TAG Consulting

Leadership Is All About Connection


December 1, 2017

A college freshman walks into his very first college course – the dreaded eight o’clock class.

Freshman year can be a bit awkward, especially so for this young man. He barely graduated high school, was forced to suspend any dreams he had of going away to school like the rest of his friends and felt stuck going to a junior college. Life did not quite work out his way up to this point.

His father died when he was 15, he was cut from every sports team, never “fit in” anywhere in high school. A shy, overweight, average young man who felt fairly invisible in what felt like the college for misfits.

The students shuffled in, plopping behind desks that felt sized for a middle school student. In walks a man just under six feet tall, wearing wrinkled black pants, white dress shirt untucked, adorned with a black necktie that was loosened like he had already been through a long day.

His wiry black hair was disheveled and his grin completed the package of the image of a mad scientist. Professor Herman Heluza fit the bill for what one would expect for a junior college instructor of a freshman English class.

Already defeated, our young college student readied himself for another series of struggles, trying to make something of himself. Failure defined his existence to this point.

He was never a particularly good student, especially in high school. He had all but given up being anything. He knew he wasn’t very smart, believed that he didn’t have much in the way of mental capacity and intellectual capabilities. It had be reinforced throughout high school. Just to graduate from High School he had to beg a teacher to give him a D in Geometry after he had failed it once before.

English was definitely not his strong suit. Identified as having a reading comprehension problem in sixth grade, he never quite recovered. His work was always sub-standard. He knew how to do just enough to squeak by. In his writing, he grew used to seeing a lot of red ink all over his papers.

He submitted his first paper, not thinking much of it. Receiving it back in class he skipped through the first few pages to go to where the grade would be, on the back page.

Wait, what? A double take. A big letter A. Verifying it was his paper, his immediate thought? “This crazy prof didn’t read my paper.”

Over the course of the semester he kept getting papers with very few comments (translate…very little red ink) and A’s. Wow, this had never happened before, ever!

The final paper, Professor Heluza provided ample feedback with a note at the end, “Please make an appointment with me to come see me as soon as possible!” Yikes! Gulp! His first thought? “He thought I cheated.”

The student remembers, “I knew this was all too good to be true; he thinks I’m plagiarizing.”

The two connected in the professor’s office. Professor Heluza sat down, looked the student in the eye (a bit uncomfortably) and said “I love your writing!”

Shocked, the young man listened. Herman leaned in a little closer, “There’s a gift inside of you that you have to let out. The world needs what you have to offer! You are going to be a great writer and speaker some day.”

That day, this odd, disheveled, sort of weird College Freshman English Professor named Herman connected a skipped over, discarded, “dumb” student with purpose and meaning. Heluza was able to tap into latent potential, unrealized capacity that gave this young man a platform from which to contribute.

There is a gift inside each of us that is waiting to be expressed! It is your unique contribution that fulfills your innate sense of what it means to be human. You long – we all do – for a place to contribute and make an impact.

What Herman Heluza did for that young man was to connect his capacity with a specific way to contribute.

John Quincy Adams said “You’re a leader if you inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.” You could say Professor Heluza was a leader! Leaders of thriving organizations inspire people to realize their capacity, their gift, to contribute to the organization. It’s all about connection, taking the time to meaningfully engage so we can see the potential in people even when they have lost sight of what they can offer.

There is more power in relationship than any position, piece of information or expertise can provide. Relationships are power. Our new economy is based on an age old natural resource; our ability and capacity to connect with people and their potential. Herman Heluza connected capacity with contribution and saved the life of a young man who thought he would amount to nothing.

Here’s something to consider:
 As a leader, what tone are you setting?
 Are you cultivating a climate where meaningful connections are established?
 Are you about opening gifts and breathing inspiration into people?
 Does your organization have a culture that is a place where people can contribute the best of what they have to offer?

The rest of the story? The young man went on to graduate college with a Bachelor’s Degree (with honors), one semester obtaining a 4.0 GPA. He completed a Masters degree from an Ivy League university and went on to get his doctorate and eventually became a published author and speaker.

All because of the power of one person recognizing the gift of another!

Shane Roberson

4 Building Blocks For A Trustworthy Culture


September 28, 2017

We live in a society characterized by distrust. And this distrust has invaded the cultures of the organizations in which we work.

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 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. Organizations which have cultures characterized by trust are thriving organizations.

