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How Companies Can Leverage Peer Coaching to Create Grassroots Efforts Towards Stage 5 Tribal Leadership

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

“It’s a fact of life: birds flock, fish school, people ‘tribe’”

In the book, Tribal Leadership, authors Dave Logan, John King, and Haley Fischer Wright propose that natural groups of individuals, or tribes, build a successful organization – not great leaders. 

Their theory, based on a decade of research with more than 24,000 people, shows that every organization is made up of ‘tribes’ – groups of between 20-150 people who share a common culture. These tribes have the power to influence and make a difference in organizational outcomes. 

What is Tribal Leadership?

The objective of tribal leadership is all about elevating the organizational culture and improving job performance and satisfaction. Tribal leadership is a relevant and valid leadership style for the current world of work that is riddled with chaos and uncertainty. 

With organizations battling burnout and wanting to be higher up the happiness index, tribal leadership helps organizations focus on enhancing the quality of the lives of the tribe while improving performance at work. 

It offers a prescription to struggling segments to envision a hopeful future since it is all about the collective and not the individual. 

According to this book, there are five stages to the tribal culture. It starts from Stage 1 and goes to stage- 5. In the early stages, people are not happy in the existing stage in their lives. By the time they reach Stage 5, this attitude evolves from “life sucks” to “life is great”. Only 2% of the tribes operate at this stage. Tribes operating at Stage 5 are the ones that make history and produce great innovations. Think of the first Macintosh. 

All the tribes operating at this stage are true leaders.

The Role of Peer Coaching in Reaching Stage 5 Tribal Leadership

Consider an organization to be a collection of small towns consolidated into a big city. Each of these towns has different types of people, each playing a different role. There are slackers in these towns as there are sheriffs. While the people in this town are all different, their roles are similar. 

The authors of the book call these small-town tribes. From the organizational narrative, these tribes are not the quintessential teams. Yet, these tribes have the power to influence corporate culture and determine the success or failure of leaders. “In companies,” Logan and his co-authors write, “tribes decide whether the new leader is going to flourish or get taken out. They determine how much work is going to get done, and of what quality.”

The tribal culture determines the strength of the tribe. Tribal leadership is all about 

  • Taking people stuck in stages one to three to stage five 
  • Turning the troublemakers into valuable members and thought leaders
  • Identifying the issues, habits, and culture that impedes the organization and its people from reaching their full potential
  • Developing the right cultural vocabulary that focuses on rising by lifting others

Tribal leaders focus on upgrading the tribal culture of the organization and creating the language that helps people recognize and identify with their ‘tribal-ness’ to come together to achieve great things. 

At stage 5, as the book describes, the tribes “hardly ever refer to the competition, except to note how remarkable their own culture is by comparison, and how far their results outstrip industry norms. The theme of communication is limitless potential. People in this culture can find a way to work with almost anyone, provided their commitment to values is at the same intensity as their own. There is almost no fear, stress, or workplace conflict. People talk as though the world is watching them, which may well be the case, as their results are making history.”

A close look shows that to reach this stage, we must change limiting beliefs, adopt a growth mindset, become more self-aware, helpful, and collaborative. 

It means having the confidence to place the collective above the self. It involves developing greater resilience towards change and uncertainty while becoming more self-assured.

All of these skills are power skills, critical skills that come with behavioral shifts, learning new skills, and unlearning societal conditioning. 

With peer coaching, reaching stage 5 of tribal leadership becomes attainable and not a pipe dream because:

  • It is contextual: Context builds in relevance. It helps people identify ‘what’s in it for them”. Once people identify the value, they are more amenable to change.  
  • It is continuous: Behavioral shifts take place only through reflection and repetition. Peer coaching is a continuous process where the peer coach and the learner are in a continuous dialogue. It is accountable, and yet, non-judgmental process and, hence, works to drive change. 
  • It builds camaraderie: Peer coaching provides a strong support system and facilitates self-directed learning. It provides continuous feedback but without any disharmony and creates an environment conducive to collaboration and teamwork 
  • It elevates organizational knowledge management: Peer coaching helps organizations create the right channels to share knowledge. It helps organizations build a culture of knowledge sharing and drives a systemic shift in perceptions and learned behavior with contextual learning, consistent reinforcement of new learnings, and timely feedback. When organizations create a learning culture, plug the skills gap, and create a culture that encourages paying it forward, the workforce automatically displays winning behaviors that contribute to personal and organizational growth. 
  • It improves stress management and reduces burnout: Peer coaching gives the employees a path to improve stress management and mental well-being. It provides people with timely support to navigate challenges that impede growth and lead to stress and burnout. Given the complex, uncertain, and now hybrid work environment, managing mental well-being and improving stress management contribute to the health of the individual and organizational outcomes. By helping people cope with their stressors, peer coaching helps employees and the organization improve their resilience. 
  • It destigmatizes help-seeking: Having a peer coaching network sends out the strong message that help-seeking is encouraged. By destigmatizing, help-seeking behaviors, organizations give people the opportunity to grow and identify their tribe. 

In Conclusion 

Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a tribe to build a successful organization. 

More often than not, we credit the success of an organization to great leadership. However, if we look closely, innovation, growth, and success are actually the consequence of the concentrated effort of the employees of the organization – the tribe. 

Peer coaching helps us identify what’s keeping certain people at stage one and helps them move from this stage to the aspirational stage -5. It helps in developing the right attitudes and mindsets that help people find their tribe and ensures that the organization successfully develops the right vocabulary to express their values to reach a common goal.

Connect with us to see how our AI-powered peer coaching platform can help your organization reach stage 5 of tribal leadership. 

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