Tribes, culture, leadership and the workplace

Deborah Wilson


14 | OnTalent

As noted in my previous article, being in an environment where you can genuinely thrive involves finding and working with your tribe. Small companies can be a tribe, while larger organisations typically comprise tribes within a bigger tribe.

To recap, let’s define the word ‘tribe’:
Tribe: a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.

After seeing the trajectory of thousands of careers throughout the years, I can safely conclude that long and successful careers depend on people being in the right tribe, from feeling as though they can be who they are in an environment that feels safe and supportive. When these elements align in a workplace, incredibly powerful things can happen.

Tribe and culture go hand-in-hand. From what I have witnessed over the course of my career, great cultures have a written, or perhaps, unwritten, commitment to leadership.

Before we proceed, what is workplace culture by definition? RMIT Online states:
Workplace culture is the overall character of the business. Often unique to the organization, workplace culture can include elements such as the business’s values, beliefs, behaviors, goals, attitudes and work practices.

Ideally, we want our organisational culture to be viewed positively both internally and externally. In a positive environment, each and every person is responsible for bringing their best efforts and work to the table. People are invested and motivated by the people around them, the business, the brand and its mission and vision.

Why is workplace culture important?

In today’s workplace environment, there is more employee demand than ever. In other words, people have more options in terms of employment than in the past. Attracting top talent and retaining your best people is a strategic priority for thriving businesses. Any business that has struggled with retention understands the costs of having to hire and retrain people over and over. Additionally, people do their best work when they are happy and feel secure in their roles. Overall, a positive workplace culture will boost your bottom line and performance.

Several elements make up a thriving workplace culture. One of the key ingredients is leaders modelling what they expect from their team members. They encourage the sharing of knowledge and lessons learned. Fear is not weaponised. They’re supportive of new ideas and different ways of doing things. This culture empowers people to make decisions on the fly, take risks and feel supported while doing so. There’s minimal red tape, and people are not constantly fearing for their jobs.

Culture can make or break teams. At the core of a great workplace culture is leadership. As a leader, consider these questions:

• How are you engaging and interacting with your team? Don’t underestimate the importance of effective communication.
• Do people understand what they are working towards? Is your vision well-articulated and understood by everyone in your team?
• Are you exhibiting trust in your team? Do people feel valued, heard and seen?

Learning and challenging yourself to be better constantly is critical to effective leadership. Minor incremental improvements make a huge difference over time. Look beyond yourself and consider if the other leaders in your organisation are adding positively to your workplace culture.

At the end of the day, culture eats strategy for breakfast, and leadership eats culture for lunch!

Deborah Wilson is a Thought Leader and a Career and Leadership Strategist. She takes a personalised approach to strategic career coaching and transitions, coaching, and leadership strategy and development. Deborah provides expert guidance for individuals while supporting organisations through change and connecting people and purpose. Call Deborah on +61 403 779 746.


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