4 Steps to Building a Tribe that Thrives

finding tribe thriving tribe

Adapted from Assemble the Tribe.

A few weeks ago, I spent some time working with a colleague to prep for a session with a group of women leaders who wanted to explore creating a professional tribe. As we prepared, we talked about the fact that life hands us so many things that can disrupt our relationships. Sometimes it may be that we drift apart as life tosses us this way or that, or maybe it's because we’re so busy that we struggle to carve out time for ourselves, let alone anyone else. 

The good news is that there are a few simple steps we can take to help us navigate the challenges that may arise in forming new relationships. When I formed my first group, Tribe, many years ago, I found these four steps to be incredibly helpful in doing so - I call it the DARE. A dare is a challenge or having the courage to do something, and sometimes we need to dig in and just get started. No matter your schedule or other limitations, you need people, and they need you. This month, during international friendship month, maybe it’s an opportunity to dig deeper and invest in your tribe or create the new one that you know you need. 

The DARE works well for developing a group but can also be applied to connecting with people one-on-one. Checking through the steps can be a formal sit-down or a quick mental exercise. The way we do it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is to create clarity so that your Tribe can thrive. Let’s get started. 

Step 1: Define the Relationship

If we want to have healthy, sustaining Tribes, the first step is to define our relationships. Consider the following questions: 

  • What is the reason for this relationship?
  • What type of interaction frequency do I/we want?
  • For groups, how will people be invited or join? How will late joiners be added?
  • How will we communicate (in person, virtually, etc.)? 
  • What type of individual connection or group will it be - personal, professional, etc.?

When we are clear about what we want from a new relationship, we create a path to clarify the support needed, and we can reduce conflict and stress. 

Step 2: Activate to Stay Connected

An activator makes things happen. An activator is the person or persons who start a relationship, or they may be the catalyst who gets things going and then shifts out of the activator seat. The activator role can be assumed, assigned, or shared. Still, it’s a critical role for long-term relationship success, particularly within groups. 

I believe this idea of activation is particularly essential for women who are looking for sponsorship or mentorship. When we meet a woman who we think can play that role in our Tribe, she is likely professionally accomplished, impressive, and BUSY! If we want the relationship, it’s our role as the mentee to activate. 

For example, I have come across many women who have said, “Well, I have a mentor, but she never checks in or makes time for me.” 

In response, I asked, “Do you follow up and persist with tracking her down?” 

They answer, “Well, I tried, but I figure if she was invested in the relationship, she would make time.” 

In most instances where this conversation occurs, the mentee feels let down. If you find yourself feeling this way, you may need to shift into an activator role. Our sponsors, mentors, and other potential tribemates are often pressed for time and may need us to activate so they can add value to our lives. 

Step 3: Reach Out and Invite Connection

Most women are open to connection. However, most of us don’t know where to start. At some point in our lives, just over half of us (55 percent) have been asked to join a group, while 29 percent of us have tried to find a group. When I questioned, What was the impact of being asked? 

  • Fifty-nine percent of women who were asked to join a group were interested.

  • Twenty-six percent were wary but still curious.

Based on the research, we can conclude that most women, if asked, would be interested in exploring new relationships. 

Taking the time to reach out, invite, and bring people together is a critical step in the process. An idea is just an idea without action to bring it to life. One of the greatest gifts we can give to another human being is to reach out and say, “You matter. I want to get to know you better.” 

Step 4: Examine Individual Motivations

Even if we have defined the purpose of our relationship, it’s always beneficial to have a more in-depth conversation. When forming a new relationship, we bring our shared goals and interests. We also bring our beliefs, values, experiences, pains, upbringings, and scars. If we want successful long-term relationships, examining the individual needs is important. Consider answers to the following questions:

  • What is my motivation for seeking this relationship?

  • What benefit will the relationship bring to each party?

Remember, we are not investing in relationships just for relationships’ sake; we need them so we can survive and live our best, healthiest, and longest lives. Relationships don’t happen overnight. They require investments of our time, effort, and, most critically, our emotions. It takes some work, but when we get it right, the impact is life-altering.

Building Thriving Tribes 

The secret to building a Tribe that thrives is maintaining openness in our relationships. When we do this, we create deeper connections and maintain our relationships for the long term. 

These steps allow us to assess and evaluate our approach to relationships more realistically. We don’t necessarily need to complete all of the steps at once or in order. Sometimes we need time to bring clarity. The most important thing to remember is that these steps can help us to create a foundation for our Tribe to thrive. 

For more advice on building a Tribe, you can pick up your copy of Assemble the Tribe today.

Meet The Author

Leah JM Dean is a leadership strategist, tribe formation expert, certified strengths coach, best-selling author, facilitator, speaker, and founder of the women’s leadership program, the Tribe Advantage. She is on a mission to help women and organizations all across the globe transform their tribes in life and leadership. To learn more about Leah's work, her best-selling book Assemble the Tribe, or join The Tribe Advantage Leadership Program, visit www.leahjmdean.com. Leah lives in Bermuda with her husband and two children.