TAG Consulting

4 Keys To A Trustworthy Organizational Culture


April 23, 2017

We live in a society characterized by distrust.

Trust with the political process is at an all time low. Occupations once considered trustworthy – such as the law and the ministry – rank low on trust indices. And 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 or volunteers 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.

It gets even more game-changing. Employee engagement is one of the hallmarks of a thriving organizational culture – the kind of culture where people experience the fulfillment of their innate desire to belong, to contribute, and to make a difference.

As we show in the research for our book The Secret Sauce: Creating a Winning Culture, employees who work for an organization defined by trust feel valued, work harder, experience greater satisfaction, and do not 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

Inspired by these workplaces and others which we visited and chronicled in our book, we discovered four components which go into creating trustworthy leadership:

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

Find an hour of quiet ‘on the balcony’ time. Work carefully and thoughtfully through that list of four. Define them for yourself. And then take an honest look at your organization and rate yourself on a scale of 1-5 for each measure. Where can you celebrate? Where can you initiate enhancement efforts?

People Aren’t As Important As You Think


February 13, 2017

Whether or not you believe your organization functions as a whole or as a collection of separate parts has a profound influence on the way you lead and the nature of your organization’s culture.

An important part of  being an effective leader is thinking in systems – looking at the forest, not just the trees. A leader knows that her organization is in fact a dynamic and complex whole, not just a collection of parts.

Individual humans are complex and so a collection of humans is very complex. The network of relationships within the system of your organization – whether 10 people or 10,000 – is inherently complex. Any change in the group affects the group as a whole.

Effective leaders focus on the relationships, the lines between individuals, more than on the individuals themselves.

When there is a problem in an organization, the easy thing to do is to find an individual to blame (Jim has a bad attitude, Susan is overly ambitious, Bob is careless, Mary runs over people). So, the solution appears to be an easy one – get rid of Jim, Susan, Bob, or Mary and the problem in the organization goes away!

Only, the problem remains and we wonder why.

It’s because there are issues in the system – the interrelationships – that aren’t solved by scapegoating.

The answers to chronic problems in the organization are rarely if ever safely laid at the feet of any one person. The wise leader sees past personalities and focuses on the ways in which individuals within the group relate to one another.

In organizations with healthy interdependence, members say things like these responses from our survey, The Engagement Dashboard  (TED):
-When a problem repeats itself, I understand that I may be part of the problem.
-My actions are influenced by those around me, even though I am ultimately responsible.
-In turn, my actions influence those around me.
-The way people interact with each other takes on a predictable pattern over time and that offers real insight into the way things work around here.

Find out more about TED here.

A great resolve for a leader is to learn to think and see in systems rather than problems and relationships rather than individuals.

The 10 Commandments For A Great Organizational Culture


January 16, 2017

Much of our work at TAG involves working with leaders who are committed to building healthy organizational cultures. Both our research and our decades of experience is clear – winning organizations have healthy cultures where people are able to experience the fulfillment of three basic human desires – to belong, to contribute, and to make a difference.

We tend to avoid reducing our counsel to simplistic ‘lists’ – neither people nor organizations are built from orderly blueprints. But we have been able to discover ten ironclad practices that organizations with healthy cultures share. We call them the 10 Commandments For Great Organizational Cultures.

1. Create safe places for people to express opinions and pushback.
2. Direct intentional conversations where people can speak their minds and hearts.
3. Manage anxiety levels, acknowledging and providing outlets for the inevitable sense of loss which accompanies change.
4. Use the water cooler to encourage fruitful, informal conversations which are unscripted and so authentic.
5. Reward risk taking, so people can know they can fail and still have a place on the team if that failure was for a good cause.
6. Resist consensus building remembering that leaders get input to make more informed decisions, not to go with the prevailing wind.
7. Let ideas percolate, remembering that time is on your side and people will only accept change at a rate they can tolerate.
8. Raise the temperature by allowing worthy and healthy conflict to come to the surface not be squelched.
9. Give grief room as people mourn the losses – often very personal – that often come with change.
10. Create the quest – if people believe they are needed in a journey which will result in a great new future, a journey that will require the best of them, you can call out their better selves and insure maximum discretional effort. Remember that the Secret Sauce is found in the process itself!

How many of these ‘commandments’ are being practiced in your organization? If you are looking to lead an important change initiative, having these in place is particularly important.

Give us a couple of minutes to check out this video on TAG’s organizational change process to get some inspiration, ideas, and to see how we can help you build an organization that wins and engages both its employees and customers!

 

TAG’s Change Process for Organizations from TAG Consulting on Vimeo.

The 4 Keys To Employee Engagement


October 31, 2016

We live in a society characterized by distrust.

