Cliques and Tribes
At various points in my career I’ve bounced between Cliques and Tribes and back. While Cliques can be good to get new people up and running and do provide a strong bond between members I do feel that they are detrimental overall.
Clique: a small, exclusive group of people.
Tribe: any aggregate of people united by ties of descent from a common ancestor, community of customs and traditions, adherence to the same leaders, etc.
It seems to me that the main goal of a Clique is to preserve status quo. The Clique resists all forms of change. Generally speaking, anything new is a threat to the status quo, including adding people to the Clique. The Clique doesn’t want to grow in size, diversity of skills or across disciplines. The Clique is motivated by fear.
The signs that you’re in a Clique
- You spend a lot of time talking about other people.
- You don’t spend enough time talking about ideas and their implementation.
- You interact mostly with members of the Clique.
- You only want to grow in areas that are comfortable within the Clique.
- You fear change.
Therefore, a member of the Clique is so invested in themselves and the Clique it’s hard for them to be invested in the projects they’re working on.
On the other hand the tribe seems to be most concerned with growth, or at least adaptation. Are conditions changing? The Tribe usually drives those changes, or at least discusses the best ways to handle it.
The Tribe is concerned with the whole, it looks to expand it’s skills internally and across disciplines, as well as it’s size. The Tribe is intrinsically motivated to create the best work they can. The Tribe is motivated by growth.
The signs that you’re in a Tribe
- You spend a lot of time talking about ideas and their implementation.
- You have at least some autonomy to pick tasks, and more on how you complete them.
- You regularly talk about what you are working on, what’s in your way and what you’ll be doing next.
Does the Tribe sound good? Here’s how you can start turning the Clique into a Tribe.
Start with yourself.
Publicly state your goals, report on them. Have goals and communicate with people that are cross functional. Take lunch with people outside the Clique. Learn something that isn’t in your job description. Ask to have more of that kind of work, or even better, just do it as long as you don’t step on someone else’s toes. When a problem arises, don’t just resign yourself to “that’s how we always do it” or “things will never change”. Look for potential solutions and talk about them. In a nutshell, take steps to mitigate your lizard brain.
This openness will get you noticed and you’ll be able to enter one or more of the healthy Tribes if they exist, or begin to form your own. People in your former Clique may see the benefits of the change and come with you. Most importantly, your efforts will most likely improve the projects you are involved with.