March 29, 2018

Build Your Tribe

In Psych 101, we learned from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that after basic physiological and safety needs are met, we all crave a sense of love and belonging. Famed cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead suggested, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family; whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”  The notion of “finding your tribe” has become a hot topic by many writers and experts over the last several years, and I’d argue for good reason. Though the notion of tribe is not at all a new one, our current day popular cultural definition is pretty straightforward; it’s essentially the way we think or behave in our social groups.

I used to tease my friends in more conservative professions, such as banking or law, that they went to a “job” each day. Maybe they were making a decent living from a financial standpoint, but I was instead reacting to the notion that they only interacted with a handful of co-workers. There was no emphasis on relationship building, collaboration, or community. Candidly, I couldn’t fathom how they could be either happy or successful in such an environment. Conversely, they thought I was insane to join companies that put such a heavy premium on these elements. And yet, I’d argue that we all want some form of community at work, whether we realize it or not.

We spend a large portion of our day with people from our workplace. There are benefits to sharing your time and experiences with a group of people who share an interest - and hopefully some passion - about the same things you do. There is a shared vernacular, and common goals to accomplish together. When we invest in building these relationships and partnerships, we move from a transactional model of interaction to a far more personal one. And when we bring our energized, motivated selves to that equation, we tend to attract others who operate similarly.  

Given my role, I never thought much about the power of my tribe at work. Building relationships and connecting with people is a core part of my job. And yet, while I was interviewing someone recently, I was asked to elaborate on a comment I made about my “people.” I shared that I had three main groups of people who play a significant role in my life here. Members of the executive team, members of my people strategy team, and a variety of co-workers from all over the globe. They all play a significant role in my success and happiness at work, whether they realize it or not. In a world dominated by social media and the number of “likes” something gets, these are the real-life, go-to people I trust when I need an honest opinion, a counterpoint, a different perspective, or someone to have my back. This incredible “tribe” of mine is dominated by one core component: trust.

While I certainly benefit from shared laughs and personal connections with a large group of my co-workers, the trust I’ve established with this group of cherished people that I’ve invested in over the years is paramount to my success and wellbeing at work. We’ve worked together through trying projects, and difficult circumstances. We’ve celebrated together when we’ve achieved successes.  And we are there for each other through the everyday challenges of work, offering each other a helping hand. We are truly in it together.

When you are at work, it can be easy for us to find a buddy or two from our teams to grab lunch with or play a game of ping pong during a break. However, to establish your cultivated core group of “your people” takes time, energy and effort. And yet, this is one of those things in life that can be truly worth your investment.  Willing to take on the challenge? Below, find a few simple suggestions to get you started.

UNDERSTAND WHO/WHAT YOU ARE IN SEARCH OF - I intentionally seek out people who are smart, bold and don’t take life too seriously.  I value people who have a point of view - especially if it differs from my own - so I can broaden my perspective.  I enjoy connecting with people who aren’t afraid to share their opinion. And most importantly, I truly bond with people who do all of this with a sense of humor.  Work can be intense; finding others, I can laugh along the way is essential to me.

UNDERSTAND YOURSELF AND WHAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER - I have come to know myself well enough over the years to know I don’t shy away from sharing what I am thinking.  For some people, that is highly valued. For others, it can be a big turn off; especially if they enjoy having a tribe filled with people who operate exactly as they do.  It’s not just about knowing who I find value in connecting with; it’s important to be self-aware enough to know who will find value in you, too.

UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF THE SAFETY NET - With my little tribe, I realize the relationships I value most are those that have come over time from a multitude of shared experiences and earned trust.  We all recognize that no one us is perfect, and we all have areas to grow and develop. When that acknowledgment exists along with that shared trust, that “safety net” becomes both evident and invaluable.  I have taken on some bold projects at work; knowing that I have a trusted core group of people to continue to test my ideas with, give me candid feedback, and provide emotional support keeps me thriving.

UNDERSTAND DIVERSITY OF THOUGHT IS VALUABLE - It can be a comfort to find those people at work who think similarly to ourselves.  That said, some of the most valued people in my tribe think entirely differently than I do, and I benefit significantly from that dynamic.  Sure, it can take extra energy, in the beginning, to build commonalities and a partnership when people are different from ourselves, but once that is established, watch your thinking and innovation skyrocket from the different perspectives.

Though no one seems to believe it, I’m an introvert to the core. Though I “play extrovert” at work, I’ve bolstered my productivity, effectiveness, and morale by investing in cultivating my tribes over the years. As with anything worth doing, it takes energy and time...but oh, to have your own set of trusted and valued people at work?  It’s one of my absolute favorite things about working.

Christina Luconi is Chief People Officer for Rapid7. Follow her on Twitter: @peopleinnovator.