Tag Archives: Tribes

Monday Morning Moment – Inner Rings – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty

Photo Credit: Chris Russo

[Adapted from a previous blog]

When C. S. Lewis introduced the occurrence of “inner rings” to a classroom of young men in university, he wasn’t talking about high school cliques.Photo Credit: Smosh

[You will want to read Lewis’ short, humorous, and piercing lecture…I read it aloud, attempting my “best” British accent. The British accent, in my opinion, gives what is true even more authority and winsomeness.]

Lewis talked about the universal, life-long allure of wanting to be “on the inside”…whatever that might mean at the time. Inner rings are, for the most part, morally neutral in themselves. What becomes the issue for us is how our thinking is altered and what we are willing to do to gain entry to these exclusive (and often secretive) inner circles.Blog - Inner Rings 2 - BPNews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews

Inner rings are part of every level of life – personal relationships, government, teams, military, clubs, organizations, and workplaces. They aren’t necessarily represented by team rosters or org. charts, as much as they are the more fluid unwritten associations. Like secret societies, they can change quite without explanation – sometimes you are in and then you are not. Inclusion and exclusion are defined by the group itself…and are not accidental.

Let’s face it – we all want to belong…somewhere among the best of the best. Even when we don’t say it out loud, some sort of identity appeals to us and drives our pursuits. Jeremy Writebol wrote a piece where he explores this pursuit of belonging, referencing C. S. Lewis’ Inner Rings. Lewis talked about what we are willing to do to be identified as one inside those rings, or inner circles. There’s the danger – what we’re willing to do.

Writebol presents 4 inner rings of belonging:

1) The Inner Ring of Acceptance [Position]

2) The Inner Ring of Authority [Power]

3) The Inner Ring of Applause [Prominence]

4) The Inner Ring of Abundance [Plenty]

None of us is immune to the influence of one or more of these inner rings or social circles. The deceit of pursuing membership to an inner ring is that it’s never enough. Like taking apart an onion, you find inner rings within inner rings…until there’s nothing left. No place to find belonging…because this passion is never satisfied. It becomes futile. Lewis does offer a two-part antidote:

  • In the workplace, make your work your focus. Whenever we lose our focus, the pull of desire for significance disrupts our engagement in the work. “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it.”
  • Outside of work, pursue friendships with people you like. This seems obvious, but if our desires to belong in a certain group have hijacked us relationally, it might not even be clear anymore who the people are we truly enjoy.  “If in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the center of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship…It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.”

Take the time to read Writebol’s piece. He defines each circle and asks clarifying questions, in a very kind way, to help the reader deal with the deceit or justification we may have developed, without realizing it.

[Writebol wrote a follow-up piece entitled Why Are We Chasing? which exquisitely unwraps the cost and consequence of our chasing – chasing after what we think we must apprehend, having become blind to what we already have.]

Here’s to work well-done and friendships that last for a lifetime. Here’s to choosing well and inclusion and celebration…and knowing we already belong.

Great Monday morning reads…Go!

The Inner Ring – C. S. Lewis

The Weight of Glory – C. S. Lewis – Collection of Addresses Including The Inner Ring

4 Inner Rings You May Be Pursuing – Jeremy Writebol

Why Are We Chasing? – Jeremy Writebol [Followup piece to above article]

The Inner Ring – Chris Russo’s Blog

C. S. Lewis and the Inner Ring of Cronyism – Elise Daniel – Institute For Faith, Work, and Economics

C.S. Lewis and the Inner Ring – Nicholas T. Batzig

The Inner Ring and the Moral Question of Our Time – Nozomi Hayase

Monday Morning Moment – Belonging and Going Deep and the Blind Presumptions that It’s Actually Happening When It Isn’t

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams – Philip Zaleski & Carol Zaleski

Photo Credit: Paste Magazine; Commonweal

Monday Morning Moment – On Silos and Tribalism – Taking “Us” and “Them” to a Better “We”

Blog - Silos & TribalismPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

“Silos”, as a workplace term, is such a fitting description for what we do to distinguish ourselves from each other. It means compartmentalization based on specialization. Now the term “silos” is less used, replaced by the cooler term “tribes”. Unfortunately, because the workplace woes of old are still in operation, “tribes” have deteriorated into “tribalism” or…[Hello] “silos”.

