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By David Harder on October, 16, 2017

Will Your Tribe Make or Break You?

What happens right after we make a decision to change the business or the course of our lives?


We tell members of our tribes. The challenge with tribes is that they have rigid rituals and expectations. When we break one of those rituals, the general response is some form of, “You’re crazy.” While we rarely talk about their impact, tribes wield enormous influence over our decisions and behavior. Tribes wait for us at home, work, down the hall, across the campus, at the church, in our political parties, or at the club. Tribes determine what we wear at work, how we fit in, and what we aspire to be. Step outside the norm and we are characterized as “crazy.”


For example, we come home and tell the spouse, “I’m quitting the six-figure job I can do in a coma. In fact, I’m going to start a business that is altruistic in nature.” He responds, “Are you nuts?”


Business leaders encounter “you’re crazy” when they announce the big change in direction, “I know the budget has been cut, many of you have lost a few team members. But, you are here for a reason and this can either become a turning point or a more survival. I’m calling for a business revolution. By the end of this week, please bring your big idea to my office.” The conversations begin, “She is nuts.”


“It turns out that tribes, not money, not factories, that can change our world, that can change politics, that can align large numbers of people. Not because you force them to do something against their will. But because they wanted to connect.” So how do we connect with the tribe? Let’s begin with a basic behavioral scientific fact that humans are hard-wired to be able to think about something other than themselves for a maximum of fifteen seconds. That means that even tribal members are primarily thinking about themselves during the announcement. Therefore, it is our responsibility to connect with their needs and expectations, not ours. This is one of the many reasons the workforce has so much disengagement. We give orders to the tribe without thinking about their needs and expectations. They smile and nod. They go through the motions. Or, we make that big announcement about a life change to our family. We do it with righteousness. They push back even harder. We threaten to leave. They show us the door.


The pressures of tribes on career choices are legendary. During a particularly large Inspired Work Program, we had about a dozen men come back from lunch laughing. They had defined the Jewish mother’s hierarchy of acceptable career choices. It was all based on how one mother’s eyebrows reacted when the other shared what her son did for a living. There were three acceptable choices and each one provoked varying levels of enthusiasm. A minor rise was CPA. Halfway up the forehead? Attorney. To the hairline? Of course, it was a doctor. A specialist provoked a natural facelift. One of those gentlemen made a decision to open up a florist shop. He went through a lot of anger in how his family put down this desire for many years, pushed him to go to law school, and now it was time to move forward with his life.


But, this time he went home and talked about the negative energy he was bringing to the family for years. He shared how he wanted to come to his family with positive energy, with smiles, and with flowers. He assured his family that if the florist business failed, he always had the law to survive. He thanked his parents for putting him through law school. Later, he would use his business and legal skills to grow that florist shop into one of the largest floral businesses in the country.


Executives emerged from one of our leadership programs with the commitment to tie their new vision of a business revolution to the needs and expectations of each stakeholder. Rather than ordering the employees to simply support the new cause, they met with each member of their team. They found how to use that new vision as an opportunity to meet the aspirations of each contributor.


Of course, this doesn’t work all of the time. There are circumstances where we need to move on and find a new tribe that will support us. But, while we are there, it is always good to increase the probability of success by connecting, by listening and making every attempt to support the very people we want to support us.


We cannot have one without the other.

Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work Services, Inc.

(C) Copyright, 2017, Inspired Work, Inc. – (All Rights Reserved)

If you would like to discuss your workplace or your career with David Harder, schedule fifteen-minutes Here.