Trust with the political process is at an all time low. Occupations once considered trustworthy – such as the law and the ministry – rank low on trust indices. And 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 or volunteers bring this distrust in the doors with them every day.

trust brown

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.

As we show in the research for our book The Secret Sauce: Creating a Winning Culture, employees who work for an organization defined by trust feel valued, work harder, experience greater satisfaction, and do not 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

Inspired by these workplaces and others which we visited and chronicled in our book, we discovered four components which go into creating trustworthy leadership:

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

Find an hour of quiet ‘on the balcony’ time. Work carefully and thoughtfully through that list of four. Define them for yourself. And then take an honest look at your organization and rate yourself on a scale of 1-5 for each measure. Where can you celebrate? Where can you initiate enhancement efforts?

Change Leadership From An Olympic Champion


August 8, 2016

David March SwimMac

This week the eyes of the world are on Rio, where athletes from around the world are competing in the Olympic Games. The U.S. women’s swim team is coached by David Marsh – who just might be the greatest coach of any sport ever.

No exaggeration.

Twelve national championships as men’s and women’s swimming coach at Auburn University. Eight time national coach of the year. Coach of more than fifty Olympians, and counting. Head Elite Coach and CEO of the US Olympic Committee Center of Excellence with SwimMAC Carolina.

We’re honored to know David Marsh personally and we got to interview him at length for our book The Secret Sauce: Creating A Winning Culture, by Kevin Graham Ford and James P. Osterhaus.

Katie Meili made the team for the Olympics in Rio in the breaststroke after being the longest of long shots. She gave Coach Marsh the lion’s share of the credit for her rapid rise. “He knew how to reach each of us in the way we needed to be reached”, she told Charlotte magazine.

When he took over at Auburn in 1990, he was only thirty years old and inherited a team that was, by any measure, terrible. The previous year, the team had scored no points (as in “zero”) at the Southeastern Conference championship meet. It’s tough to do that.

In the book, we tell the story of how Coach Marsh was able to turn Auburn into a perennial national championship contender and we hope you will read the story at length there – it’s inspiring and instructive!

At Auburn, Coach Marsh had to change a culture, entirely, from the bottom up. He accomplished this by living into a lifelong slogan – “A Culture of Excellence is a Culture of Struggle”.

Internal change is like that. It’s a struggle. External change is often forced upon us. Internal change is just as necessary, but we initiate it ourselves, often in the face of resistance. A winning culture-crafter has to be willing to lead the charge when it comes to internal disruption.

Coach Marsh highlighted for us a number of lessons he learned about leading internal disruption as you craft a winning culture.

Here are five:

1. Start with a simple change – but make sure it is a change related to values, behaviors, or attitudes. At Auburn, this was teaching his swimmers how to shake hands and look people in the eye and how to place a towel around their necks.

2. Make sure your rules have teeth. At one point, Marsh kicked all of his swimmers off of the team when they resisted some necessary changes. There was a path back, but Marsh insured that his important rules would be followed and honored.

3. Experiment and take smart risks. It goes without saying that firing his whole team was a tremendous personal risk for Coach Marsh. Leaders who are orchestrating internal disruption have to demonstrate that they are willing to place themselves on the line for the greater good.

4. Foster accountability, not bureaucracy. A few smart rules, yes, but not top down command and control management. Increase accountability and decrease bureaucracy. Accountability reinforces values while bureaucracy decreases independent judgment and ownership. You’re after a culture of high accountability and very low bureaucracy.

5. Find your own solutions. Don’t be quick to copy others. Too often, when leading internal disruption, leaders look for external solutions. But the real answers are organic, “in the room” as we like to say. Learn all you can from industry leaders but own the fact that change starts from the inside out. How about you?

Is it time for you to lead a cultural transformation through internal disruption? Are you confident in your ability to run the risks personally while leading others to risk themselves? Do your people sense a culture of accountability, free of all unnecessary bureaucracy?

To read more about Coach Marsh’s story and about our research into crafting winning and healthy organizational cultures, check out The Secret Sauce book here.

For a video introduction to The Secret Sauce, invest three minutes here.

And if your team is ready to take the transformation of your organization to a new level, take a look at how we can help you here!

 

Photo cred: queens.edu/Charlotte Magazine

The First Two Tasks Of A Change Leader


April 4, 2016

Because you are reading this blog, we assume you are a reader who is interested in helping your organization change and craft a great culture. We’re excited about that and honored to be partners in your quest! We know beyond a doubt that none of us can do this alone.

As your begin or lean deeper into your quest to craft a winning organizational culture, here are your first two tasks:

1. The first task of leadership is to distinguish between what needs to be preserved and what needs to change. As you work through changes in your organization, make sure not to lose sight of what is valuable and needs to be preserved and built upon. Make sure you know your organization’s code – your DNA – and build your cultural change upon this foundation.

