What are the Laws of Your Team?

In the depths of my heart, there exists a profound connection to tribal cultures that has guided my journey, both personally and professionally. This inexplicable bond finds its roots in the remarkable experiences of my early years, where I had the privilege of growing up alongside a diverse community, including a significant percentage of Native Americans, with the Kickapoo Tribe making up a quarter of my schoolmates. This immersion in tribal traditions, such a food, pow wows, spiritual practices, etc. left an indelible mark on the way that I conceptualize the world.

As a psychologist, my fascination with tribal culture runs even deeper, anchored in the rich tapestry of human behavior and our innate reliance on one another. It’s intriguing to consider that, for the better part of the past 100,000 years, our ancestors thrived in tribal societies, where cooperation within tight-knit groups was the cornerstone of survival. These societies, with their unique languages, rituals, and distinctive attire, symbolically marked the boundaries of in-group unity. It’s here, in these ancient lessons, that I believe we can find profound insights that resonate in the modern world of business.

In my own recent reflections, I’ve turned my attention to the dynamic of teams, recognizing that, like tribal communities, they too require periods of reorganization and reconnection. There are these little unwritten rules or boundaries that may be negatively impacting the team and need to be brought to the surface. If you have ever experienced issues on a team, you were a part of or leading, I want you to know that all of us are right in there with you! I have and will continue to face challenges that need to be addressed, much like you have. Most recently, I sought external guidance, and with my coach, I gleaned a significant ah-ha moment: for me to be an effective leader, I must stand unwaveringly on the battlefield, laser-focused on the vision. Distractions, whether past grievances, internal struggles, or external disruptions, can divert my attention from our Core Purpose. In essence, a cohesive team is only as strong as its weakest member, and the strength of the tribe hinges on each member’s commitment to supporting one another.  The old saying of you can’t see the forest for the trees is absolutely applicable here.  And those small revelations can help any leader course correct.

Tribal Laws That Must Be in Place for a Successful Team

This reflection brings me to the heart of the matter—tribal leadership. To navigate the complex landscape of modern business, we can draw inspiration from the timeless wisdom of tribal norms and unwritten rules that have evolved over centuries. Let’s explore some of these norms and their profound relevance in the context of contemporary business leadership and teams:

1. Lead by Example: In tribal cultures, leaders didn’t just command; they led through actions and deeds, setting a standard for others to follow. Today, effective leaders inspire and motivate by exemplifying the qualities they expect from their team.

2. Collective Responsibility: Tribal communities understood that every member bore responsibility for the tribe’s well-being. In business, fostering a sense of collective responsibility among team members encourages them to take ownership of shared goals…and for the team members to address individual issues that are holding the team back.

3. Conflict Resolution Within the Group: Tribes prioritized resolving disputes within the community to maintain unity. In today’s workplace, addressing conflicts directly and constructively is vital for a positive and productive environment.  A friend once told me that unresolved conflict is the biggest source of waste on teams.

4. Respect for Differences: Tribal societies celebrated the diversity of skills and roles within the group. Modern teams should embrace diversity, recognizing that varied perspectives enhance innovation and problem-solving.  Diversity increases productivity by 66% and should be part of the team fabric.

5. Interdependence: Tribes thrived on the contributions of every member. In business, emphasizing interdependence reinforces the importance of each team member’s role in achieving collective goals. Knowing strengths and weaknesses of each member and accounting for that is crucial.

6. Trust and Loyalty: Trust was the bedrock of tribal leadership, earned through actions and fairness. Trust remains the cornerstone of effective leadership today.  Trust is so intertwined with loyalty and is the bedrock of great teams throughout history.

7. Protection and Provision: Tribes cared for vulnerable members, fostering empathy. In organizations, promoting a culture of support enhances employee well-being.  Ensuring that team members feel a sense of community and care is key and should be reciprocated across all levels of the organization.

8. Celebration of Achievements: Tribes celebrated together, reinforcing unity. Recognizing and celebrating accomplishments boosts employee morale and motivation.  This one is so important, but so neglected in most organizations we work with, unfortunately.

Incorporating these tribal principles into modern business teams can create a more inclusive, cooperative, and engaged workforce. These principles instill a sense of shared purpose, unity, and responsibility, forming the foundation upon which strong and successful organizations are built in our rapidly evolving world.  Learn from the past so you can build a stronger future!

As we venture forth in the dynamic landscape of business, let us remember the lessons of our tribal ancestors. Let us lead by example, nurture collective responsibility, resolve conflicts constructively, celebrate diversity, embrace interdependence, build trust, provide support, and never forget to celebrate our collective achievements. In doing so, we can forge bonds that transcend the ordinary, transforming our teams into tribes of resilience and excellence.