TAG Consulting

The Leadership Lie

October 24, 2017

When it comes to leadership, you have been lied to.

Actually, we all have been.

Here’s the lie:

“Some people are just natural born leaders.”

This is a lie. It is one of many lies we have been told about leaders and leading.

The truth is that leaders are made, not born.

Leaders are forged through experience and trial. While others are reading books on “leadership”, leaders are learning to read a room, to interpret body language, to resolve conflict and to trust and empower people to succeed and fail.

Recently I was invited to give a presentation on Leading and Following to a group of people at the University of Colorado. I shared with them the difference between “Leadership” and “Leader”.

Leadership is a verb. It is a philosophy. We write and read books about leadership. It is also what we blame when something happens we don’t like or agree with. All too often I hear phrases like, “I blame leadership for that” or “leadership made that decision”.

As though there is some unknown faceless entity that makes choices and decisions we don’t agree with.

On the other hand, “leader” is a noun. It is a person. It is an individual. These people lead even when not in formal positions of leadership.

There is nothing worse than trying to follow a person in a position of leadership when they are not leading. It is like being forever trapped behind that one car in the fast lane that is driving under the speed limit. It is frustrating and discouraging.

“Leadership” is never self-aware, whereas the most remarkable leaders are the most remarkably self-aware. They know who they are, what they are good at doing, what they are lacking. They know what they bring to every agenda, every meeting, every project. They know how to surround themselves with others who excel in areas they do not.
I find that leaders rarely read books about “leadership”. They read books about leaders or books written by leaders.

At our best, we do leader development, not leadership development.

In her book Team of Rivals Doris Kearns Goodwin tells a little known story about Abraham Lincoln and Leo Tolstoy.

In 1908, in a wild and remote area of the North Caucasus, Leo Tolstoy, the greatest writer of the age, was the guest of a tribal chief “living far away from civilized life in the mountains.” Gathering his family and neighbors, the chief asked Tolstoy to tell stories about the famous men of history. Tolstoy told how he entertained the eager crowd for hours with tales of Alexander, Caesar, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon.

When he was winding to a close, the chief stood and said, “But you have not told us a syllable about the greatest general and greatest ruler of the world. We want to know something about him. He was a hero. He spoke with a voice of thunder; he laughed like the sunrise and his deeds were strong as the rock…His name was Lincoln and the country in which he lived is called America, which is so far away that if a youth should journey to reach it he would be an old man when he arrived. Tell us of that man.”

“I looked at them,” Tolstoy recalled, “and saw their faces all aglow, while their eyes were burning. I saw that those rude barbarians were really interested in a man whose name and deeds had already become a legend.” He told them everything he knew about Lincoln’s “home life and youth…his habits, his influence upon the people and his physical strength.”

By every account of Lincoln’s life, he was not a born leader. Many people looked at him and saw nothing extraordinary.

And yet for many he is the epitome of a leader. A leader who succeed and failed. A leader who took risks and chances. A leader who most likely never read a book on leadership.

As we look at our present situation, our culture is in need of leaders. People who have spent a lifetime being molded and shaped by circumstances and experience. People who are self-aware and more importantly socially-aware. People who lead by the strength of their convictions and their commitment to people.

Trevor Bron

To meet Trevor, click here.

Culture Works (Part 1)

May 7, 2017


Is Complaining About Work Inevitable?

On a recent flight from Denver to Washington, D.C. I overheard the flight crew talking about their work. They were complaining about the airline, critiquing the competition and griping about passengers. This is not the first conversation like this I’ve overheard. It seems to happen everywhere all the time.

Is complaining about our work just part of the job? Is it something that is inevitable? Unavoidable?

I’ve done it. You’ve done it. And it’s easy to justify it.

Work is, after all, a four-letter word. So is “boss”! So why not talk bad about it and them?

As a Culture Architect, I believe that humans have an innate desire to belong, contribute and make a difference, not just at work but in life. So, what happens when we don’t belong, can’t contribute and aren’t making a difference?

We feel like an outsider. We experience rejection. We feel undervalued.

So we complain.

The late Peter Drucker wrote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In other words, the culture that surrounds us either encourages us to belong, enables us to contribute and empowers us to make a difference or it doesn’t.

Millions of dollars and employee hours are invested in creating “strategic plans”, but the best strategy in the world will never create a thriving organizational culture or overcome an unhealthy culture.

The correlation between a thriving culture and employee engagement is undeniable. And employee engagement is the key predictor of organizational productivity and success. People who work in a place where a thriving culture is cultivated are more positive, less likely to quit, take fewer sick days, spend more time at work and take greater initiative.

But this kind of culture doesn’t just happen. It takes time and effort. As Plato said, “What is honored is cultivated”.

What does your organization honor? What does your organization cultivate?

