Using social capital to create Employee Tribes

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Using Social Capital to create employee Tribes

social capital

Hi all,

Below is a great article on a particular Business Tribe, that of employee tribes. A group of people that are critical for all businesses.
Some employers think that the people who work for the are just another supply input and that they can be controlled like any other supply process. However research has shown (and common sense) that engaged and respected employees perform better for the business and themselves .
Clare Edwards in her latest article in LinkedIn, outlines some ideas for this tribal group – using some basics of RESPECT and ENGAGEMENT that I have outlined in my soon to be published book, Business Tribes. Turbocharge you Circle of Influence, for profit – soon to be published in March.

The Key to Building a Tribe from a Team through Social Capital

We are tribal in Nature

As the earliest human beings, we slept, lived and hunted in groups. If one person were to be cast out of the tribe they didn’t last long before becoming lunch. Our brains are wired to connect with other humans, even before we had language to communicate we could read nonverbal cues such as friendship, danger, love, (dis)approval and act on them.

Connection is Key

David Rock, the founder of the Neuroleadership movement, based on the work of neuroscientist Matthew Liebermann, identified 5 core social needs that drive human behaviour and, when not met, can result in high levels of stress. One of these needs is belonging (called relatedness in his model) – the desire, nay, need to be in the ‘in-tribe’. Regardless of our levels of extraversion or introversion we have an innate need to belong, to be accepted and to be consulted.

How then do we facilitate this level of connection in the workplace?

It’s not so much what you communicate as how you communicate

Professor Sandy Pentland runs the Connection Science and Human Dynamics labs at MIT and, through the creation of ‘sociometric’ badges that monitor how we communicate, has been able to help us unravel the good vs great team conundrum.

Working with team members from a diverse set of industries and functions (healthcare, banking, call centres, back office operations) the badges were worn by team members and recorded elements of communication such as tone of voice, body language, levels of energy and empathy. The badges did not record content at all.

So what are the dynamics that Pentland picked up on the separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to high performing teams?

  1. Patterns of communication are the most important predictor of a team’s success. In particular the communication that happens outside of formal meetings and interaction
  2. Face to face communication is critical to understanding and responding to subtle social cues and enhances team spirit. There is also an energy in peoples’ gestures when they interact with one another
  3. Communication with other teams enhances productivity as some team embers go out ‘exploring’ and come back with new ideas and information to feed into their ‘tribe’
  4. It’s not about talent and stars, rather it’s about engagement, contribution and respect

Armed with this new knowledge and data after team members in a banking call centre wore the badges for six weeks, results included reduced average handling time of 20% amongst the lower performing members and a $15 million increase in productivity forecast. Oh and employee satisfaction has risen by 10%.

How did they do this? They scheduled coffee breaks for each team at the same time.

They enabled social connectivity outside of formal interactions. They facilitated the building of social capital.

Building Social Capital

Pentland’s research and subsequent findings support the work of entrepreneur and brilliant TED talk presenter Margaret Heffernan and her findings on social capital which she defines as the trust, knowledge, reciprocity and shared norms that create quality of life and make a group resilient.

The Difference that Makes a Difference – traits that make a Team a Tribe

  1. Equal time and attention – no one person dominates or holds back, this is a natural process, not contrived 
  2. Social Sensitivity – the ability to tune into one another and notice subtle shifts in mood and demeanour, the ability to truly empathise and feel from the perspective of the other 
  3. Diversity makes a difference – teams with more women* perform better than homogeneous teams

*I will write another post on this shortly. The work of Heidi Grant Halvorson and Valerie Purdie-Vaughns of the University of Columbia is validating that diverse teams perform better in creativity, problem-solving and innovation. This extends further than gender to include ethnicity and minorities.

