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Why I Need a Tribe and Why You Might Want One Too

Having a group of colleagues (aka tribe) with whom to share dreams, ideas and interests can be a big boost to our professional lives. And for the solo-preneur, independent consultant, or innovator forging a new direction within a company, it’s essential.

2014 - 07.24 - #14 tribe pic

How would you like having a group of people on your life who:

  • Share interests
  • Have similar values around respect, openness, sharing, learning, etc.
  • Cheer you when your work’s going well
  • Remind you of your greatness when things aren’t so hot
  • Point you to resources, ideas and people
  • Share parts of your dream
  • Are helpful personally and professionally
  • Help you stay current in the areas you’re passionate about?

I do – and I call them my TRIBE.

My tribe members aren’t just networking connections (I don’t like that word – but we’ll talk soon!) I want my relationship with tribe members to be whole-hearted, mutually supportive and sustainable over time.

Because my tribe is my best business asset.

Years ago, I didn’t know I needed one.

When I joined a university faculty, I gained an abundance of great colleagues. We shared (mostly) similar values around adult learning – and a save-the-world ethic around our work. We were creative, caring, and carried the zeal of missionaries! We saw almost too much of each other (I don’t miss our faculty meetings) and I took my easy network of colleagues for granted.

But as Joni Mitchell sang, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til its gone.”

Now as I’m navigating the creative world of solo-preneurs, I NEED a tribe. It’s no fun being out there alone, using the Internet as a place for community. I like my virtual networks, but they’re no substitute for folks I can call up, Skype with, visit when I travel, or, better yet, join for a cup of tea.

Even if you’re safely nested in an organization, you might still want a tribe, especially if your specialty, your expertise, or your passionate interests aren’t easily shared with the folks around you.

A tribe is more than a network.

The most contemporary definition of tribe I read is “a group of people, or a community with similar values or interests, a group with a common ancestor, or a common leader.”

Sometimes followers of a guru or blogging star are called a tribe. Or folks who have a similar pattern of lifestyle and buying habits. But in my tribe, it has to be more than that. I want us to know each other and be interwoven.

A tribe isn’t a club – e.g., no dues or requirements. But a tribe requires regular tending because what gives it juice are the exchanges – the ways in which members reach out and support each other.

When you look for a tribe, you want to know who you’re looking for, and I am pretty picky.

My criteria for my tribe:


In my tribe, members are open, non-judgmental and willing to share both personally and professionally. Nobody needs to wear those masks you often see at “networking events.” Folks are willing to “get real” and share the real scoop about what’s happening for them – no elevator speeches allowed!

Mutual support for our professional passions

We don’t all share the same professional interests. But I’d say everyone is interested in a new, wholehearted way of leading – and making this world better. So we respect each other’s interests and share the stories of what we’re up to. And some folks in the tribe do share my passion for organizational storytelling, improv, and performance, and that’s really cool!

My tribe members have reviewed my website, talked strategy with me, and shared resources. I’ve read their books, listened when their practices were growing and waning, and shared new business ideas with them. We’ve been raw and real together, supporting each other when things were tough, and applauding when we’ve had successes.

I think of my tribe as my safety net when I’m launching a dream.

Willingness to dig deep and ask some big questions

Most are up to making a difference, in their family, their community, their art, their work or the world. Some friends are into social justice, some business, some healing and spirituality. We’re each tackling a piece of the puzzle. We’re all searching.

We value long-term connections

My tribal friendships grow as they’re nurtured across time. I met my colleagues Liz and Margaret casually at a training more than eight years ago. But we’ve kept our connections rolling, and they’re now in the first circle I call when I need to talk a new idea out.




Bold dreams and


Who wouldn’t want that?

Next blog post, I’ll share tips for finding and building a tribe. In the meantime I would love to hear about your tribe in the comments below.


2 Responses

  1. Good Job, Sally! Fun, enlightening, inviting. Like the topic, too! Seems really timely…an antidote to the isolation many people feel today. And, a response to these days of focus on guns and violence…where the root cause is often isolation, dissociation, lack of compassion for life. Tribes offer an opportunity to participate in a healing circle, something each of us needs, and a place to remind ourselves and each other that we each matter…our lives are treasures, gifts to be cherished and shared. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. I enjoyed reading this blog post. Your post today about “Tribes” got me thinking more about who really are my “Tribes” and how to better stay connected in a real meaningful way. It really resonated with me when you stated that while you appreciate online social networks it doesn’t replace the real relationships and real connections you need in life. I feel absolutely the same way. I do think it can be hard in this fast paced world to keep those real connections with some people. I also think there is often an automatic assumption by some that we are all participating in and keeping up with online social networks. If not, you may find yourself “behind” in current discussions when seeing folks in person again. It creates an interesting dynamic.

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