2. When you come into an existing situation to make changes, make sure not to condemn the past. Always frame your vision in an upbeat, positive way. Your job is not to erase the past but rather to help people envision a brighter future. The people you now serve were part of the past – honor their contributions, effort, and investment. Even the most dysfunctional organization has things in its past that are worthy. Dwell on these even as you chart a course to the future.

So, step one is to DIAGNOSE (that which needs to change and that which needs to be preserved) and step two is to HONOR (the good parts of the organization’s past and the people that have given themselves in service).

94356BMTJ5

If you get your change initiative off to a good start with healthy, open-hearted diagnosis and honor then you will be set up well for the hard, invigorating work of crafting a healthy culture.

To go deeper into both diagnosis and honor, check out our latest book The Secret Sauce: Creating A Winning Culture, here.

We’d love to serve as your trusted advisor as you lead organizational change. You can find out more about TAG Consulting and how we can serve you here.

The Single Most Important Thing Leaders Can Do


March 11, 2016

Recent research tells us two things:
1. Eighty-five (85%) of CEOs believe that employee engagement is one of their most important priorities.
2. Only three out of ten American workers are engaged with their work.

What’s the disconnect?

Our study of organizational culture revealed that leadership effectiveness is a crucial component of both employee engagement and organizational performance.

And there is one word that encapsulates leadership effectiveness:

TRUST.

The single most important thing a leader can do is to be personally trustworthy and to commit to building a trustworthy organization.

The word TRUST carved into a stone wall. 3D render with HDRI lighting and raytraced textures.

You can read more about our research and the employee survey we have developed from it called The Engagement Dashboard (TED) here.

From all of the data we collected we learned that a positive answer to one question more than any other predicted the long-term success or failure of an organization:
Management can be counted upon to come through when needed.

That’s dependability in a nutshell. It all boils down to this: can leadership be trusted?

There’s everyday trust – providing clear direction and adequate resources, communicating clearly, telling the truth. But organizations with a truly great culture go above and beyond.

They come through even when they might not be expected to. They allow for failure, risk, and experimentation. They distribute power and decision-making authority instead of concentrating it in the hands of a few. They share more information than is strictly necessary, even when hoarding information would provide increased power and influence to a select few. They demonstrate that they value their employees as human beings, not just as ‘resources’ filling roles and providing profit.

If there is a gap between where your organization is and where you would like for it to be, your best place to start asking questions is around this topic of trust. Are your leaders trustworthy? Are YOU trustworthy? Can people count on your leaders to come through when needed?

And if you are ready to take your organization to the next level, trust is also the place to start. What can your leaders do to push even further through trust barriers? Where can you share more, care more, risk more, communicate more?

TED would be a great place to start by taking a look behind the scenes of your organization. We’d love to serve as a trusted advisor to you on your journey to becoming a truly trustworthy organization that excels in both the bottom line and in the hearts and minds of your people.

You can find us here. We’d love to talk with you!

Do You Have The Courage To Reimagine?


January 18, 2016

If you had to “go away and dream it all up again” for your life or for your organization, what would be the fulfillment of that dream?

We’re really talking about imagination when we ask that question and that is because the discipline of Reimagine is vitally important in crafting organizational culture, leading change, and sustaining excellent performance. And building a personal life that makes a lasting difference.

We believe it is so important that we have made Reimagine one of the three descriptors of where we lead organizations and their leaders.

President Thomas Jefferson never ventured more than fifty miles from his home. In his entire life. Yet he had a vision for the western expansion of the United States that has impacted millions of lives. When he built his home, Monticello, he built it to face West. He imagined clearly what America could become.

And he inspired others to follow. Two of that number were gentlemen you might have heard of – Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Their famous venture to the West resulted in the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the U.S.

All because Jefferson had the courage to Reimagine.

The ancient fathers of the Hebrew nation were known for planting tamarisk trees. The thing about the tamarisk is that it is one of the slowest growing trees. When it grows into full flower, after many, many years it provides shade in hot arid climates and is an effective windbreak against devastating soil erosion.

Tamarisk-Tree_Lo

So, what kind of person would plant a tamarisk tree?

A leader, that’s who. Someone who cares deeply enough to leave a legacy. Someone who is fired by an imaginative vision. Someone who dares to Reimagine over and over again.

Leaders have the courage to see beyond the immediate and beyond their own self-interest to the long term legacy they will leave benefiting those who will follow them.

What about you?

What in your life, your work, your leadership can you Reimagine in a way that will lead you to make decisions and set priorities which will live after you?