Our Team is a Tribe

Our Team is a Tribe

I believe that LearningLeaders is right in that awkward space between a family and a corporate structure. And honestly, that’s an awkward space I really like. We’re becoming a tribe – and it should give us the freedom to spread our wings.

I absolutely relish the idea of knowing everyone who I work with on a deeply personal basis. I have made tough life choices (school, career, personal friendships, etc.) on what to pursue based on the prioritization of community. To me, that means you surround yourself with people who you admire and who you hope to admire you in return. To me, that means feeling valued by others and valuing others at the same time. To me, that means trusting others and hoping others trust you just as openly.

This simply becomes more difficult when you are expected to get to know a dozen new people in a short period of time. The ‘face time’ you spend with each person lessens. The connection you reach for could be more hit or miss. As more people join your tribe, others might leave, thus increasing the risk of investing time with newcomers. This in turn decreases the average payoff of your time, leading you to want to spend less time with them.

We are in the midst of a change of our team dynamics. It’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing. But it is a thing.

What we must do is recognize and acknowledge it for what it is. Not try to change reality.

We are now a tribe – a group of likeminded people pursuing a common set of goals. We share an interest (or purpose) and we are all connected. So what does that mean for us?

Three unique benefits for a growing team of our size: First, the relationships within the tribe are life-changing. Second, our sense of belonging can be increasingly fulfilled. Third, we have the opportunity to create a unique tribe, something new.

First, realize that these relationships that you’re making at LearningLeaders might turn out to be some of the most important throughout the course of your entire life. Due to the focused nature of interactions at a young and fast-growing company, as well as the challenge that we must all overcome, we’re going through hell together. A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor. And it certainly never made a tight-knit crew.

Someone at LL right now may be at your wedding. In your wedding. At your first baby shower. At your funeral. For many of us, our careers depend on each other now. We can see who we depend on by name and face. This is far different from a Fortune 500 company, where accountability can be spread thin.

Our financial futures also depend on each other. I, for one, have invested nearly my entire life savings into the company. We are a profitable business, that’s for sure, but without additional capital infusions from time to time we could not keep up with growth required of us by the market demand. Everyone has equity in this business – your kids’ education, your retirement, your ability to buy mom and dad a house – they all depend on every other person sitting around the table.

So don’t pull away from new partners when they join the company. Dive in and get to know them. This is an opportunity that we uniquely have at the size of our company - to create life-changing relationships with the other partners at LearningLeaders. Our tribe may double in size over the next year. That’s twice the number of life-changing relationships you can create. Don’t wait.

Second, we have tribal spirit - pride in what we do. With a larger company, that is often quite challenging to maintain, though some companies can achieve it (I’m keenly interested in this, by the way, so if anyone has any good book recommendations on maintaining spirit/culture at larger companies, please let me know :)

As it turns out, having pride and belief in your work is a great strategy! Believing that we can overcome great obstacles, improve our service to students and clients, launch new services, and even launch new business units requires an incredible amount of self-determination and willingness to fail and face criticism. But that hasn’t stopped us yet! This pride and belief in what we do not only helps us as a team, but also individually.

Most of us feel the need to be part of something greater than ourselves. This urging for team spirit and pride allows us not only to grow the tribe, resulting in a better fit of opportunities as I wrote about last week. The spirit and pride gives us a unique advantage in allowing us to better filter who we believe would be great additions to our team. If we did not feel any pride in our work, then we would likely accept applications from anyone to join the LL team. As we have seen these last few months, there are dozens of applicants who may be qualified and good-hearted, who we don’t think would seamlessly fit into the team.

A third advantage to being a tribe, rather than a family or a corporation, is the opportunity to be part of something new. To be a leader and to make changes. Often, though not always, in a small company with just a few people, everyone is making changes, but those changes are driven from a single source.

A tribe can set a new course for ourselves and work together to do so. At this point, everyone’s contributions to the tribe are necessary for the tribe as a whole to succeed. Acting with initiative and ensuring the tribe as a whole can develop is a necessity for us all to thrive.