Strategies for creating a High Performing Tribe

  1. Encourage cross communication – rather than expecting people to stay in their area, encourage the explorers to go out, seek, find out and report back 
  2. All hail the water cooler – some companies are embracing this and installing more water coolers; rather than frowning on ‘non-work banter’, allow and encourage it 
  3. You don’t have to spend a fortune on teambuilding – badge data from a software company proved that out of work ‘beer meets’ made no difference but lengthening the table in the lunchroom did! 
  4. Ban lunch (and drinks) at the desk – let people gather for meals, we’ve been doing this since we were sitting around camp fires and our brains are wired to receive doses of dopamine and serotonin (happy hormones) from such gatherings 
  5. Teach empathy – in her TED article Heffernan shares the story of Carol Vallone who, when taking over a new company, had department heads argue the case for the budget of a different department resulting in the leadership team deeply understanding the needs and challenges of their peers 
  6. Encourage more face to face exchanges – it’s harder to build empathy with someone we can’t see, this is of particular importance when building a virtual team. Invest the money in bringing them together as often as possible and aim to replace email and text with video conferencing at the least 
  7. Don’t aim for harmony – high performing tribes are often found to be in conflict. The difference is that they feel comfortable enough to challenge one another and to have the necessary courageous conversations 

Making the Soft Stuff Hard

Far from being ‘touchy feely’ or ‘gone soft’ strategies, the building of social capital builds robust and resilient organisations by bringing out the best in people. This results in higher productivity, lower turnover and a deeper level of engagement.

Clare Edwards is Principal of BrainSmart enabling people to lead effectively, think smarter and develop their resilience to thrive in change by engaging their amazing brains. Social media – beingbrainsmart

 Written by Clare Edwards

New authored book

New authored book

From this article and information from my co-authored book with Brian Tracy and pending authored book, the basics of engagement of employees is critical to the effectiveness of the business.

This can be enhanced by respectful engagement of ALL the employees in the Tribe, at a level that reduces hierarchy for that engagement and creates an opportunity to then engage and use the tribes of your new engaged employee tribes. To use these to make money for your business – the books will be available soon.


What is a Business Tribe

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The term Business Tribes has been used by a number of authors, Tony Park has unique insights on how to recognise, engage, use and maintain your tribes. With this knowledge, you will be able to turbo charge your business or organisation.

An author, mentor, coach, entrepreneur and now academic, Tony has been working in and on various tribes for over 40 years and now you can gain from this knowledge.

I have defined a tribe is a group of people or actors, that have a unique bond between each other, that they act in the best interest of each of them. In some cases they have been through some action that strengthen those bonds between them .

People can possibly develop and grow through different stages ;

individuals1) Individuals
Individuals grow and develop from interaction with family, school, work places and organisations and have a random growth pattern towards goals that change from time to time. Some individuals interact with others, while others go through life moving from group to group with no real outcome at all – just existing.


2) Groups
From time to time, people come together in groups, to learn and work together, socialise and live. However unless there is a reason to do things, to be relevant to each other, they tend to just come and go. Links start to happen between these individuals, however may be fluid and come and go. Outcomes are by chance that may or may not happen, for individuals or the group.


3) Teams
Some groups become teams, made up of leaders and followers and start to work as a group with purpose. This purpose tends to be set by the team and/or leader and may not be in the best interest of all the team members, but focused on the greater good – for the team. Some may say this is the best combination that achieves – but does it achieve for all?

How individuals interact. (c) Tony Park

How individuals interact. (c) Tony Park

4) Tribes
Tribes are a growth from the previous steps, people coming together having strong bonds between them, that act for joint benefits. They have win/win activities, work together for the benefit of all. No one gains more – some may gain this week, while others gain at other times, but overall all gain more than teams or groups. Understanding how to engage your tribe can really turbo charge your business or organisation as you engage the tribes of your tribal members.

In business or organisations, the use of Tribes can assist them to develop and grow quicker and stronger, therefore the identification, understanding, usage and maintaining of these tribes are critically important for their development. These blogs will help you in these processes as you become part of my tribe – you can wait for my book due to be published in March 2016 called Business Tribes, Turbo Charge your circle of influence – for profit contact me at for a discounted pre-publish copy. Along with my co-authored book with Brian Tracy – Excite your life.

Or contact me and I can directly help you and your business/organisation to turbo charge you circle of influence. Contact me and I can show you how.

Tony Park character print
Author, Mentor, Coach, Entrepreneur, Academic.