I’m not sure anyone ever fully understands the responsibility that comes with gathering people together…especially on masse.
Some of us love nothing more than creating opportunities for people to connect online and off, and even when the world is not in complete chaos these gatherings even then can test out leadership abilities, and at times challenge our values, our ethics and our boundaries.
I have been gathering people together for as long as I can remember….22 years last time I tallied it up….,starting my career as an arts practitioner bringing communities together to figure stuff out.
And I now?
Now I help small business owners attract folks towards them on masse, to build tribes of loyal followers, fans and of course paying customers….I mean that’s the dream right to have a TRIBE.
And as Seth Godin Mr Tribe himself said…“We need you to lead us”
Gosh ain’t that the truth.
The last 30 days have been fascinating for me. And oh so meta. In February I opened up a programme for small business owners called One to Many…taking them through the design, creation, selling and facilitation of their online group offerings.
For the past 14 months I have also been running an online incubator called Tribe Builder, where at any given time I can have 20-30 small business owners working on growing their community.
So when the shit hit the fan around 20 days ago like most of us I was like,
HOLY FUCK, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
- What does it mean for me and my daughter?
- What does it mean for my wider family, and my friends?
- What does it mean for my clients?
- What does it mean for my communities?
- What does it mean for the world?
And then came the noise….and the noise hasn’t stopped, and it probably won’t for a while.
The interesting thing about whats going on right now, is unlike other crisis moments I’ve had in my communities, this time I’m in amongst it with my people. We are all going through this shit together.
Normally as a leader, or an expert or a coach you have a head start.
You are a few steps ahead of your clients and are able to support them without taking too much of your energy.
But now…we are juggling our own shit, as well as stepping up to hold space for our clients and networks. Even if we have skills and experience which on paper says we should be better at coping.
Today we are two weeks into homeschooling here in the UK, I have a lively 7 year old at home, and it became very apparent in the first week, that we would be “homecoping” rather than doing any of the stuff I saw other parents doing online (no judgement btw)
I am a single parent and I have multiple businesses to keep afloat, and anyone who knows Rose knows she is a strong personality, who needs a lot of attention. And so for all of our sanity, our days have been a mish mash of projects, lengthy conversations, her helping me out with stuff at home, cuddles on the sofa, movies and ipad time.
We seem to be coping OK. I thought I was coping OK. I guess none of us really know.
Last week I came off one of my group calls…it was a good group call, lots of ideas, and energy and laughter…nothing too deep or challenging, but when I closed down my lap top and went to the kitchen to make a cuppa…my legs wouldn’t work.
I thought maybe I was just hungry, but that wasn’t it. I was exhausted. Like dead tired. But I was also buzzing…like how I feel when I come off the stage after a big talk. Adrenaline was pumping round my body and it all felt rather scary.
When you hold space for others you take on their energy. You might not think you do but you do. We are all holding space for each other in a way which is sometimes challenging to unload from in the normal ways.
And this is why I am writing this post today, rather than cracking on with anything else on my todo list.
We must protect ourselves and look after our own needs too…I could throw a heap of overused metaphors about cups and masks but instead I will give you my top 5 tips for tribe leadership in these challenging times…(but also for all times)
Put your needs first – If you are worrying about paying your mortgage, or your health, or the health of your loved ones, honour that. Feel those fears, allow yourself to acknowledge them. You are not selfish or dramatic for thinking of you first. Take the time and space to consider what your basic needs are…once they are sorted you will have more capacity to give from a place of abundance, without being clouded with negative thoughts of lack and overwhelm.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable – Yes our clients, fans and followers are looking for leadership, calm and hope from us. But they also need us to show our human side. It’s OK to say you are frightened, or unsure of what to do next. It is OK to ask for help and support from them, in terms of ideas and kind words and even capacity to help in a practical way. When you have a true community around your business, you are part of their life and they will want to support you, just as you have supported them.
Have your own support network outside of your community – I am so lucky to have a brilliant network of peers, colleagues and friends, many of whom are therapists, healers, and good eggs (my term for people who are just fab). Don’t be afraid to ask for help…I did after my issue earlier this week, and a lovely friend, grief coach and homeopath did an emergency late night session to help me get grounded again. I have also had wonderful support from my sister, and many of my friends, clients and wider network.
Find ways to stay grounded – Many of us are juggling multiple priorities now, and are busier than ever, despite having so many restrictions placed on us. Many of us are running on adrenaline and jumping from online thing to online thing…added to that the emotions provoked by the news, social media reports, mass gatherings (ie the NHS clapping) and daily walks etc. Have a handful of strategies that get you out of your head and into your body, and connected to where your strength lies. For me this is exercise, having a physical space alone for a bit (my balcony is proving invaluable) but also meditation, breathing, reading and fresh foods. If you struggle to find this inner peace…pay a professional to help you…this is the stuff they do day in and day out, and I’d be happy to recommend some great practitioners.
Take time off or away – You do not need to be available for clients 24 hours a day. In fact some of your clients will feel a pressure to stay in your programme when really they would prefer to opt out. I have decided to press pause on one of my programmes altogether, and to outsource the majority of support to another one by paying freelancers to keep things going. I am also getting better at maintaining boundaries around how clients can contact me and when, and I am taking more time off than normal. There are no rules around this…do what feels right for you, as this will model good practice to your clients too. Taking time away is not flakey or unprofessional…as small business owners we often don’t have a HR department to seek sick leave from.
I want to finish off by saying, I have been hugely inspired, humbled and energised by my tribes. Keeping things going and even building new ones during this time has been energising and gives me hope that we will all come through this stronger.
I am so grateful that so much of my business was already online before this, and that I have a very loyal and understanding client base. My motto a few weeks ago was keep calm and crack on but now it has changed a little bit, and so now it’s keep calm, take stock and move forward with grace.
Never have we lived through a time of so much change and uncertainty on such a global scale, with social media and technology being a blessing and a curse in equal measure.
We are all in different situations with our lives, our families, and our businesses and it is that diversity that makes the business world so special but it also means in these difficult times that we need to be just a tad kinder to each other, a little less judgemental, and take an extra breath before responding with our take on things.
Some people will be at absolute breaking point, and our message can be hurtful and triggering even when we don’t mean them to. Remind people of where the unsubscribe and unfollow buttons are. Ask permission before pitching. Don’t assume that everyone wants what you are selling…or that they don’t. Don;t assume that your free things is the answer to everyones prayers, when in fact it could just be adding to the noise, or having folks who charge for such thing stressing that they have nothing left of value to offer any more.
Be quiet when you need to
Speak up when its important that you do so.
For many of us Freedom is one of our significant values, and many of our freedoms have been taken away.
focus on the things you still have choice over, the things you can still make decisions on, the opportunities to serve, to create, to take a breath, to stop all together if that feels good.
Our only job right now is to stay well, and to help others stay well too.
Julie Creffield is a serial entrepreneur and master tribe builder from Stratford, East London. She is currently homeschooling her 7 year old daughter Rose, and managing a new kitten Tom while running her two online businesses.
This week she has launched Thrive Inside a programme for women who need some support to stay active at home, and this month she is opening the doors to her Tribe Builder Incubator Programme which will be welcoming a new cohort in May.
You can also see her in action as a business strategist and coach in A Grand in Your Hand, a 10 day fast-paced and value-packed mini-course to get you selling with less sleaze and more ease, which starts on the 17th April and costs just £49