Our research and experience at TAG shows that employees who work for an organization defined by trust feel valued, work harder, experience greater satisfaction, and are less likely to 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

Organizations with thriving cultures have as one of their components the experience of Connection – their people are connected by trust and a willingness to let each other shine. Connected organizations are characterized by these four attributes.

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

Here’s an idea: have your leadership team engage in a series of discussions about trust in your culture, revolving around those four attributes. You’ll discover where trust is deeply rooted in your organization. And you will discover ways to shore up trust where it is lacking.

The Leader’s Tone – More Important Than Words


August 18, 2017

 

For most of the last thirty years, I have made a hobby out of studying the life and leadership of Winston S. Churchill, Great Britain’s greatest Prime Minister and one of the outstanding leaders of world history.

It’s the sort of hobby you can never exhaust. His life covered so many of the important events in his country’s recent history and his character is endlessly fascinating.

I am making my way slowly (one a day) through a collection of Churchill’s speeches spanning his whole public career – from 1897-1963. The collection is edited by Churchill’s late grandson, who told the story of speaking at the 50th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and being approached afterward by a Polish woman:

“Mr. Churchill, I was a girl of just twelve, living in the Ghetto at the time of the Uprising as the Nazi storm-troopers were attacking us to take us to concentration camps. Whenever your grandfather broadcast over the BBC we would all crowd around the radio. I could not understand English but I knew that if my family and I were to have any hope of coming through this war, it depended entirely on this strong, unseen voice that I could not understand”.

Imagine that. A group of people, in the midst of unimaginable stress and pressure and fear, being buoyed and given hope by a voice speaking a language they could not even understand.

A “strong, unseen voice” which made all the difference, beyond the words the voice was speaking.

Words matter, but words aren’t always the point. The tone of the leader matters a great deal too.

Tone can communicate anger, bitterness, impatience, disappointment, disapproval, mockery, disrespect.

Or tone can communicate hope, optimism, belief, courage, encouragement, respect, love.

Even the exact same words spoken with different tone can convey vastly variant meanings.

Imagine “We’ve really got to up our game!” spoken to a team by a leader whose tone radiates spite, disappointment, superiority, and impatience.

The tone behind the words communicates this: “How did I get stuck with such a group of losers?” “Why can’t you people see that your underperformance is hurting me in the eyes of my boss?”.

Now imagine “We’ve really got to up our game!” spoken to a team by a leader whose tone radiates warmth, passion, humor, intelligence, and confidence.

The tone behind the words communicates this: “We’ve got a great opportunity here and we are just the people to take advantage of it”. “I am so honored to lead this group of folks and I can tell you I am going to do my dead level best to give you the kind of leadership you deserve so that we can accomplish great things together”.

Beyond the words, the tone of a leader is an indispensable part of the organizational culture-crafting process. Tone can demean, cut down, dis-spirit and dis-incent. Or tone can inspire, build up, in-spirit, and incentivize.

The tone of the leader can make or break the culture of the team.

We believe that every person has the innate desire to belong, to contribute, and to make a difference. And we believe that if you craft a culture where these desires are realized then your organization will thrive.

One of the key elemental building blocks of thriving culture is Connection – where people honor and respect one another and their individual contributions, all in the service of a common mission.

The leader’s tone can go a long way towards establishing a climate where Connection can thrive…or where people are led to cannibalize, jockey for position and power, one-up, and sabotage.

As a leader, what is your typical tone – beyond the words?

If we were to ask your direct reports and guarantee them confidentiality, how would they respond to that question?

What actions can you take this week to more closely monitor your tone and craft it to where you want it to be? What do you need to change and who can your key allies be in that effort?

 

Todd Hahn is a Culture Architect and Executive Advisor with TAG.

The 4 Building Blocks of a Trustworthy Culture


December 14, 2015

We live in a society characterized by distrust. And this distrust has invaded the cultures of the organizations in which we work.

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 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. Organizations which have cultures characterized by trust are thriving organizations.

Our research and experience at TAG shows that employees who work for an organization defined by trust feel valued, work harder, experience greater satisfaction, and are less likely to 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

Organizations with thriving cultures have as one of their components the experience of Connection – their people are connected by trust and a willingness to let each other shine. Connected organizations are characterized by these four attributes.

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

Here’s an idea: have your leadership team engage in a series of discussions about trust in your culture, revolving around those four attributes. You’ll discover where trust is deeply rooted in your organization. And you will discover ways to shore up trust where it is lacking.