Does Your Tribe Own or Support You?
For millions of years, humans have had a behavioral urgency in belonging to tribes. In the game of success, it is a fundamental mistake to develop the delusion of adequacy, that our independence from others is going to lead to anything other than isolation. For most of us, tribes wield tremendous influence in how we make decisions, communicate and behave.
For years professionals from all walks of life have come to us so they can define and achieve their best and ideal career options. In that quest, we tell people that the only mistruth we have to let go off at the beginning of the program is, “I don’t know.” Most of us have been trained, early in our lives, that we can use those three magic words to avoid the entire game of change and success.
Why would we be pushed to sabatoge successful change? Because of what comes after we make the commitment to change our lives. When we make a commitment to do something audacious and new with our lives, who do we tell first? We tell our spouse, our mother, our good friend, and perhaps a colleague. In other words, we tell members of our tribe.
Tribes have rigid rituals and expectations. When we break those expectations the tribe swiftly responds with some form of:
Here are a few examples:
We tell our spouse,
“You know what? I’m going to leave the six-figure job I can do in a coma and am going to start my own business. In fact, I think I will do something that makes the world a better place.”
You are crazy.
An executive leads a business unit that has fallen into challenges because of a poor economy. She calls a meeting and announces,
“We are going to rise above the market challenges and create a business revolution. In fact, I want each and every one of you to send me a proposal in how we can do that.”
You are crazy.
Many of us have never stopped to recognize how to deal with the very tribes that provide us with identity and support. Without tribal skillsets, we resort to exiting the tribe, approaching the tribe with righteousness, or not telling them at all.
A few years back, we were hosting a sizable Inspired Work program. During the first break, about two dozen Jewish male professionals came back from lunch laughing. One of them was appointed to tell us that during lunch, they came up with the “Jewish mother’s hierarchy of acceptable career choices.” All of it was based on how one mother’s eyebrows reacted when they other said what her son did for a living. CPA provoked a minor rise. The eyebrows rose higher with an attorney. Up to the hairline? Of course, it was doctor. A specialty brought on a natural facelift.
When we break these expectations of us, how often does the tribe either push us back into acceptable choices or enthusiastically step forward and support us? How do we raise the probability they will support us?
The answer is counter-intuitive.
Human beings are hard-wired to be able to think about something other than themselves for a maximum of 15 seconds. With that in mind, consider that pitch-selling doesn’t work. With tribes, getting righteouss is possibly the worst thing we can possibly do.
With executives, the day of telling people what to do and expecting that is enough to get them engaged is delusional. Going to Thanksgiving dinner with plans to tell the family they have to accept our new decision or we will leave, rarely produces positive results. Giving up and getting back in line will destroy our joy.
Since humans have such short attention spans, it is much wiser to speak to the probable objections immediately and discuss what is in it for them.
Here are a few examples:
“I know all of you are very proud that I graduated from Harvard and got a big job in finance. But, you also see me come home depressed. I want to bring the family good news, positive energy and I want to add to your joy. Now that I have left the bank, I am launching a farm in Ventura. This takes all the business skills I have learned and applies it to what I most love, growing life and growing things. My intention is to hire many of the friends and family members that we know and provide them with work that they love and give them the respect and kindness they want.”
“We lost ten percent of our staff this quarter and I know that our customers simply are not buying what we had. We are going to create a business revolution. At the very time when our morale could be at its worst, we need to become enthused and innovative and creative and interested. Our competitors are in the same boat. If we make that leap right now, we have an opportunity to build more successful careers, make more money, and look back at this moment as a turning point. Before the week is over, please schedule a private visit with me. Present your best ideas. Tell me what you want out of stepping forward and doing your best.”
We are responsible for how our tribes view and perceive us. We are responsible for connecting or disconnecting with the tribes that employ us, provide support to us, look out for our well-being, and give us growth.
Yes, sometimes it is a good idea to move on. Jack Canfield once sent me a book and I opened it to a random page. What hit my line of sight was,
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
In order to have the life that I have today, I have had to build new tribes and surround myself with people that encourage me to play big, to be my best, to go after dreams and to ask for their help.
Does your tribe own you or support you?
Usually, the answer to that question depends on you.
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