The Tribal Approach

The business world is changing and therefore our approach to business must adapt to that change. Gone are the days of the factory approach of "if we build it, they will come." Mass marketing strategies no longer make an impact and we're even shifting away from the idea of brands appealing to a person's self image and social standing. This article looks at the next step in the evolution of business strategy - the concept of Tribe Management - and the impact it can have on your employees and clients.

 Last month I found myself waking up at 5:30am it was 4 degrees C outside and very windy making it even colder. I climbed out of my nice warm bed, drove to Victoria Park pool, paid my entry fee, changed out of my warm tracksuit and Ugg boots and climbed into an outdoor pool to swim for 90 minutes. As I climbed into the pool a realisation hit me "What the HELL am I doing!!!!" Why am I subjecting myself to this torture??? I must be insane! The worst part is I do this 3 times per week.

Then I realised I am not insane – it's because I belong to a "Tribe". You see I am part of the Victoria Park swim squad. Why does the tribe have such a strong impact on me?

• I like the other people in the squad;
• We bond over the fact that it is FREEZING;
• We organise get togethers outside of swimming;
• We compete in ocean swims over summer;
• And... I am sure most of us spend that day boasting to people about how cold it was yet we still got in!

One thing I know for certain, there's not a snowball's chance in hell that I would do it if I were getting in that cold water all on my own.

"Tribes" is a term that author Seth Godin has recently been talking about. Here's why:

The Business world has changed!!!

• We initially started with the factory idea – if we manufacture a great product they will come to buy it.

• Then we moved onto the TV idea that if you push the message enough you can affect people (mass marketing). This is very one sided as you're telling people what's good for them. This is an average idea getting thrown out to the masses and hopefully something will stick.

• Then we evolved and moved to brand management, where we created brands that resonated with people in the hope they would become attached. Being associated with that brand added to their personal identity. People have an affinity with a certain brand because it puts them in a certain social standing – think iPod, Airwalk shoes, Virgin, Qantas, BMW.

• Seth Godin believes that we are now in the middle of a shift, which he refers to as Tribe management. It's about leading and connecting people with ideas. He believes that people actually seek out and desire to be part of a tribe.

Here is how Seth describes what a tribe is:

"It starts with permission, the understanding that the real asset most organisations can build isn't an amorphous brand but is in fact the privilege of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them.

It adds to that the fact that what people really want is the ability to connect to each other, not to companies. So the permission is used to build a Tribe, to build people who want to hear from the company because it helps them connect, it helps them find each other, it gives them a story to tell and something to talk about.

Instead of looking for customers for your products, you seek out products (and services) for the Tribe.

People form Tribes with or without us. The challenge is to work for the Tribe and make it something even better."

The Internet was supposed to connect everyone, but what it really did was set up siloed Tribes. The Internet is full of Tribes. You can find any group of people and connect with them with a few clicks of your mouse.

Using Tribes for commercial value

Rebecca Wells is an American playwright and author. She wrote the book "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood". When it was released it sold a respectable number of copies due to the quality of the book. However what she discovered is that women all over the US started "Ya-Ya" meetings, where they would get together and discuss the book (the book was about the relationship between mother and daughter). What she did then was start to visit these groups and speak at them. From here the book "tipped" and became huge, it sold millions and millions of copies and became a NY Times bestseller. What drove this success? The Tribe!

Many charities are now embracing the idea of Tribes. Movember ( is like a Tribe (men are raising money for prostate cancer and depression by having people sponsoring them to grow a moustache for that month). It connects men in the month of November, they can instantly recognise each other and they know that they are part of a movement and community.

Can we use Tribes to change our behaviour?

Many people find it hard to change behaviour, however, we can leverage off the power of Tribes to do help make change. My swimming Tribe gets me out of bed in the morning to go off and be cold for 90 mins.

I believe there are 9 factors involved in changing behaviour

1. Monitor & Reflect on your Progress.
2. Be Part of a Community.
3. Find a Strong Emotional Driver
4. It's fun!
5. Peer Group Influence.
6. Tension from Environment.
7. Create a Realistic Plan.
8. Achieve a Milestone.
9. Match Your Self-Image.

Being in a Tribe gives you five out of the nine (2,3,4,5,6). If you want to change something, can you join a group of like-minded people that can help facilitate you changing behaviour?

Creating a tribe at work

In the work I do on engagement with different companies and in my own organisation, I have started to incorporate the concept of engaging and building tribes.

Unfortunately for too long we have been using the power of Tribes for evil, the majority of tribes in the work place are focused on disengagement and creating trouble. Could you create an engaged Tribe at work? A group of people who are committed to being engaged and involved in their work?

Are your team, a tribe, or simply a group of people who work near each other with no common cause, no unity and no clear strategy?

• Reinforce and regularly reflect on what is the purpose of your "Tribe", what are you working towards, and why it is important.

• Allow each person in the Tribe the ability to voice her/his opinion

• Show individuals how they contribute to the Tribe and why their work is important.

• Thank them for their contribution to the Tribe (sounds simple, but we rarely do it. I encouraged one of my coaching clients to genuinely go around and thank his team members using specific reasons why their contribution is important. He said in 15 years he has not experienced a more powerful impact on staff members. He is amazed at its impact. Particularly the second hand feedback he has received from it)

• Show them that you care about them as individuals – this does not mean you have to have tea and sticky buns each afternoon, rather, showing you genuinely give a damn.

• Stand up and fight for the rights of your tribe, champion their causes.

• Reinforce a culture of acceptance and empathy, through your actions.

What sort of a tribe are you creating in your workplace?