Last year, I followed the Tribal Leadership Intensive journey and that journey opened a Pandora’€™s Box for me. In March, I joined the self-study phase of the Approved Tribal Leader program which allowed me to widen my horizons more in the coaching world. Last night, in a ceremony which I cannot talk about without risk of severe punishment, I began a new journey through the approval phase. How did Tribal Leadership rock my world in the last eighteen months? What am I thinking at the start of this new adventure? As usual, you will need to read on to find out!

I followed the Tribal Leadership Intensive courses offered by CultureSync in June 2011 and July 2011. The intent of the first course is to help you stabilize at Stage three and the intent of the second course is to participants learn how to create stable stage four teams. At the time, my work environment was less than stimulating at times and professionally I alternated a lot between Stage Two (my life sucks) and Stage Three (I am great) moments. Tribal Leadership was just what I needed to light myself back up.

What I did not realize at the time was how much content I missed going through the intensive courses. Many of those realizations came to me when I started working full-time as a trainer and agile coach. Last summer, someone asked me what Tribal Leadership had to do with coaching teams. I had trouble finding an answer, but I feel I can see the link more clearly now after nine months experimenting with teams.

When following the Intensive course, I came out believing individuals “live” in one particular stage. I came to see my understanding was wrong. I found certain projects trigger people to gravitate towards a certain stage without them ever realizing it. I also found people may gravitate from one stage to another depending on the events around them so you should not typecast people based on first impressions.

Another important realization was to understand the meaning behind giving Stage Three people a project larger than themselves to help them move from Stage Three to Stage Four. It took me a long time to understand what “€œlarger than them”€ meant. I remember wondering during the course how that was possible because I can do ANYTHING I want to achieve when I set my mind to it. Now when I look back at those thoughts, I giggle and wonder how deep in Stage Three that came from!

I finally understood the larger than myself piece when I started comparing my behavior working with colleagues on building training materials and my behavior when coaching teams at customer sites. One day, I realized when I build training materials, I know I can do it by myself so collaboration becomes a choice rather than a need. By comparison, when I coach teams, the success of the project rests on their shoulders as I cannot just take over all the coding, analysis and testing that needs to happen. This changes the stage I approach them from.

Once I understood this, it led me to start questioning where I was coaching from when working with agile teams. Working with teams really help you better understand the Tribal Leadership dynamics at work. An example of coaching from a Stage Three perspective would be to join a team with the attitude that you are the subject matter expert and they need to work your way. In comparison, Stage Four coaching is accepting where the team is at and working with them on common objectives to bring them towards where they want to go.

Stage Four coaching is difficult because reality is you may be dealing with a Stage Two team which has no motivation. When raising the idea of common goals and objectives, you may get blank stares in return. Helping teams rise up to the challenge of accepting self-organization and accountability is difficult.

Coaching teams meant working with individuals on an emotional level and it also meant finding ways to quickly size people to understand how I needed to work with them. To achieve this, I combined my knowledge of the Discovery Insights colors in combination with the Tribal Leadership stages. Is the person in front of me blue (rational thinker) gravitating in Stage Two world? Yes? Well then here is how I need to approach them.  Is this person red (action oriented) gravitating in Stage Three? Yes? Well, this forces me to use a different approach.

Going through the Tribal Leadership self-study phase, allowed me to understand the deeper meaning of some of the distinctions. I also started to notice many areas where my pattern was to act in a Stage Three individualistic way and I needed to change. Realizing the implications of putting my life into Tribal Leadership versus just putting Tribal Leadership into my life was overwhelming and scary when I realized the scope of what that meant.

My journey through the Tribal Leadership self-study phase also brought me at one point to question my own leadership declaration:

My core values are integrity, professionalism and family serving a noble cause of building highly collaborative teams

I realized one day that it no longer resonated with me when I said it and when I took a closer look at the reasons behind this, I realized it is the leadership declaration of my professional persona. My “€œauthentic self”€, buried by this persona for many years but slowly coming out, does not resonate with this declaration.

In the last year, I met a lot of amazing people in the Tribal Leadership community. These people taught me many things about gracious collaboration. Thank you Malvin and Robbin for involving me in! Thank you Leslie, Mark and Deirdre for letting me contribute to the Tribal Leadership Intensive courses!

Sometimes I wonder how I got from the basic Tribal Leadership concept of “Stage One -€“ My Life Sucks”€ to “€œStage Five -“ Life is great!”€ to discovering this “€œauthentic”€ me. My hardest realization in the last year was that I needed to accept what I learned about myself, including the parts I did not like. The most important questions I learned in the last year were:

  • Who are you?
  • Who do you want to be?

Accepting the answers to the first question takes courage. Getting out of your comfort zone and putting the demand on your Self to become the person you want to be takes an equal amount of courage.

So after a year of learning about myself, a new Tribal Leadership adventure begins as I officially begin quest to become an Approved Tribal Leader. I would like to formally welcome Carrie and David, my new triad buddies. to my crazy life… I look forward to learning more about you and to playing together in the coming weeks and months. Let’™s go out there and build something amazing together!