tough challenge, penetrating questions are your best friend.

The failure to ask questions, or to create a culture where questions are allowed and even encouraged, can be deadly. Look no further than recent headlines.

Media reports have focused on United Airlines’ customer service debacle which involved overbooking and a passenger bodily dragged off of a plane. The negative PR has been otherworldly and their market value has suffered greatly.

A lot of the attention has been paid to tactics. In fact, scratch below the surface, and the evidence indicates that United has a culture of ‘do – don’t ask’,  where employees were encouraged to follow rules first and think and ask questions later, if at all.

Engaged employees know that they have permission to ask questions – even tough ones.

Here are five questions to add to your toolkit as a leader and to build into your culture:

1. What does our mission or purpose as an organization have to say about this challenge?
2. Does this challenge emerge from conditions internal or external to our organization?
3. Who are the people most directly affected by this problem? How are they seeing it?
4. Where does this problem reveal itself – at the high level of mission and values or closer to the ground in routine tasks and processes?
5. What if any authority do I have to confront this challenge?

These questions may not provide the answer to your specific challenge but, without a doubt, they will better position you to work with others to provide the solutions you need.

In our work as Culture Architects, we help organizations of all kinds ask the right questions every day. We’d love to serve you. You can contact us here

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