TAG Consulting

Four Questions That Forge Great Leaders (Part 1)

March 5, 2017

You’ve decided you want to know what it takes to become a leader. We’re with you in this, but – be warned – we hit a pretty big obstacle pretty quickly.

That obstacle presents itself through this undeniable fact: there is a predictable set of lies we tell ourselves when it comes to leadership.

Worse, we tell these lies to ourselves and others repeatedly. Let’s come clean by looking at maybe the biggest leadership lie of them all: “Some people are just ‘natural born leaders”.

There is no such thing as a natural born leader. But we have heard, repeatedly, that some people just emerge from the womb as unbelievably gifted leaders.

Now, unless our ego is well above the average, most of us assume we are not one of these ‘born that way’ types. So, we start out in our life as leaders with a disadvantage, right?

Having worked with hundreds of organizations and thousands of people we’ve learned that leaders are not born; they are made.

In reality, leaders are forged.

And there are two flames that forge all the very best leaders: self-awareness, and the ability to ask and answer the right questions about leadership. This series of posts will examine these four critical questions that shape transformational leaders.

The most remarkable leaders we know are the most remarkably self-aware.

Self-awareness doesn’t just happen. You don’t wake up one morning in the land of self-awareness. You work at it.

Self-awareness means you know what you’re good at. You know what you’re not good at. You know what you bring to every meeting, every project, every encounter, because you’re attuned to who you are.

You don’t just talk a good leadership game, but you play one out on the field, where there is mud and blood and conflict and the stakes are high.

Given this rooting, here’s the first of four questions which forge great leaders:

How do I learn leadership?
If people aren’t born leaders that means they must learn leadership somewhere. And the best leaders can point to a moment in time when they realized: I have to learn to lead.

There’s a skillset that goes with management. You hone your craft and you learn to manage that skillset well. You’re a good manager. But then there comes a critical point, a very specific moment in your life where you think, “You know what? I’ve got to do something more than manage my people, I’ve got to lead them.”

There is a stark difference between management and leadership. We see this most clearly when we determine “I am going to be a leader not because I was born a leader, not because someone has called me to be one and not because I have a particular role or a rank or a position, but because I feel that it’s the right thing to do.”

So, how do most people learn leadership? Well, most people don’t learn leadership. They know all the right words, but they don’t actually learn it.

If you learned how to be a leader at all, you probably learned it from somebody who wasn’t one. Most of us have worked for somebody who, to put it bluntly, was horrific as a leader.

Our leadership style, if we have one, is based on what not to be. Our leadership, as a result, is reactive.

Now, you can learn some great things that way. People who work for you are probably thankful that you’re not like that other person you worked for. But knowing what kind of leader we are not isn’t enough.

We have to determine to become proactive leaders. We must decide firmly to learn leadership with an effort of heart, mind, and soul.

Are you ready to make that determination and take the decision to grow as a leader? Then you’re ready for the next three questions.

Next…”What tools do I need in my leader’s tool belt?”

A 3 Step Checklist For Empowering Your Team

February 20, 2017

Two important things to know about empowering your team:

  1. We measure empowerment by how willing people are to offer us their maximum discretionary effort.
  2. We know that people feel empowered when they are motivated to give their all.

Who doesn’t want to lead a workplace environment like that?

So, how do you – in real life and in real time – empower your team?

We offer you the checklist below as a way of measuring your progress as an empowering leader. Think of it as a punchlist for your project of empowering your team. Or, even better, think of the metaphor we often use – of a team climbing up a high mountain together!


Provide Clear Direction

An empowering leader defines the task for the team with crystal clarity. A common misconception about delegation (a component of empowerment) is that it is described by this attitude: “Do your own thing as long as you are within the basic parameters and standards of the organization”. That’s mostly being lazy and settling for less than full alignment.

Empowering direction-giving sounds more like this: “See that mountain? We’re going to climb it together, and here’s how”.


Provide Needed Resources

Nothing is more dis-empowering to a team than not having the tools they need to complete the task they have been assigned. As an empowering leader you make it a priority to give your people the tools and resources they need to carry out their assignments with excellence and passion.

It sounds like this: “Here is the equipment we need to climb this mountain together. This is how you use it. Trust me, I’ve tested it and everything is safe, secure, high quality, and in adequate supply. Let’s get started!”


Provide Coaching, Support, and Feedback

Along the way, the empowering leader is providing constant, specific coaching (“Here’s our strategy for taking the mountain”, support (“You’re doing great – here’s what I can give you for your next steps”) and feedback (“OK, let’s set up camp for the night, reflect on what we learned today and focus on how we can get even better tomorrow”)

As you get ready to climb your next mountain as a team, review this list together. Does your team have the direction, resources, feedback, support, and coaching it needs? Does each team member know that they are needed and valued and that their very best efforts will rejuvenate them and help the team win?

The One Thing Every Winning Organization Must Have

January 30, 2017

Our online employee survey, The Engagement Dashboard (TED) has collected data from hundreds of companies and thousands of employees to reveal what it takes to unlock a healthy organizational culture, with productivity, engaged employees, and the hidden talents and capabilities of its people.

TED reveals a host of dimensions that go into making a great organization, but one stands out as the only dimension in the entire survey that requires only one sentence to sum it up – Dependability.


Here’s the sentence:

Management can be counted upon to come through when needed.

It is nearly impossible to overstate the importance of this metric.

People will put up with almost any “what” if they get the “why”  – the knowledge that we are engaged in something great and life-altering and useful and good and we can count on our leaders.

The single question – ‘Can I count on my leaders?’ – was the only other question to correlate to every other question in TED. Dependability is nearly everything.

Dependability is all about the leader. The leader must provide the support needed and then get out of the way. The leader matter less than the cause.

