TAG Consulting

How Anxiety In Your Organization May Actually Help You

October 10, 2017

Who is the most anxious person in your organization?

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

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

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

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

And remember this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Causes Anxiety On Your Team?

November 28, 2016


We may be living in the time of greatest anxiety in the history of the Western world – just witness the recent presidential campaign – and its aftermath!

And if you are involved in leading cultural change we can guarantee you have anxiety on your team!

Anxiety is our natural response when we feel threatened or insecure. This threat always shows up in our minds and hearts as a sense of loss. This connection – loss and anxiety – is important for leaders to understand.

“If I don’t do well at my job I will lose my job and have no money.”

“All these external forces, people rigging the system, are going to end up hurting me and I can’t do anything about it”.

“I am never going to get ahead in this organization because these proposed changes will take away my status and as a result all my years of effort”.

Leader – if you are leading change this will inevitably be experienced as loss by some people and when they experience this loss their anxiety will go through the roof.

We’re going to assume that you have a handle on managing your own anxiety (if not, watch this blog  – that is a big preoccupation of ours!). The important thing for you now to realize is that the people you are leading as you lead change are also experiencing anxiety and that you – as the leader – have the charge to create places where they can share this anxiety without being overwhelmed by it.

This means you must be fearless, non-anxious, non-defensive, and willing to take hits and be misunderstood. Tall order, isn’t it?

But if you can get there you will have the chance to lead the kind of change that will make a positive difference in the lives of your team, both on and off the job.

We’re aware that change leadership is a challenging endeavor, especially when you have to face down your own anxiety. You will most likely want to consider the services of a leadership coach – a trusted advisor who can help you manage your own anxiety and that of your team.

It’s hard to imagine a better investment for a change leader! To find out more, click here.

Lead Change With the 3-D Method

December 21, 2015

At TAG, we encourage leaders to use a simple but profound tool to introduce change and arrive at tough decisions while regulating stress. Why is this important?

Because effective leaders know that too much change too fast creates anxiety and resistance.

We introduce the 3-D Method because it allows leaders to introduce change in three well-regulated phases, one step at a time. The three steps are Dialogue, Discussion, and Decision.

3-D apples

In the Dialogue phase, people simply state their own opinions without feedback or interruption from others. The goal in this step is information-gathering, seeing where people stand, getting everything out on the table. If you are working with a group, it is simply going around the circle and letting everyone speak their opinion about the real issues facing the group.

Often in the Dialogue phase leaders are surprised. There are issues that prove to be important which no one was paying attention to before. Dialogue leads to deeper understanding and we often hear comments like this: “I’ve learned more about this issue in forty-five minutes than I have in ten years!”.

In the Discussion phase, participants are free to agree or disagree with each other. The goal is to identify the issues, clarify the competing values in the group, and provide possible scenarios and options.

This usually takes place in a separate meeting, often days after the Dialogue phase.

“Competing values” is a critically important concept here. Often when competing values surface around one issue, it becomes clear that the same values are creating conflict and resistance around other issues. The team is able to make connections that were previously obscured. There are ‘a-ha’ moments that are surprising and helpful.

The Decision phase occurs next. There will be conflict here, but it is usually less stark because the group has already processed through the issue in the Dialogue and Discussion phases. It’s important to insure at this point that the conversation remains objective and focused on organizational issues.

This is the phase where the leader earns his or her ‘pay’. At the end of this phase, the recognized and authorized leaders in the group make a decision, based on what they perceive is the right direction for the organization. It’s not about consensus decision-making at this point, though consensus can be nice!

Following the 3-D Method does not insure that stress and anxiety are eliminated entirely but that they are regulated and manageable. Everyone has had the opportunity to provide input in a safe way; everyone has been heard; competing values have been surfaced and honored.

Over many years, with clients in all of the sectors – Public, Private, and Social – we have found that the 3-D Method provides a safe forum where change can happen and tough decisions be made. Try it in your organization, and we would love to encourage and serve you along the way!