How to Build a Loyal, Powerful and Growing Tribe
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
In the film Wonder Woman, a band led by the eponymous hero fight and win a battle at a place called No Man's Land. After they emerge victorious, Steve Trevor, a member of Wonder Woman's crew congratulates her for winning the fight. Her response surprises him.
She says, "No, we did this."
And that is how Wonder Woman solidified her tribe.
The concept of a modern-day tribe came to light in the business world when Seth Godin's book, Tribe: We Need You to Lead, hit the market in 2008. Godin described a tribe as "a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate."
No one gets to the finish line alone. If you want to create your own tribe, here are some tips.
Provide connectivity and doses of reality.
Entrepreneurship and remote workers have one important thing in common: loneliness.
"As an independent consultant, I found myself missing 'water cooler' conversations, professional development opportunities, a sounding board and someone to have a glass of wine with at the end of the day," says Stephanie Goodell, founder of Samaya Consulting and Business Engagement Lead at IBIS Consulting Group.
Over 36 percent of small businesses are started by women, and those businesses account for $1.4 trillion in transactions, so Goodell knew she was in good company. Doing something professionally for the first time provides the perfect opportunity for self-sabotaging dialogue.
"I am amazed at how often I feel like I have no idea what I am doing. The good news is that I am a perpetual learner," says Goodell. That's where her tribe helped by creating a peer-coaching model where specific business challenges are discussed and a plan of action laid out.
Goodell's advice for creating your tribe: Rather than look for cheerleaders for your tribe, look for truth-tellers with the expertise and perspective you don't have.
She says, "A tribe provides an essential sounding board and place to share those personal doubts and frustrations. Insights offered by others can be powerful and can remove the intense burden of self-criticism that we carry."
Related: 50 Rules for Being a Great Leader
Align on common goals while cultivating a culture that embraces evolution.
Dr. Cheryl Anne Lampshire, corporate problem solver and adjunctpreneur, sees tribes as part of the human experience.
"We have the opportunity to be part of many tribes in our lifetime. Sometimes, tribes come to you, as in families, work teams and functional groups. Sometimes you need to create a tribe to reach a common goal," says Lampshire.
Tribes often transcend the boundaries that appear after leaving a job. One of Lampshire's most valued tribes is xBBN, an online tribe comprised of former BBN employees where shared corporate cultural norms and experiences form the common bonds that enable members to help each other with both professional and personal challenges.
When Lampshire is forming a tribe, the origin story becomes the thread for cultivation throughout the lifetime of the tribe. Lampshire focuses on establishing common goals and revisiting those goals for relevancy throughout the tribe's lifetime. A sign of a healthy tribe is one with shared language and norms, where all members can actively contribute and each member's needs are met. When engagement drops or common goals are no longer relevant to all members, it may be time to exit the tribe.
Lampshire's advice for creating your tribe: Cultivate the health and quality of life for your tribe just as you would a living being.
"A tribe needs attention and nourishment to flourish. Like any living organism, the needs of the members and the purpose of the tribe can change and evolve," says Lampshire.
Bring the best version of you to the table.
Godin sees tribes as a place where everyone is a leader and a marketer. One of the most important roles of a leader is to raise the next generation of leaders. You are responsible for supporting your peers in achieving their goals, just as you are responsible for representing your own point of view. As a marketer, you get to practice your pitch as well as offer insights for your peers on how to pitch their big ideas and create something from nothing. Receiving this kind of wisdom from your tribe replaces months of wasted time and dollars.
My advice for creating your tribe: Have a shared purpose of collective power. I remember hearing Vivek Wadhwa, researcher, writer and entrepreneur, talk about his early days in the Silicon Valley when he and his fellow Indian transplants worked together to test product demo ideas, pitch decks and share business connections. When you are in an under-represented population, coming together with other people in your demographic is a powerful way to provide a platform for accelerating success while building life-long relationships.