It is not often that you read a book that messes with you at your core. Every (figurative) blue moon, you read something that challenges you in such a way that you have to put it down a few days and come back to it so that you can continue. For me this book was Seth Godin’s book Tribes: We Need You Lead Us.
Reading this book for me has a caused a paradigm shift in my thinking and answered some very large questions that I have been asking myself for the last 90 days.
First, I am passionate about people. I always have been since I was a little girl. My dad always joked that I was the official “champion for the underdog.” Well fast forward thirty years later, and I found that even an underdog can bite you, so all battles need to be fought carefully.
Recently, I had a few situations that have caused some major issues in my small business that had been running very well. First, one of my managers started falling behind on one of our major accounts. Instead of confronting her about work performance, I begin to talk to her about her life and find out how things were going for her personally. She began to explain to me that she was having severe marital issues, having been divorced myself, I understand how the emotional toil of a failing relationship can have on work performance. So, I gave her a more structured schedule to be able to make the client objectives were handled in a timely manner, but it was too late. I received a call about a week later, that the client was pulling the contract.
Next, I had a business relationship with a woman that I had known at my former organization and she offered me a very lucrative contract, the only issue was that the contract stated that I could not work with any client that I met while working for her a minimum of three years. Besides being a tough clause, one of her previous clients had already sought my business out to do work for her. Now, because it is a service that is not offered by the other woman’s company I thought that it would be okay. I was sorely mistaken, the issue turned into a massive blowout. I was shocked and surprised especially since I told the other CEO up front that the former client reached out to me, and even more perplexed because the client wanted my company to develop a series of Ebooks, again, which is a service the other company did not offer. Later, I found out that the other business woman was upset that the client had reached out to me directly because she had planned to add $15,000 to the service that I offered for $9,500 and then make a $15,000 profit off my company. I was horrified.
Then to add insult to injury, the client that reached out to me has repeatedly delayed the project for the last 60 days. So, I missed out on the original contract (although, clearly, I did not need to work with anyone who would exploit my company) and also now am without the monthly revenue that the client obligated herself to when she accepted the writing services contracted that I offered to her.
Next, I had a good friend of mine, seek me out about developing and managing her brand. She let me know that she did not want a favor, she actually wanted to pay me for my services. Well, I had three meeting with her, set up her photo shoot, hair stylist and worked on wardrobe options and once I presented her the bill, she never called me back and that was two weeks ago and she also has not returned my call.
Lastly, my most faithful client find out he had cancer and had to have immediate surgery. He still wants to continue his services. Which is so ironic to me, the only person who has a reason to ask for delay or discount did not.
I found myself, perplexed and discouraged in regards to my business. So, I started putting out my resume again and then I chose to read Tribes and I stopped.
The Tribes book provides a unique perspective on the opportunity that each of us has with the power of global reach contained in our mobile devices, tablets, and computers with online access. Godin passionately explains for the first time, individuals have the same power that formerly only belonged to companies. He illustrates how each of us has been empowered to lead if we so choose to do.
I concluded that I had taken the same broken system that I had learned in the organizations that I worked and was applying an employee-friendly version of it to my own business and I was doing it all wrong.
I was managing a process in exchange for monetary compensation, but what I was not to doing is passionately connecting others or leading a tribe. I had not convinced people that I was worth following and that was a tragedy for me because I am a very passionate about people living their best lives.
I realize that I could do this by using my power for the good of my fellow man/woman by creating and leading a tribe. Not necessarily for the benefit of financial gain, but for impact and to join together like-minded individuals and connect and empower them to change the world in some way.
Godin points out that the traditional power that was only available to CEOs, presidents and other high-ranking officials is now also available to the everyday person. As a matter of fact, Godin is urging and encouraging everyone to seize his or her own power and use it to create the change that is so desperately needed in the world today.
With the fall of large corporate giants like Enron in early 2000, with the dissatisfaction with political leaders and the growing numbers of Americans who are further away from being able to obtain the “the American dream” than ever—people need something to attach to their faith. People need faith for better opportunities, faith to make a difference, and faith that they can create a better world for their children. Godin unleashes an inspirational, figurative “kick in the pants.” Godin challenges the reader to be the change that they are seeking or follow a leader that believes in what they believe in, which is an important distinction, he is encouraging commitment to a leader and a worthy cause so that the person’s faith can become attached and retained. He is not advocating for blind followership, he actually is suggesting the opposite. Most working people do not have a choice who they follow at work. They have to submit to the leadership of managers or CEOs that feel do not care about them, their futures or their needs. He suggested that they can select a tribe leader that works to change whatever issues are most vital to the individual. The issues are critical because Godin repeatedly explains that tribes are “not about stuff, but they are about connection.” True tribe leaders are about connecting people and empowering them to tackle tough issues and initiative change, not to obtain material possessions. The ability to connect the tribe is key.
“Connection” is the new currency in modern society and it is easier than ever through the Internet and Social Media. Through connection individuals can help raise millions of dollars for hurricane victims, they can shut down illegal sex trafficking, or eradicate homeless in their community. Another, increasingly important power of a connected tribe is destroying the status quo; and in modern society, organizations and tribes that challenge the status quo are winning.
And at the end of the winning is important. Most people lead lives that are less than what they desire and even more feel completely helpless to do anything to change it. Godin is challenging that concept of living a meaningless, unfulfilling, unhappy life. He describes the antidote to this feeling of helplessness is initiative and that initiative leads to happiness. The initiative only requires two things: a decision to lead and commitment. Godin says, “If your organization requires success before commitment, it will never have either.”
Godin’s message caused a cataclysmic shift for me. For years I had been hazed (verbally) in at an organization that was consumed with portraying the “perfect image.” The leaders were overly critical about outfits, shoes, make-up, handbags and even eyebrows. Now, do not get me wrong, there are environments that require dress codes and business etiquette, I do not want to completely minimize their importance, but what was missing from these verbal lashings was good fundamental leadership principles. I always felt is that the “hazing approach” to the “creating the perfect image of a leader” was not effective at gaining the loyalty of followers. I learned that people can admire you or your appearance from a distance, but never really follow or connect to you, and the end if you really are not a leader if no one is following you.
This is what makes this such a phenomenal book for anyone who wants to make a difference as a leader or as a follower. The older I get I am learning that good followership is just as important as good leadership. A good follower will help connect like members of the team, he or she will assist the leader in whatever ways will help he or she impact the team the most. While a tribe-focused leader is seeking people to connect that can help make a difference in their corner of the universe. It is a powerful concept: you should not be trying to be all things to all people, you should be trying to be really passionate about being who you need to be as a leader to set the ground work to draw and unite others in your area of change and expertise.
Godin’s concepts are powerfully, yet simply articulated in sections instead of chapters. This style is representative of flowing narrative of the material. The style and 150-page count make for a quick read. The ending was representative of the giving nature Godin is suggesting that tribe leaders possess. He simply asks for each reader to give their book away. As an author, I cannot think of a more brilliant way to get the word out about a subject that an individual is passionate about. This giving nature is a part of Godin’s core. Currently, on his website, he is giving away copies of his latest book. For example, if a person buys 3 he is sending them 5. More than just a clever marketing strategy, he is spreading his message and continuing to expand his tribe.
This book has helped me lay out a completely different strategic plan for 2018. Yes, I am a business owner, and of course, I need to make a living to pay my bills, but I also cannot afford to not build my tribe and begin to make a difference in my corner of the world.
I now believe I can make a bigger difference as a tribe leader than by only being a business owner alone.
Godin, S. (2008). Tribes: We need you to lead us. Hudson, New York: Penguin Group.
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