What is a Tribe?



What is a Tribe?

The very fact you’re reading this blog post says something profound about our modern world. Just 15 years ago, if you wanted to learn about home mortgages or financial issues, you would go first to family, friends, or a third party met through your family or friends. Today, you’re more likely to seek advice from a personality, like me, or a brand, like Wells Fargo, or a personality and brand, like Dave Ramsey. The very nature of our personal and business networks has changed, yet most people are oblivious to this fact. These new networks form the basis of the modern tribe, and that’s the topic of this week’s show.

Before the advent of the nation-state, people arranged themselves into tribes. People formed their identity less by geographical happenstance, as we do in most of the modern developed world, and more by shared characteristics and values: religion, language, culture, ethics, etc. Today our nationality forms the basis our identity. Yet many people, while appreciating their national identity, find the distinction arbitrary, so they seek out others with shared cultural, moral, and linguistic values to form small and discrete tribes of their own.

I have been a part of several tribes in my adult life. My time in the U.S. Army felt profoundly tribal; everyone shared a concrete set of customs, values, and goals. Similarly, Green Bay Packers fans, or Cheeseheads, are a tight-knit community with an established, if bizarre, code of conduct and behavior. I have been, and currently am, part of several different tribes, but underlying each is a shared sense of purpose. This—the shared sense of purpose—is the foundation of the modern tribe.

In many instances, people are part of a tribe without even knowing it. Products and brands are able to cultivate massive, dedicated followings with individual members sharing the same tastes, ideas, and goals—even if these individuals have never met one another! Consider, for example, Apple products. There is something at work besides good design that compels Apple fanatics to preach the virtues of their products, put stickers on their bumpers, and even get tattoos of the Apple logo. Similar cult-like followings exist for places like Trader Joe’s, Ikea, and Starbucks. Similarly, bands like REM and the Grateful Dead enjoy such massive, dedicated followings whose members seem to share customs and values entirely unrelated to the music of the bands.

There is tremendous value found in the tribe, separate from the value of whatever product or music or shopping experience that forms the tribe’s basis. Sharing commons goals and purpose is spiritually and emotionally fulfilling; it satisfies us at a fundamental level to know we belong somewhere, and that we can trust in the shared purpose of a collective.

This, in fact, is the decisive factor in explaining why some people love their jobs while others hate theirs. Before even considering the particulars of the job—the pay, the work, the hours—you ought to consider the entire team, from employees to management to the president, and ask whether the team functions as a mere group of people or as a tribe. All too often, companies form and grow without instilling a sense of shared purpose in new hires. This drastically changes the culture; instead of a team excited to have found this shared purpose and pursue common goals, they instead are simply concerned with receiving a paycheck. The lack of shared purpose, and the general ambivalence toward the company’s success, manifests itself in how the team members interact with one another and how they interact with customers, suppliers, venders, and so on.

Everyone should take a moment to consider their own careers in this light. Is your workplace like a tribe, or is it merely a place to work? Are you or others on your team willing to make personal sacrifices for the good of the tribe? It may sound like a cliché—probably because it is—but groups can accomplish far more together than they can separately. You should think about your workplace, ask what your team’s shared values and purpose is, and how everyone can strive for and achieve this goal through their work.

These thoughts and ideas were inspired by the extraordinary work of Seth Godin and his book “Tribal Leadership.” If you have not already, I encourage you to seek out this book and thoroughly study it. As with all the great books I have read this past year, it will inform much of what will be discussed on future shows and reinforce the ideas found in other books. It has already provoked me to consider the radio show, its audience, my mortgage company, and its clients, and how all these pieces are beginning to integrate and become its own little tribe. These effects will, I think, become more pronounced when the radio show goes lives and I can speak one-on-one with my audience—so stay tuned for that!

GARVENS GROUP OF CHURCHILL MORTGAGE PROVIDING COLORADO SPRINGS WITH HOME MORTGAGES, VA LOANS, CONVENTIONAL LOANS, AND FHA LOANS
Company NMLS ID # 1591 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org); CO–Mortgage Company Registration, Churchill Mortgage Corporation, 104 S Cascade Ave. Ste. 201A, Colorado Springs CO 80903-5102, Tel 888-562-6200, Regulated by the Division of Real Estate
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