Monday, 14 October 2013

Improving your Tribe...

I recently read the book, Tribal Leadership, by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright and found it really interesting, but this talk from Logan is a quicker way in to most of the key principles:

There were many interesting messages that I got from the book... One was that individuals within a single 'tribe' [typically a group of 20-150 people] can often be at different 'stages'. Despite this, the tribe itself will typically have a dominant culture that resides at one of the five stages. Thankfully(!), an individual or even a tribe itself is never 'locked in' and stuck at a particular stage with no hope of moving forward - the authors spent a lot of the book detailing how to 'upgrade the culture' of tribes so that they can move closer to the ultimate level to aspire to - Stage Five, where the typical mindset / outlook is "life is great"... 
Leading up to this are four other stages, with each step forward illustrated by an increasingly positive and admirable mindset / outlook:

  • Stage One: "life sucks" - not workable for an organisation to either operate at this level or to have individuals that are at this level themselves...
  • Stage Two: "my life sucks" - tends to be characterised by people comparing themselves unfavourably to others and believing that they have little or no ability to change or improve their situation. Apathy, low motivation, resistance to new ideas and change... 
  • Stage Three: "I'm great [and you're not]" - the stage that tends to be the most common among workplace tribes... This is where competitiveness kicks in and people are individually aspirational... They are primarily motivated by showing that they are good performers individually - that they are better than those around them... 
  • Stage Four: "We're great [and they're not]" - this is where the penny has dropped for those that have previously been driven, motivated and high-achievers as individuals - they now have recognised that there are greater, more important accomplishments that can be achieved by working with other people. This sees people that have shared values working together with a common purpose or in pursuit of a common goal - one that is bigger than an individual would generally be able to achieve on their own.
The fifth and final stage is a relatively subtle - but still significant - development from the fourth stage. The main difference is 'who' the competitor is. In stage four, a tribe may be 'competing' with other teams or organisations. In stage five they are not generally competing with other groups of people, but rather with bigger, more audacious challenges like solving a difficult problem, creating or doing something new, making a significant positive change, etc... 

Clearly, one of the most important aspects of getting individuals and whole tribes into stage four and even stage five cultures, is developing the skills and will of people to work collaboratively, working on the principle that the collective capacity of multiple people is greater than the capacity of an individual working alone. Indeed, a recurring theme about the role of 'tribal leaders' - whose role it is to help progress people through these stages - is the importance of connecting people, thus expanding the skill and knowledge sets that people have access to, as well as extending the 'reach' of their tribal members.

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