My very first job out of campus was in a leading computer education company , I was promoted as a branch manager at the prime location, Nariman Point centre which had been a laggard and loss making business, we had experienced stalwarts who had managed the branch but it continued to be loss making . Though I was a fresher , had no managerial experience , as a product executive I had launched a highly successful course for chartered accountants as my first assignment for the company. I was given the charge.
I gathered the team , freshers and a few experienced hands and I enrolled them on an idea ,’we are in the business of making a difference’ , I made them see that every student who did our course was either getting placed or was getting promoted. I asked the team to forget all about ‘target’s and just connect with customers as people and bring one quality to the table ‘Empathy’ and I said “Make friends , make a difference ,have fun , enjoy the journey” . Some thought I was crazy, this was a loss making centre , perhaps they thought I would fail . I took a risk , this had never been done before , I was rocking the boat .
Tribes connect with an Idea
The idea rocks the boat , I was also busting the myth that 9 to 5 = Job , Job = Targets , Targets = Stress , that employees need to be micromanaged . The definition of job was shifted from ‘work’ to ‘contribution’ .This was an idea that the tribe enrolled to.Techies were used to being told what to to do , that was their experience , this was getting challenged with ‘taking ownership’.
The idea challenges the status Quo
A tribe challenges the status quo . If what is going on is normal there is no reason for a tribe , a tribe comes alive when the existing norm is challenged , there is an alternative story . I attracted team members who believed in the idea of making a difference . I remember the shift in sales team , they even refused registrations of students where they felt the course would not help them and this even when the students were ready to pay. This was different and the team genuinely felt good about contribution as an idea.
Yes we were young maybe naive but this centre turned around , it became a profit centre , we grew year on year and recorded a 300% growth. I had rocked the boat and challenged the status quo.
Tribes need a Leader
Every Tribe needed a leader , the leader is the connector of the idea and the tribe. This was a young team of techies and teachers , all I did was connect them with an idea of authentic ‘contribution’ and ‘we are in the job of making a difference’ and that we must have ‘fun’ on the way . I was not managing the team but leading the team with an idea.
I have seen similarly a strong tribe at Mastek , this flowed from the founders , the very nature of business focus on building products and solutions in software industry when no one was doing that was different , every other IT company was running a body shopping and later offshoring business . First generation entrepreneurs , living by values all this was different , not many know Mastek was the first IT company to list on stock exchanges in india and also the first to give ESSOPs . Mastek was rocking the boat ,Ashank Desai amongst the founders was leading the tribe with the idea of Mastek.
You can build a Tribe within your Organisation
As head of Marketing and Communications at Mastek I experienced building a tribes within an organisation with a unique project .The challenge was to build Mastek employer brand presence in campuses , we had no visibility on the ground . Going by the traditional route of sponsorships would not help , it was too crowded a space . I came up with an idea of a campus IT solutions contest (As that was the core strength of Mastek) with a social connect that evolved as one of the most successful employer brand initiatives ‘Project Deep Blue’ . PDB is run in campuses with over 800 teams participating every year in a four month long project and contest to build real life IT solution for the social sector . When I got this idea six years back we only had a core team of three , I first enrolled Sundar , Co-Founder of Mastek who has been a mentor to the project and then we got volunteers to join as mentors from the wider organisation.
The mentors joined because of the sense of ‘contribution’ to the student community , first a few joined , then a few more , now the word has spread , everyone wants to be part of this annual initiative . The mentors do this beyond their day jobs in the evening and on weekends, there is no direct benefit for those that join other than being part of the Tribe of ‘Project Deep Blue’ that makes a difference to the lives of students.
There is another attribute of a tribe , it is not just the leader but the tribe members enrol other tribe members.
Leaders who rock the boat build tribes
When I worked with Madan Bahal of Adfactors to build Mnet , the first pan India integrated marketing company , we were rocking the boat , no one had done this before. Madan has constantly rocked the boat to build the largest PR agency in India . I have seen Madan at work ,from day one he has taken risks to bet on contrarian ideas, rocked the boat doing the unconventional.
I have worked with social sector leaders Dr Abhay Bang , Dr Prakash Ambedkar, Dr Ashish Satav, Girish Kulkarni, Vinayak Lohani , Adhik Kadam , Mamoon Akhtar each one has rocked the boat and built solid volunteer driven non-profits. Money and resources did not stop them , they just believed in an idea led from the front and connected believers. If they could do it without any resources no one can have an excuse. As Girish Kulkarni of Snehalaya says “You just begin the work , people will join you on the way” , this is the secret of tribes ,a leader leads the way and other believers join in . Tribe is a movement that is waiting to happen.
Dr Pramaod Tripathi the founder of Freedom From Diabetes who I help with strategic marketing and sales is rocking the boat with diabetics . In a world where diabetics have been told ‘once a diabetic , always a diabetic” he is getting them free from medicines and insulin with diet , exercise , inner transformation and 24x 7 telemedicine medical through app.
Sudhakar Ram , Co-Founder at Mastek , who I consider as a friend , philosopher and guide would tell me that I had the knack of enrolling people to ideas . My experience across organisations, non profits and leaders tells me they are all enrollers of ideas and that anyone can be an enroller of ideas, anyone can build a Tribe , in the digital world it is even more possible , you need to have an attitude of rocking the boat , challenging the status quo , connecting the tribe with your idea. Remember you have only one life , make it meaningful. Don’t survive , Thrive ! If you play to survive you will become a commodity and commodities are replaceable !
Start a movement , build your Tribe.