BBC radio interviewed a past member of the British Government speaking about the failure of leadership at Barclay’s bank. At a recent panel discussion the former official said the financial sector had moved from “too big to fail” to “too big to behave.” This sentiment caught my attention. How often has social sector scandal erupted when an organization or an individual became too powerful and suddenly common sense and regulation were tossed aside to keep a ‘good thing going?’
If you have assembled a committed group of followers they will be quick to reenforce and remind leadership of the group’s values. If the group’s point of intersection with organization purpose is unclear there is a vast frontier of possible values. The lawless western town becomes run by those that can manipulate the community and too big to behave is the lowest common denominator.
How do we ensure that we are creating tribes that have clear points of confluence and commitments?
Billboards are great place to connect with your customers if you are ready to sell limited-time features and offer a short-term opportunities. Loyalty programs are designed to build a tribe based on transactions. If United Airlines were to terminate its MileagePlus program I would start my airline reservation search by lowest fare instead of by airline preference. Why? I am passionate about my mileage balance and frequent flyer status which bring certain rewards. It is not because I am not loyal to United, they have trained me to care about transactions, not the tribe.
When we try to develop loyalty through transactions we are building a house of cards. True loyalty is demonstrated by those who would miss you and your super power if you were not around to share it (to paraphrase Seth Godin). Convenience loyalty is cultivated by possessing something of temporary value that keeps people in the general vicinity.
Who would miss you if you were to stop performing? That is your tribe, everyone else is less deeply connected. They may be ready to join or are just hoping to get something in exchange for their proximity. Make sure you treasure those who notice your arrival and departure.
I recently met Zaldy, a man who was employed as a server in the restaurants onboard the Disney Wonder cruise ship. The Disney Wonder and its sister the Disney Magic have been in operation since the late 90’s. Disney Cruise Lines recently added the Dream and are launching the Fantasy to their line-up. The two new ships are 40% larger and have numerous upgraded amenities. Zaldy mentioned that two of his co-workers transferred to work on the new ship. Both returned to the Wonder when their contracts renewed. I inquired why and he said the Wonder had established a vibrant community of co-workers who resembled an at-sea family. Most of the employees sign four to six month contracts and then re-commit for another contract after a couple months at-home. Numerous crew members have families at home who rely heavily on the income generated via Disney Cruises. The camaraderie and connections could not be manufactured instantly in the new ships. And the scale of the ship created its own challenges. One of Zaldy’s co-workers said that it took her 5-7 minutes to get to her post at the restaurant each day on the Wonder. However, on the Dream the transfer time was twenty minutes. Even at-sea, a commute can be a quality of life decision.
Perhaps the greatest lesson from my interaction with Zaldy was that newer, bigger, and flashier does not mean better. A core group of crew member on the Disney Wonder have been there for years. They have created a community and network. You cannot instantly manifest a tribe from 1,500 new crew members on a ship no matter how magnificent. It takes time to build a tribe, members come and go and through the process of rotation the core is defined.
Make sure to celebrate the tribe and not get overly focused on the features and amenities.
I received an email to help pick the next magazine cover for a periodical to which I subscribe. I immediately deleted the email. The tribe is too big and my input is just a voice in a hurricane of sound. I appreciate that the magazine thought of me but they did it for their benefit not mine. Had I been selected to be part of a panel fo five people to select a cover then the invitation would been individualized and meaningful. It would have been an invitation and not just spammed by a distribution list.
When you make a call to action of the tribe, is it personalized? Does it carry meaning? Would you respond yourself to the same request? Is it unique? Does it feel like a best friend picked the opportunity just for you? Who does it benefit?
You do not need everyone to create a transformative movement. There only so many individuals a person can connect with one-on-one before needing to rely on less personal forms of communication. If you sent out a request for your fans to assemble in a small courtyard, who would show-up? Are they ready for action?
Once you have the group assembled, empower them. Trying to enroll everyone into a call to action is unrealistic. Concentrate of those that have appeared wearing the team colors. It is easy to frete about who is missing but the game goes on with players who wear the uniform.
This is your team!