I began thinking about this again this weekend when a retweet came up in my Twitter feed featuring Gianpiero Petriglieri. So much organizational resource – money and time – is spent on specialization and grooming leaders. It’s a pity when the outcome actually draws down the organization ( to small pockets of “tribal buddies”) instead of honing expertise and relationships across departments, across disciplines.Blog - Silos and Tribalism

What if we could break down silos, and reorient and reenergize tribes? What if workplace tribes incorporated a grand plan that nurtured inclusion – creating “a rising tide that lifts all boats” (Adam Grant)?

Years ago, when I was a young instructor at Yale University, I experienced workplace silos. There were bottlenecks through which I had to maneuver, until I figured out how to win those beyond the bottlenecks. Since then silos have been a part of life for me, as I’m sure they are for us all. Oncology nursing had a different prestige than critical care nursing. Was one better than the other? No.

Working in the Middle East had its own set of challenges different from working in Europe. Does that mean one elicits greater respect or benefits than another? Of course not. Right? Communication between those in the field and those in the home office can also become very much an “us” and “them” transaction.  Even within the home office, one department may seem more the “flavor of the month” than another. What are your silo/tribe challenges?

Brilliant business writers can give us great tools and insight with breaking down silos (see fast reads in the links below). If you are anticipating a major change in your organization (buy-out, down-sizing, shift in focus/product line), it makes for a perfect storm to deal with silos. Of course, if management across the organization leads out with a unifying goal (a “battle-cry”), the possibility for success is heightened. I don’t think, however, that this is the only hope for success.

What if one department, a single silo or tribe, decided to tackle the problem? What would that look like? From my work experience and from learning from great leaders, both celebrity and colleague, here’s a bare-bones minimum how-to-get-started list:

  • What is your common goal as an organization? What is the clear unified rallying cry around which you can collaborate?
  • What are your own silo biases? Do you communicate that you think your department, location, specialization should have some sort of favor? Deal with that. It’s the first barrier that has to come down.
  • If trust has been disrupted or destroyed, who can you partner with to begin to rebuild trust? Name them, and begin the process (if you pray, you might begin praying for their success as a department/division – make it NOT about you).
  • What objectives can you establish as a department to guide you in staying focused on high-value collaboration across-specialties?
  • How will you measure the course of your action toward becoming a non-silo, less tribal department? Set a time. 6 months or across whatever acute crisis you see coming. Be as intentional and broad-reaching as you are able, given your own workload. Remember that silos alter the math in a workplace – 1 + 1 + 1 = 2 when teams aren’t sharing information and working at cross-hairs. We can make the math work better, as we work, against the flow, toward creative collaboration. 

My professional life has had various silo experiences, from teaching in an Ivy League university to working on a highly innovative team (recklessly creating its own brilliant unintentional silo, later with personal regret). Silos and workplace tribes never get us where we want to go collectively. Bring ’em down.

I would love to hear about your work experiences…any struggles, breakthroughs, or victories in this area of breaking down silos and building a culture of “Yes, WE can…together.”

Blog - Organizational CUlture - Lencioni book Silos, Politics & Turf WarsPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars – A Leadership Fable about Destroying the Barriers that Turn Colleagues into Competitors

Silos and Tribes – Think Different

17 Strategies for Improving Collaboration – from the Freiberg’s – Do Not Miss This One.

How to Build Trust and Fight Tribalism to Stimulate Innovation

Breaking Bad – Squash Silos & Tribalism – Breakthrough Personal Branding

Leadership Axioms: Powerful Leadership Proverbs by Bill Hybels