We All Need A Tribe

my tribeLike you, I am a part of many groups, teams, membership bodies and communities of practice. They all offer something different. For some, I receive more than I give, while for others, the opposite is true.

One of my ‘tribes’ (see our happy group photo from yesterday’s Christmas lunch) stands out however as being pretty special, despite it operating in counter-intuitive ways that go against convention. This tribe is going strong heading in to its fourth year – thanks to (clockwise) Gerard Penna, Me/Author, Michelle Sales, Kathy McKenzie, Linley Watson and Dave Lourdes.

What Makes this Group Special

As we rocket towards the end of another year (and yesterday was our last get-together), it caused me to reflect on what makes this group work so well:

The name says it all – Our group is called ‘In Your Corner‘ which should give you a strong indication of what the group is about. We are there for each other during the good, bad and ugly times.

We share a common purpose – Every member of the IYC tribe cares deeply about being the best practitioner we can be for our clients. We want to learn, grow and expand our knowledge, skills and depth of practice.

It’s a ‘judgment free zone’ – Judgment is the killer of vulnerability – and a lack of vulnerability is the killer of human growth and potential. Group members feel safe.

There is no agenda – There is no agenda, no preparation, no meeting notes and no objectives set. What!? Yes, you read right. We get together for half a day every two months never knowing what we’re going to talk about – and this creates enormous value. There is space to breath; space to reflect; and space to go to the places we don’t normally allocate enough attention or time towards.

Challenge with humility – If you’re thinking that our meetings are hand-holding ‘love-ins’, then you have the wrong idea. The heat is turned up through group coaching, peer consultation processes and letting ‘the silence do the heavy lifting’ (thanks for the quote Susan Scott). As you might imagine, it’s a pretty interesting dynamic having six coaches/facilitators working as one! No shrinking violets here.

There are no ‘no-go-zones’Nothing is off the table unless an individual says it is, so our topics of conversations are broad and varied. Conversations include things like: support around difficult client engagements; being purposeful; sustaining our energy for the work; fees; marketing; understanding best practice and global trends in learning and development; and collaborating on specific projects – just to name a few.

Gratitude and ego – There is plenty of the first and not much of the second. The group goes about it’s business in a way which is not about points scoring or demonstrating how much we know or how good we are. While I consider tribe members to be among some of the best practitioners in Australia and abroad, people don’t feel the need to prove it. There is a richness in being able to give and receive the gifts of knowledge, feedback and wisdom.

How Are Your Tribes Working?

The word ‘tribe’ can be interpreted in many ways. However for me, a tribe is a collection of people that you are a part of – either voluntarily or by default – such as a membership group or organisational team. If there is no common purpose then it is unlikely to be a tribe in form, function or benefits received.

Your Five Questions:

The only ‘call to action’ I have for you is that I invite you to reflect on the following five questions:

  1. How are your tribes working for you?
  2. What tribes do you need to leave/create?
  3. Where do you need to adjust the way your tribes are working?
  4. How might you take an active step to bring one or more of the seven points (above) to your tribe?
  5. How do you need to ‘show up’ differently to help create your ideal tribe?

I would love to hear your thoughts on what makes your tribes great (or not)!

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Getting Ready for the ‘Planning Season’ – Part 2 (Your Team)

Getting Ready for the ‘Planning Season’ – Part 2 (Your Team)

It’s Time to Focus on Your Team

Part 1 – creatively titled “Getting Ready for the Planning Season – Part 1” – discussed that for many organisations, the annual cycle of planning and strategy formulation is uppermost in their minds in an endeavour to set themselves up for the coming year. However, traditional strategic planning (and the yearly round of off-sites) often fails to deliver intended objectives.

Here are the five ‘antidotes’ we discussed in Part 1

  1. Create a ‘Collective Ambition’
  2. Make the process robust
  3. Make it agile
  4. Be real
  5. Balance performance and health

The article also provided an overview of the concept of organisational ‘health’ or what McKinsey have defined as “the ability of an organisation to align, execute and renew itself faster than the competition so that it can sustain exceptional performance over time.”

