Merriam-Webster defines the word “tribe” as the following:
1: a: A social group composed chiefly of numerous families, clans, or generations having a shared ancestry and language
b: A political division of the Roman people originally representing one of the three original tribes of ancient Rome
2: a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest
3: a category of taxonomic classification ranking below a subfamily
I personally love definition 2, “a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest.”
In my life, having a group of people having a common character committed to supporting one another has been game-changing. honestly, it ranks just like a family would for me. And, in this post, I will talk about how to find your tribe and keep it healthy.
Growing up in Iran, having a tribe was a survival necessity. Without sounding ominous, girls and women were (still are) the constant target of harassment and attacks by those in power (read my blog about RBG).
When I say those in power, I don’t necessarily mean the police or the officials; it could have been our teachers, school principal, or the gardener. So we girls had no choice but to stick together, help each other laugh it out and give each other a shoulder to cry on when things got tough. That was in the 80s.
After migrating to the US, finishing college, and joining the corporate world as a woman in technology, I found myself longing for a tribe. At the time, I didn’t recognize that I was looking for like-minded women with whom I could connect and bond.
There were very few of us in technical roles, and I was too busy trying to “fit in.” Don’t get me wrong, I loved my experience in the corporate world, especially my all-time favorite company, hp.
That said, there were countless times that I found myself unequipped for responding to a situation (like when someone in a meeting called me a “Nasty Woman” – Yep, way before it was fashionable) or advocating for myself (which I still did albeit clumsily and not always successfully). It took years before I started bonding, really bonding, with some of my colleagues. It happened through dinners, lunches, midday walks, etc.
Most importantly, it happened through visible demonstration of support for one another. We spoke in support of one another’s perspectives in meetings, recommended each other for high-visibility assignments, set mock interviews or role-play sessions when we anticipated a tough conversation, and coached each other with tough love when necessary.
As my career advanced, I became more intentional about forming deep relationships with other women. Though some backfired, many were terrific. As an executive, I was often “coached” to be more approachable and soften up. Behind my back, I had been called many endearing names.
Throughout these challenges, my tribe was my rock. This time, I needed less coaching but more unequivocal support, and that is precisely what I got. My tribe helped me feel heard and supported. We laughed about the zingers, and we cried about the painful moments. Not only that, my tribe helped me think about, see myself in, and get ready for more impactful roles. As an example, as a CEO of a growing corporation or serving on a for-profit corporate board.
For the past five years, I have been an entrepreneur and have found and formed yet another amazing tribe. One that has helped me come to terms with what I really want to do and rediscover my authentic self. This one is a little different; it provides support and, of course, coaching and tough love, but it has also helped me trust my path.
Entrepreneurship is tough, especially for those of us who are moms of young children, and thanks to my tribe’s continuous advocacy, I am able to hear that little voice that continues to encourage me to keep going and make positive change for all the busy families in Colorado and beyond. And one more thing, we are all in a life stage where our wisdom and battle scars make us unafraid to stand up for one another.
I am proud to consider myself a very well-networked person, and my “tribe” is the most important part of my network. Having been fortunate enough to have formed or joined several tribes that turned into lifelong friendships, I have learned a few things about…
How to find your tribe & how to keep it healthy and thriving?
1. Be genuinely curious about others
When you meet someone new, learn about them without any preconceived agenda. If you have made assumptions about them, try to suspend them. If you can’t, be ready to be wrong. Everyone has a story, including you. Learn about others’ stories before telling yours.
2. Join a mastermind
If you want to have a formal tribe with rules and processes, that is awesome. Join a mastermind group that aligns with your values. Joining Kami Guildner’s mastermind group three years in a row was one of the best decisions I made in my life. The support of that group not only led to many successful business ventures but more importantly, lifelong friendships with many members, which I will always honor and cherish.
3. Take the first step
If you want to have an informal tribe, take the first step and invite those you have met and know or those you haven’t yet met to a get-together. I like activity-based get-togethers; a hike, sip-and-paint, gardening, a cooking class are all low-pressure ways of getting to know others and hopefully continuing the relationship.
4. Proactively support
Give proactive support to your tribe; this can be anything as simple as a quick text to elaborate but always be there for them and be their cheerleader.
Check out my post on LinkedIn about asking your friend to be your cheerleader and doing the same for them.
5. Keep it healthy
You constantly need to nourish your tribe by staying engaged and giving it the attention it deserves. In my view, a tribe is like a living organism, and without proper care and nourishment, it will wither. Stay visible and active and share your resources (time, connection, experience, advice) with the members of your tribe.
6. Keep it growing
As you go through various stages of your life, your perspective evolves, and so should your tribe. I am not advising you to switch out one tribe for another because you are getting older. I am suggesting that you should form or join more than one tribe throughout your life.
Here is the amazing but also a crazy thing: I still have my tribe from high school, my early career, and my mid-career. Each one of these women with whom I have formed a lifelong friendship has been instrumental in where I am today, and I have done the same for them.
The puzzles that we are all faced with every day in our lives can be too challenging to try to figure out on our own. Your tribe will help you discover those puzzle pieces and unravel the beauty behind them, one experience at a time.