I drove this morning. There’s a good chance that you did, too. Did you drive on a road? Yeah, me too. The roads I drove on have been around for several decades. I don’t know when they were built. I’m pretty sure someone built them. I didn’t pay for the roads to be built. But I’m pretty sure that someone did. Life would be really different if they weren’t built. Businesses would have a hard time making money. People would have a hard time getting to work. There’s a pretty valuable collective good. They bring us together. Building roads requires investment. Investment requires commitment.
Ten years ago, Southwest Airlines launched a campaign against tribalism within the Company. Tribalism is typified by Us vs. Them, Either/Or vs. Both/And, and Win/Win vs. Win/Lose. There was a concern that departments and teams were starting to look at each other as rivals or enemies.
Southwest was voted the best company in the world to work for before, during and after this campaign. Yet Herb Kelleher, Colleen Barrett and the other key leaders saw a looming threat. That’s probably why they are a Good to Great case study. They weren’t complacent and content with their success. They looked at the brutal reality and did something about it. They spoke to the danger head on. They helped their team understand that they are one tribe. As a result, Southwest Airlines is still one of the best places to work. Facing danger requires commitment.
Tribalism keeps people from moving forward. It produces problems instead of solutions. Victory comes at the expense of another’s loss. At best, it’s a zero-sum game. It wastes time, energy and focus. It is destructive. It is corrosive. It is a cancer that can kill the strongest of bodies.
How do you talk about your co-workers, your service providers, your wife or husband, your leaders, your politicians, your friends, your enemies?
When we lock our world of words into tribal language (We’re good – They’re evil), we pave a road to nowhere. A road that goes between two rival tribes. A road that divides. We need roads that create the greatest possible outcomes. Roads that unite us as one tribe. It’s harder to unite a tribe than divide one. Uniting tribes takes commitment.
What road are you building?
- How Do You Know a Great Person When You See One? (blogs.hbr.org)