The concept applies equally to teams, and in fact it could be argued that without healthy teams (particularly senior teams) the chances of your organisation being healthy are slim.

A Way to Help Create Success

In our work with various senior teams over a twenty-year period we have seen a lot of things that work and DON’T work!

Based on evidenced-based principles and our own experience in working across many industries, we have formulated a framework to help your team focus on the things that matter – the things that will help you engage in the strategy planning process in a fruitful way. By focusing on the key elements of the canvass, you will also give yourself the best chance of implementing the strategy and creating a sustainable and high performing organisation or unit.

Team Charter Canvass

Creating a high performing organisation starts with creating a high performing senior team that knows where it’s heading, how to get there, and importantly, who they are as a team.

Our Team Charter Canvas (TCC) helps guide senior teams to do just that. The framework helps ensure that teams engage in crucial conversations that will lead to long-term success, starting first with clarity about the organisational vision and purpose.

Figure 1: Team Charter Canvass

TCC Sept 2016


Those familiar with Simon Sinek’s work will be familiar with his tenet of starting with why may recognise the flow. Row 1 describes the WHY first, Row 2 the HOW and finally Row 3 is all about the WHAT.

This is in contrast to many planning processes that rush to the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ and don’t do justice to the ‘why’.  I have yet to meet a team that is sufficiently clear about all nine areas of the canvass and the detail that sits behind each. This can have serious consequences on achieving short and long-term objectives.

“I have yet to meet a team that is sufficiently clear about all nine areas of the canvass and the detail that sits behind each.”

Management solutions closing the gap to a business challenge as a businessman lifting a three dimensional cube to complete a wall with a group of organized objects as a project metaphor for leadership expertise.

This simplified version (the full version has some key diagnostic questions in each square) is linear and prescriptive in that a team should start with box 1 then move to box 2 then 3, etc (of course you may need to circle back to earlier boxes as you progress).

Any planning process needs to be firmly linked to the organisation’s vision and reason for being. The ‘how’ helps teams examine their operating rhythm, their values and how they will celebrate and recognise achievements while enjoying the journey along the way. And finally the ‘what’ helps the team achieve laser-like focus on what needs to be achieved and by when, including the current shape of the team (strengths to be leveraged and weaknesses to mitigated).

How Do I Use the Canvass?

There are many ways to leverage the power of the framework, however all methods should lead to the same outcome – creating a robust dialogue that creates new learning and new possibilities.

At a more practical level, here are some tips:

  1. Ask each team member to rate each box between 1 (Poor) and 10 (Excellent) live, calculate the average score and then focus on the three lowest rated boxes.
  2. Using the same rating system as above, conduct a confidential survey before the session.
  3. Start at box 1 and gain agreement on what it is, then move to box 2, then box 3, etc.
  4. Don’t skip any boxes because you think you have them nailed without an explicit agreement on what it actually means (assumptions are like termites in your strategy).
  5. Invite key stakeholders and even customers to enter in to some ‘box conversations’.
  6. Pressure-test your outputs with people who matter (i.e. people you need to be successful).

In order to have the type of robust, honest conversations needed, you will need to work on creating high levels of psychological safety.

Last November, Google published the five traits of its most successful teams – the first and most important was psychological safety, which has been described as a ‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’  Psychological safety is a necessary pre-condition for meaningful planning.

Implementation is the Achilles Heel

We know that around 80% of change fails and that globally a high percentage of Chief Executives are dissatisfied with their strategies and the results they create.

While it is relatively easy to produce a beautiful looking strategy document, it is how those ideas are realised that makes the difference. By default, ‘implementation’ means that change will be necessary (unless you have a no-change strategy that has already been implemented in which case you should be updating your strategy!).

Implementation and change leadership is out of scope for this article, however it needs serious attention as part of the overall planning and strategy process. This is where the real work begins.

Find out More

We are specialists in working with senior teams to bring the Team Charter Canvass to life. We do this through working with leaders and teams to create high performing and healthy teams and organisations.

If you’re interested in learning more about these programs and how we may be able to work with you to achieve outstanding results, then you can:

Getting Ready for Planning Season part 2 Cover


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