Speaking in “We”, thinking in “Me”

Psst. Want to change the world?

If so, you’ll need the right kind of folks on the bus, the kind of people who “get it”.  You’ll need some leadership. Some TRIBAL leadership.

Me vs. We

My friend Dave Logan, author of TRIBAL LEADERSHIP, outlines 5 specific stages of culture. At each stage, the majority of the people in the culture are telling each other a standard story for that level. Stage 3 is “I’m great, (you’re not)” and Stage 4 is “We’re great (they’re not).” The difference is in where you get your identity from. At Stage 4, most (but not all) of the people get their identity from the group, rather than individual-ego….

The five stages of tribal culture, expressed as stories, from most basic to most advanced,  are as follows:

1. Life sucks!

2. MY life sucks!

3. I’m great! (You’re not.)

4. We’re great! (They’re not.)

5. Life is great!

There is a specific pattern of behavior that can rapidly create a dystopia in organizations and teams. It happens when people in a team or org “talk a good game” about Stage 4 and use “we” language, while behaving in Stage 3 “me” language.

I call it “speaking in “We” and thinking in “Me.”

“Thinking in We” is required if you are out to do something big that is literally impossible to do alone. It’s a Stage 4 way of being. At Stage 4, the language is about being the best tribe in a given domain or market. “We’re great” is the place where many successful companies START. Existing companies can do rework, to “refactor” or upgrade their culture by developing new “tribal” language. It’s all explained in Dave’s remarkable book.

If you cannot get big things done at Stage 4, “We’re great”, you have NO SHOT at Stage 5.

And what is Stage 5?

Stage 5 is the platform for manifesting world-building initiatives. Stage 5 the “Life is great” stage, where a focus on competitors literally disappears. The tribe has loads of alignment around a huge, world-changing  idea, and all of them together execute on making it happen. Stage 5 culture is rare.  When it occurs, the people in the culture are predominantly Stage 4 folks who know that game, and want to play a much BIGGER game.

(NOTE: These folks always seek each other out. And find each other. And help each other. It’s automatic behavior at Stage 4.)

Bottom line: We cannot do Stage 4 work unless we are at Stage 4 in our heads, in our mindset. This is why Stage 3 individuals have no shot at executing on big, huge, Stage FIVE work that requires a world-building mindset. That’s because, according to Dave Logan, you have to “own” each stage completely before you can move to the next. You cannot skip a grade. Stage 3 “I’m great” type people literally have no shot at Stage 5, because they are attempting to skip Stage 4 and do not have the essential “We” skills necessary to actually execute on genuine world-building.

Scrum and agile set up at least the potential for a Stage 4 culture, that  “We are great” mindset. We can argue that people that do not “get” agility are stuck at Stage 3, 2 or 1. You can learn all the stages of Tribal Leadership, in detail, by getting the book and reading it.

My book THE CULTURE GAME leverages the best ideas from Dave’s TRIBAL LEADERSHIP book. THE CULTURE GAME employs triads for socializing agile (group) learning up and out of IT, from teams to tribes. You can learn more here.

Dave Logan and I are developing products and services that combine the best of TRIBAL LEADERSHIP, agile, and what I call trans-agile or Tribal Learning patterns and practices as described in THE CULTURE GAME. There are 16 specific practices in the book, that any manager can put to work, today, to upgrade team culture.

If you want to sign up for interesting tutorial podcasts that Dave and I are doing around these ideas, click here to  sign up.