Before you read on, there are no naughty words in this blog. That’s not my style. But we do use F Words all the time at Tribal – they form the fabric of our organisation. They’re our foundational values – it’s how we behave, interact, enjoy our work and do right by our fellow members and our customers.
As our Tribe has grown over the years I’ve been trying (admittedly, a little too hard) to be all corporate about having values and mission statements. But it never felt right. It always felt superficial – like I was doing it because that’s what you must do when you’re a business owner.
I talked this through with my coach. Why was I feeling like this? I knew our culture felt special, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.
Once I started unpacking what it was I didn’t like, I started to understand what is was that I most valued. It also helped reading “Find Your Why” by Simon Sinek because a company founders “Why” is almost certainly connected to the company “Why”.
As I reflected over my years in corporate, I could easily pinpoint the experiences that made me feel excited and motivated. I could just as easily identify and the ones that deflated my motivation. Reflecting on this has helped me to understand what it is that I love so much about our Tribal adventure and that’s how the F Words came to be created.
So, what are the F Words?
It’s quite amazing how many powerful words begin with ‘F’ and they pretty much sum up the culture of Tribal.
We obsess over the NPS score at Tribal. After every service we deliver, webinar we lead and workshop we present we follow up with a feedback form. We track our NPS average every fortnight and we feed the comments into our development process.
But it isn’t just our services and products that rely on feedback. We make it our business to feedback to each other internally – quickly, honestly and constructively. I personally don’t find this easy to do but I have learnt how important it is to learn from feedback.
After leaving IBM (my first job) I went to work for a small IBM Channel Partner. We were 12 employees in a high growth industry and the co-owners were transparent about everything – revenue, deals in the pipeline, profitability of the business. Every employee felt the financial health of the business.
I wanted Tribal to be the same. Every employee needs to feel the impact of their contribution and understand the importance of making mindful investments. I’ve always admired companies like John Lewis and Co-Op where employees win (and sometimes lose) together.
I’ve always held the motto “Focus on the fun and the numbers will come” close to my heart. It’s been a guiding philosophy for me. The moment I start focusing to heavily on the numbers, I change my behaviour and customers can smell desperation.
Instead, we focus on fun at Tribal. Fun in the way we collaborate (we love a GIF on Microsoft Teams), we meet (we’ve made pasta, mixed cocktails together and eaten countless doughnuts) and grow (we make time to learn new skills). But we can only do this because we have a handle on our Finance (back to the other F Word and thanks to our amazing finance manager, Lyn.
Now this is one of my favourite ones. Flexibility is at the heart of everything we do at Tribal. For me, this is about flexing around our commitments to our families and our customers.
For example, I want to see my kids perform in their plays at school (which are often in the middle of the day) but sometimes I’m on late night or early morning calls with customers in the Americas or Asia. That’s okay because that’s how we roll. Flexibility should work both ways.
I love this one too (well, I love them all) but this resonates because I believe that people grow to their potential when they have the freedom to explore, make mistakes and learn from them.
Our tribe is a growth focused organisation – we thrive on learning and delivering to the best of our ability. But we also need space to think and innovate. I’ve always admired Google’s approach to letting employees use 20% of their time for innovation and in fact have been trialling something myself but that’s for another blog.
This ties into the previous F Word. If you have the freedom the go explore, you also need an element of fearlessness to try something new – even if it’s slightly terrifying. During my Tribal journey I have made many enormously terrifying decisions – my first employee, investing in technology early on and most recently my first LinkedIn Live. The ‘firsts’ keep coming.
I still get nervous. I still procrastinate. I still feel that rather unpleasant sickness in my stomach. That never goes away but it feels right - in a weird kind of way. Years ago, I read “Feel the fear but do it anyway” and that’s what our tribe does in spades.
This last one is so relevant because we’re a remote team. We don’t see each other every day and we work from home or co-working spaces most of the time. This can cause issues – sometimes we end up filling our calendars back-to-back with calls or we end up working from 6am to 6pm with few breaks.
First, we’re becoming quite whizzy at knowing what warrants a call versus a quick message on Teams versus a quick video recording. Knowing which medium is most relevant for delivering the message keeps us productive. We also focus on collective outcomes. Every quarter we set business rocks and review them every few weeks. It helps us focus not just on the day-to-day but on what’s ahead.
I wanted to share a little more about the thinking behind the F Words and how they fit into how our tribe operates. We have still have a lot more to learn and I’m sure there are more F Words we can add but so far, these feel very strong, relevant and core to our beliefs.
If this sounds interesting to you, maybe you’d like to join our tribe – check out a little more about our opportunities here.