Does Your Tribe Own You Or Support You?


IT IS VERY EASY to underestimate the power of tribe on our decisions, communications and behavior.

When we make a commitment to do something audacious and new with our lives, who do we tell first?

We tell our spouse, our mother, our good friend, a colleague. In other words, we tell members of our tribe.

Tribes have rigid rituals and expectations. When we break any of those expectations tribes typically respond with some form of your crazy.

A few years back, we were hosting a sizable Inspired Work program. During the first break, about two dozen Jewish male professionals somehow got together. They came back from lunch laughing. One of them was appointed to tell us that during lunch, they came up with the “Jewish mother’s hierarchy of acceptable career choices.” All of it was based on how one mother’s eyebrows reacted when they other said what her son did for a living.

A minor rise?  CPA.
Halfway up the forehead? Attorney.
To the hairline?  Doctor.

A specialty provoked a natural facelift.

When one of these sons came home and announced he was exiting law to launch a charity what do you think happened?

He got various forms of, “You’re crazy.”

Actually he got a lot of crying and smeared make-up. One relative screamed and cracked an egg over her head.

Just kidding.

This is what invariably comes our way when we break the rigid ritual and expectations of any tribe.

All too often, we get righteous and angry with our tribes because they don’t support us. But we can increase the probability of success by telling them in well thought out and even masterful ways what is in it for them.

If we want to change the course of our lives or reinvent the business, it is a good idea to be prepared for the inevitable reaction of “you’re crazy” when you announce the change.

For example, if you are about to tell your family you are taking an exciting and risk filled change in your life that you language that change in ways that can positively impact their needs and expectations:

“I know all of you are very proud that I graduated from Harvard and got a big job in finance. But, you also see me come to the family depressed. I want to bring the family good news, positive energy and I want to add to your joy. Now that I have left the bank, I am launching a farm in Ventura. This takes all the business skills I have learned and applies it to what I most love, growing life and growing things.”

Another example:

“We lost ten percent of our staff this quarter and I know that our customers simply are not buying what we had. Here is what we are going to do:  We are going to create a business revolution. I expect from all of you the kind of creativity and innovation to generate new forms of business. I expect all of you to take the responsibility to be enthused, collaborative and excited.”

Here’s why:

I know that all of you have anxiety about what just happened to some of our colleagues. I know that some of you have little bandwidth to create miracles or pull rabbits out of the hat. But, our competitors are in the same boat. If we make a leap, right now, we have an opportunity for all of us to build more successful careers, make more money and look back at this moment as one where we either failed and stepped back or we took a leap and actually grabbed a bar that no one saw coming?

What is it going to be?”

How do I know communications like this work? Both of them are real conversations.

Many of us get righteous or dictatorial with the tribe and they might smile politely but we have lost them.

Sometimes it is good to add a new tribe to the mix. But don’t simply throw what you have away. It is always best to add new talent and new points of view.

Welcome the pushback! It is an opportunity to win everyone’s support.

Give up and they own you.


David Harder
David Harder
DAVID founded Inspired Work in 1990, which has helped over 42,000 professionals transform their relationship towards work. Individuals from all walks of life attend Inspired Work’s public programs to launch new careers, new business or to become more successful in their existing role. He views work as a profound opportunity to become more fulfilled, contributive and effective. Mr. Harder’s leadership, employee engagement, executive development and social networking programs are used in a wide variety of organizations including The Walt Disney Company, HBO, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Loyola Marymount University, University of Southern California, The United Church of Religious Science, Morgan Stanley, and many others. Inspired Work’s leadership programs, career development and team building programs produce some of the worlds most outstanding satisfaction numbers in any business: 92.6% out of a hundred. David has appeared on many business and human-interest programs including CNN, KTLA News, KFWB News and Business News Network. David’s book, new book, The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press) offers an entire “crack-the-code” approach to engagement.

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE