The most recent arc of the 21st Century Workplace podcast is focused on building a tribe in the 21st Century. A tribe, as Seth Godin (our episode #5 guest) describes is, “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” (Tribes, page 1)
Being a part of a tribe is almost always exciting for us, in a way that being a part of a company sometimes is not. So what’s that all about? My take is that it’s probably the last piece – the “connected to an idea” part – that is so engaging. That forward momentum that comes from a shared vision of something that’s not quite reality, but within the realm of possibility.
Too many of companies we work for hire us, connect us to a leader and a group of people who, presumably are working towards something together. But how clearly and uniformly could we state that objective? It’s actually not so difficult to do, but for some reason we shy away from explicitly stating the change we’re working to make in the world. Maybe because we don’t want to rock the boat? Don’t want to draw lines in the sand, where certain co-workers might find themselves on the outside looking in? Maybe it really is best intentions that keep our objectives deliberately vague. Maybe it’s laziness. Maybe it’s a lack of autonomy imposed on us, the team leaders, that shackles us from clarifying the tribe’s mission ourselves. Whatever the reason, it’s not working.
We need connection to all three – our team, our leader and our mission/idea – to feel a part of a tribe. To feel engaged and aligned. Without all three, we stand a much greater risk of slipping into the “it’s just a job until I find a better one” mentality that is crippling so many organizations.
As leaders, we need to draw that line. We need to appreciate that while there may be collateral damage and some people might be pushed to move on, the alternative is a shambling, “clock in / clock out” mentality for an even greater percentage of our team; a mentality that we simply can’t afford. Plus, the people who leave when you do draw that line are likely the ones who would have been leaving anyway. Give most of your people a renewed sense of purpose and connection, rather than sort-of-appeasing everyone. Everyone will be better for it.
And for those who are a part of the Canadian Tribe – Happy Thanksgiving!