TAG Consulting

Conflict Can Be Win-Win (Video)

August 25, 2017

Over the years we have consulted with many hundreds of organizations and leaders showing them how they can thrive through, not just survive conflict.

Virtually every time, those leaders are surprised to hear us say that “Resistance is your ally, not your enemy”.

The simple truth is that conflict doesn’t have to destroy, doesn’t have to result in winners and losers.

When conflict is on the level of values and beliefs that are shared, we can both find common ground and grow in self-awareness and self-knowledge.

Organizations that have a culture where healthy conflict is not only allowed but encouraged are the ones who thrive and where team members are engaged and invested.

Co-author Jim Osterhaus offers an introduction to Red Zone/Blue Zone thinking in this short video. Give us just a few minutes and see how conflict can work for, not against, you.

Conflict Is Your Friend! Jim Osterhaus Introduces The Blue Zone from TAG Consulting on Vimeo.

Conflict Is Your Friend! (Video)

October 17, 2016

Co-author Jim Osterhaus has been dealing with conflict for most of his life! As a psychologist and consultant with half a century of experience, Jim has helped families, leaders, and organizations navigate the inevitable conflicts of life.

He often says of conflict: “It’s like fire; it can cook your food or it can burn your house down”. It’s all in what you do with it.

In this video introduction to our book, Jim shows how conflict – properly navigated – can be our ally, not our enemy.

Conflict Is Your Friend! Jim Osterhaus Introduces The Blue Zone from TAG Consulting on Vimeo.

Leaders – Always “Put On The Button”

July 14, 2016


TAG Senior Partner Jim Osterhaus has been a psychologist for decades and has coached hundreds of leaders and executives through his work at TAG. In today’s guest blog he tells the story of one of his most memorable encounters with a leader at a personal crossroads.

One of the most compelling interviews I ever had was with a man from Central Africa named Raphael. He was a tall, distinguished looking man in his mid-thirties who sought me out at an international conference in Amsterdam (I was part of a counseling/consulting group assembled for the conference).

I had an hour with each person to find out who they were, why they had come to see me, and offer some suggestions as to a way forward – a rather daunting task.

After exchanging pleasantries, I found out that Raphael had just become the “head man” of his region, an hereditary post that had been passed to him with the death of his father. His grandfather and great grandfather had also been head men.

I asked what a head man’s responsibilities were, and found out that he was basically the chief – the head magistrate and county executive all rolled into one. When I asked what the problem was, Raphael stated “I just can’t do the job.”

Further probing revealed that Raphael had been told by the region’s elders that he was too young and inexperienced for the job. This had led to a tentativeness on Raphael’s part which only confirmed to the elders that he couldn’t do the job. We call this a recursive pattern –  elders’ concerns leading to Raphael’s tentativeness, which confirmed the elders’ beliefs.

The community now was stuck, with a head man in a hereditary position he simply had to accept, but who was tentative and ineffective. Stuck leader; stuck followers!

I asked Raphael what was the symbol of his authority. He told me it was a button he was supposed to wear. I asked where the button was. He said, “It’s home in a drawer. I’ve never worn it.”

My intervention was to focus Raphael’s attention, remind him of his father, grandfather, and great grandfather. Then I told him to look at me.

“Raphael”, I told him. “You must go home and put on the button, and never take it off. You are the head man.”  He nodded his agreement, knowing exactly what I meant.

Often leaders come into new positions and because of a variety of reasons refuse to put on the ‘button’ of authority. Instead, they act tentatively.

This often happens when a person is elevated above his peers to be their supervisor. That new supervisor wants to still be ‘one of the group,’ and thus is unable to fully embrace the new authority. This leads to ambivalence on the part of those s/he leads, which causes those led to doubt the competence of the manager.

This creates a repeating pattern similar to the one that Raphael faced – tentative manager creates doubting followers, leading to more manager tentativeness. In these situations, I usually relate my story of Raphael, and tell the tentative manager that they must “put on the button,” and embrace their authority.

This does not mean that they have a demeanor of “I’m always right.” It does mean they begin to develop a settled confidence that they have the necessary internal tools and external resources (beginning with personnel) to tackle the issues resident in their jobs.

Jim’s counsel to Raphael is a great example of the difference a leadership or executive coach can make in the life of a leader. At just the right moment, the right question, the right piece of counsel can be the difference between a stalled career and one which goes on to new heights of service and success.

TAG has a deep bench of experienced, passionate, and skilled executive and leadership coaches. Click here to find out more and see if you are ready to take the next step in your own development as a leader!

Three Steps To Diagnose Your Organization

January 12, 2016


Our client work begins with a diagnosis of the system of an organization – particularly a close look at the Transformational issues the organization is challenged by and how well prepared it is to respond.

There are three components to a thorough diagnosis of an organization – take a look at these and try a quick, beginning diagnosis of your own organization! (We note here that we are indebted to the work of Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky as well as the work of TAG partners Kevin Ford and Jim Osterhaus in their new and important book The Secret Sauce: Creating A Winning Culture.)

The three components are Structure, Culture, and Default Processes.


Structure includes rewards and incentives, organizational charts, reporting relationships, communication practices, hiring and termination processes, and compensation philosophies.

A key question here is “What behaviors are supported and rewarded by our structure?”. It’s an old and reliable adage that we get the behavior we reward, not the behavior we say we value. While structure feels like nuts and bolts engineering, it is in fact a powerful, subtle reinforcer of what the organization values and how agile and adaptable it has the potential of being.

Exercise: List all of your organization’s structures on a whiteboard in one column. In the next column, describe how and if each structure either supports or restricts your ability to carry out your mission.


Ford and Osterhaus have written perhaps the most thorough and useful work on crafting a winning and healthy organizational culture (yes, we are biased, but…).

In their book they prove the ‘why’ of the saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. In fact, culture snacks on almost anything else. The great differentiator between pretty good and really great organizations is a winning culture which is on its way to finding its own unique “secret sauce”.

A winning culture is an expression of the universal desire “to belong, to contribute, and to make a difference”. This culture is expressed in such facets as stories, heroes, architecture, group norms (such as dress codes) and meeting practices (who is ‘need to know’, who gets invited to what meeting, who leads meetings).

Culture sometimes feels ‘squishy’ because its standards are generally not written down, but it is a powerful, unseen, all encompassing force that largely determines attitudes, behavior, and employee engagement.

Exercise: List the elements of your culture. Which of these make it easy for you to respond quickly to internal and external challenges, and which slow you down?

Default Processes

Most all of us become comfortable with things that have worked in the past. This goes for individuals and for organizations. And it goes for groups in organizations. As Heifetz, Linsky, and Grashow say “When people in an organization find that a certain response to a particular kind of situation worked well previously, they will likely repeat that response whenever they encounter an apparently similar situation”.

Over time, this gets worked into the fabric of the way our organizations work. What’s worked generates predictable ways of looking at things, which generates predictable actions. Default interpretations become default instincts become default responses become default processes.

But there are problems with defaults. What works in one time and place – even repeatedly – may not work in others. A default can blind us to new ways of seeing, responding, and deciding.

Exercise: Choose a default process your organization practices. Dig a little deeper. What point of view about the world does this process represent? What behavior does this point of view result in every time? Are there times when this behavior has NOT been effective? Contrast that instance with the times it was effective.

It will take some time, thought, and courage but working through these exercises in three steps will present a good diagnosis on how prepared your organization is for change and where you might need some coaching and encouragement to get to the next level!