Can you as a leader be counted upon to come through for people no matter what? Will you get your hands dirty, will you walk out the talk of your shared values, will you incarnate the organizational code, will you risk losing yourself to disrupt the status quo?

Can YOU be depended upon to come through when needed? And, if you are just beginning your career of leadership, are you putting into place the conditions and habits which will develop the kind of character where you will be depended upon at the end of the day?

Are you dependable? And is your organization?

To find out more about TED, click here.

How Your Life Story Shapes Your Leadership

December 4, 2016



Key to understanding how to navigate conflict and stay in the Blue Zone is understanding how our personal stories shape us in profound ways. We live our lives according to certain scripts, many of them crafted in our childhoods. If we know and own those stories, we can live in the Blue Zone. If they remain unexamined, life in the Red Zone is nearly inevitable. This is an excerpt from our book in which one of the main characters must grapple with the story of his life.

“‘Bob, here’s the deal. All of us are telling a story with our lives. It may be a good story, a bad story, or a mediocre story. But every life is a story. And every story has a script. Most of us were given our scripts at a fairly young age, and we spend our lives either living them out or writing our own unique script.’

‘So we are living out this story, and then the story starts to contain expectations- in your case, expectations that you would take over your dad’s company and enjoy smashing success. But the problem is that those expectations collided with your script’.

Bob held up his hand. ‘Script? Story? Look, David, I appreciate your trying to help but personally I don’t speak the language of Hollywood. I live in a world of balance sheets. P&Ls, and  hard-nosed decisions with very little margin for error.  You’re going to have to help me relate here’.

Undeterred, David pressed on. ‘Your personal script says that you don’t measure up. That you might not have what it takes.  That you might do ‘fine’ but you will never be as successful as Michael. And that script – which you hate , but which you are living into – collided with the expectation that you are  supposed to take the company from strength to strength. I can only imagine the pain and anxiety this has created within you, Bob.’

‘There is a part of you that believes the script that says you don’t have what it takes. It says that is people knew you, they would know you are a fraud who is only in the position he’s in because he is his father’s son. This message about incompetence is a message that far too many people get in our culture, and we internalize it at a young age. I believe you have done that.’

Bob felt dizzy. Everything in him wanted to swat away what David was saying, but he remained silent.

‘Bob, I want you to consider the possibility that Michael represents that core message for you: that you are not a adequate, that you don’t have what it takes, that you are a fraud. You have excellent prowess as an interpreter of balance sheets and profit and loss statements but all of that pales in comparison to what you really believe deep down: that you are a fraud…’

‘Right now, you are transferring your fears and anxieties to Michael because that’s safer than facing them in yourself. your new strategy must be acknowledging these things in yourself and holding them up to the light where they can be seen for what they are'”.

What about you?
What does the script of your life say about you as a person – better, what is it TRYING to say?
Do you see ways in which the script of your life affects your actions in the present, especially in relational or professional conflict?

To read more of  Bob’s story, get the book here!

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.

What Are Your Leadership Habits?

September 20, 2016


Try as we might not to be, we are creatures of habit.

When it comes to leadership, this habit of being habitual tends to show up as a set of “default modes”. We tend to respond in set patterns. Many of these have worked for us in the past, which only makes them all the more dangerous. It’s all too easy for yesterday’s solution to become today’s problem.

When it comes to our default modes, awareness is at least 50% of the solution. If we can understand our habits of thinking, responding, acting, and interpreting for what they are it will open up options for us to get past the default to creativity.

Our leadership habits tend to be shaped by three factors.

  1. Personal history. Whom are we loyal to, where did we come from, what forces shaped us, how did our mentors behave and think, what has worked for us in the past? All of these are powerful historical shapers of current thinking and acting. We need to consider them carefully, draw on the aspects of our personal history that are timeless, and adjust or drop the others as needed to respond to new realities.
  2. Personal wiring. Some things just set us off that would leave another unmoved. Conversely, we can accept with equanimity things that drive others nuts. Maybe you always take responsibility for others. Or maybe you disengage emotionally in trying times. Perhaps you thrive in chaos. On the other hand, you may relish order and predictability. We will naturally tend to default to situations and solutions with which we are comfortable. But if we can recognize these patterns in ourselves we can choose ways of relating and responding which might stretch us while offering us more options.
  3. Personal toolbox. What techniques have we learned, tools have we acquired, resources have we developed, learnings have we engaged in? The fewer the tools the fewer our options. The more we can add to our toolbox the more sophisticated our interpretations and decisions can be.

Carefully consider each of the factors in your leadership habits. Where are you aware? Where do you need to grow in awareness? Where do you need to try a new approach? What new tool do you need to add to your repertoire?

A leadership coach can help you understand your habits and adjust or build on them for greater effectiveness as a leader. To find our more about TAG leadership and executive coaching, click here.

Four Things To Which Leaders MUST Pay Attention

August 15, 2016

magnifying glass girl

If you are a leader – particularly one engaged in the work of driving change – you have to pay attention to a lot of things.

It can be hard to decide what to focus on the most.

Here are the four non-negotiable factors to which attention must be paid:

  1. Your customers or clients, who insure your company’s survival.
  2. The ever-changing regulatory environment, where laws can alter the competitive landscape in a single legislative session.
  3. Complementary businesses such as suppliers or vendors, upon which your organization relies for products, goods, and services.
  4. Competitors, who may anticipate the future first themselves or may be making strategic mistakes your company must avoid.

Here’s the reframe: each of these factors are not merely indicators on a dashboard but they are actually resources which can be leveraged for your vision to be realized.

The things you have to pay attention to are not merely early warning devices; a clear understanding of them is one of your best assets to competitive success and high performance.