Ask yourself a few of the questions we use at TAG to diagnose organizational culture:

1. Our average employee can articulate why the organization exists. True/False
2. Our organization’s mission is clear and concise. True/False
3. Our organization’s communication tools are effective. True/False
4. Our organization’s leaders are all headed in the same direction. True/False
5. I know where we are headed in the next year. True/False
6. People in the organization honor our Core Values. True/False
7. Team members know how they contribute to the ‘why’ of our organization. True/False
8. Every department feels ownership around the driving purpose of the organization.
9. In our team meetings push back and challenges are encouraged. True/False
10. Our organization fosters an environment where new ideas surface. True/False
11. We provide time and space for people to think differently about challenges we face.
12. People are encouraged to embrace conflict and work through it. True/False
13. Our employees feel connected to each other and the mission. True/False
14. People are encouraged to connect regularly to learn from each other. True/False
15. We are encouraged to collaborate with other teams in our organization. True/False
16. Managers and Leaders make a priority of developing connections between team members
and other teams. True/False
17. Our company has a system to regularly reward people. True/False

Add up your “True” scores:
• 1-6 Your Culture Needs Some Serious Attention.
• 7-12 Your Culture Is Good but Could Be Great.
• 13-18 Your Culture Is Vibrant and Should Be Maximized.

The conversations that happen while in the break room at work, the hallway after a meeting or even standing in the airplane galley are also a good indication of culture. Create a habit of listening carefully to the conversations around you – not just the ones you start.

Want to talk to one of our Culture Architects about creating a thriving organizational culture at your workplace? Click here.

Next up in this series – What makes for a thriving organizational culture?

Trevor J. Bron is a Senior Consultant and Culture Architect with TAG Consulting. To find out more about Trevor, click here.

Four Questions That Forge Great Leaders (Part 2)

March 13, 2017

Last time, we began a new series on four probing questions that help to forge great leaders. You can read about the first question here.

The second question is: What tools do you have in your leader’s tool belt?

Consider real-life tool belts, in the construction industry.

Framers have the simplest tool belt of all the trades. They need only a few tools to do their job; hammer, tape measure, nails. Simple.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the electrician.

Electricians have the biggest and coolest tool belts. Their tool belts have hundreds of pockets containing every conceivable tool. Their tool belts are the envy of their colleagues. For one thing, they look cool. For another, electricians never have to fumble around to find the right tool. They have it right there, at their fingertips.

When we think about a leadership tool belt, most of us have the framer’s tool belt or no tool belt at all. In leadership we should have the electrician’s tool belt.

If you are a leader with one tool (say a hammer) what does every leadership challenge look like?

A nail.

Whether it actually IS a nail or not. If your problem is in fact a nail and you have only a hammer, you’re good to go.

But if your problem is not a nail and you have only your hammer to employ, it’s a safe bet you are only going to make the problem worse.

Leaders should have lots of tools at our disposal, lots of different ways of thinking, lots of different ways of reacting, lots of different ways of conducting ourselves. That’s what will make us effective. That is what will make people actually enjoy working for us and allow us to create the kinds of organizational cultures where people experience the satisfaction of belonging, contributing, and making a difference.

No two people that we work with or for are wired alike. In our work with individuals, we place a lot of emphasis on talents and strengths and making sure that our clients know their own and how to use them at a moment’s notice. We emphasize the concept of Intentional Difference – living in that zone where you are able to offer your own best and unique contribution.

In our work with organizations, we make sure they have the tools they need to craft thriving organizational cultures.

Everybody who works for you is different. You, as a leader, have an obligation to treat and respond to them differently. Does that come naturally to anybody? No. You have to work at it every day. You have to be mindful of it every day. That means your tool belt has to be filled with lots of different tools.

How about you? Where is your tool belt robust, and where does it have some pockets and slots that need to be filled?

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?”

What Makes TAG Analytics Different?

November 13, 2016

In an earlier post we showed how TAG uses analytical data to help you grow your organization in terms of health and productivity. But we know lots of organizations claim to leverage data to help businesses. What makes TAG different? It’s that we get beyond the ‘what?’ to the ‘whys?’ that really matter and reveal deep insight about your organization, its opportunities, and challenges. In this short video, our Trevor Bron explains.

What Makes TAG Analytics Different? from TAG Consulting on Vimeo.

Data Can Help You Craft A Healthier Organizational Culture

November 13, 2016

Our work is about the process of building a great organization which results in a healthy culture characterized by high levels of employee engagement and trust. A lot of that is art, but some of that is science. The healthiest organizations know how to use analytical tools to reveal the truth about their organizations – in terms of both performance and employee and customer/client experience.

We’re affiliated with TAG Consulting, which is an industry leader in helping organizations use analytical data such as survey tools to not only know the ‘what’ but the ‘why’ of the factors influencing their performance.

In this short video, TAG’s Trevor Bron explains how our tools can help you understand and grow your organization.

How TAG Analytics Can Grow Your Organization from TAG Consulting on Vimeo.

How TAG Analytics Grows Your Organization (Video)

November 7, 2016

You rely a lot on your intuition as a leader. And you should.

But there are times when you need data to help you understand your business, optimize your opportunities, grapple with your competition, measure employee engagement, and serve your people well. At TAG we use a variety of proprietary analytical tools to help you get under the hood of your business.

But we do it with a twist. Most analytical tools and the consultants using them can easily show you the ‘What’ of your organization and its current realities. TAG Analytics goes beyond that to show you the ‘Why’.

Our Trevor Bron explains in this short video:

How TAG Analytics Can Grow Your Organization from TAG Consulting on Vimeo.