Are You Mission-Driven or Tribalistic?

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Do you put the goals and needs of your department before the goals of your organization? Do you do things that undermine other parts of the organization such as: poaching employees, complaining about them in front of your staff, actively competing with them? Are you unresponsive or slow to respond to their requests? If you do any of these, you may be tribalistic. That is, you’re identifying solely with your group and not with the whole organization.

Of course being loyal to your department is a natural way of acting and it’s good to have a sense of team and belonging. It’s not as good when you do it at the expense of the whole organization or other departments.

I once witnessed a manager push a stack of books off a table in a leadership meeting say “That’s where this organization is heading. Off the end of the cliff! But not my department!” Someone had to point out that “his” department was part of the company he just pushed off the cliff. Oops.

A large organization is made up of departments, teams, and then individuals. A tribe develops when a group (or even 1 or 2 people) start to focus solely on their own desires without considering the overall mission of the organization. Tribes can be hardworking and be devoid of malicious intent, but their actions can slowly erode the overall culture.

Here are a few things you should do to be mission-driven and less tribal –

  • Prioritize requests from other departments and teams.
  • Reach out and support other groups in the organization when they are in need.
  • Support and commit to every leadership decision, even the ones you don’t agree with.
  • Confront people when they criticize other departments.
  • Make sure your decisions align with the overall goals of the organization.

And most importantly know and believe in the mission. I like to say – “Believe or Leave.” Don’t “Stay and Stray.”

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