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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing humanity in the workspace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm, and author of “JoyPowered®” and “The JoyPowered® Family.” With me is my friend and co-host, Susan White, a national HR consultant.
In today’s episode, we are going to talk about building a tribe. Our guest today is Jason Barnaby. Jason, like myself, is a native Hoosier and graduate of Indiana University. Jason has been a professional ski bum in Colorado. He’s owned a coffee shop and worked as a professor in Europe. He worked in sales, learning and development, and as the Director of the Transformation Management Office for OneAmerica. I love that history. He is a music leader, certified fitness instructor, a distance runner, and is now the Tribe Leader and Chief Fire Starter of Fire Starters, Inc. Its mission is to work with individuals and corporations to get them unstuck from the status quo and ignite lasting change. His first book, “Igniting the Fire Starter Within,” chronicles the journeys of five people who said “so what” to their fears, they built a tribe of supporters, and found success in their original design.
Welcome. We’re so happy to have you here today.
Happy to be here. Thank you so much.
I’m just fascinated with this whole name of Fire Starter tribe. Can you give us a little background of where did that come from?
Absolutely. So I believe and, really, have built this company on the idea that we have all have this ember inside of us that was placed there for a reason. And so what I endeavor to do in this company is try to help people uncover that fire that’s in them, because I’ve found that some of us are either looking like a campfire the morning after, a pile of ashes, which, which, ironically, if you put the right fuel on it and blow into it, it turns into a blaze pretty quick, which I’ve seen happen in people. Also, I find people who have this, like, red hot fire, white hot flame burning inside of them, but they don’t really know what to do with it. And so my goal is to uncover that ember and see it come to life in a way that maybe they’ve never experienced before.
Love that. Love that. You talked about the word “tribe.” Why do you believe we all need one, and what does it even mean to have a tribe?
So I don’t believe, in my journey, and as I’ve seen other people who have been successful people, I follow people that I admire. They don’t do it on their own. And I think so often you have people who, they’ve got the what I call the superhero syndrome. “I’m gonna do it on my own,” you know, the, the Wonder Woman or the Superman, and puff out the chest and “I’m gonna go blaze the trail, and I’m gonna do it all on my own. I don’t need anybody to do it.” And I think that there are times when those things are a great idea. It’s good to, to get out there and blaze new trails, but it’s not sustainable. And so I know for me, as I’ve been out on my own with my own company, this solopreneur thing is pretty lonely business some days. And without those people in my tribe that I can call and just say, “I’m having a really tough day today. I don’t… feeling like just pulling the covers up and going back to sleep.” They’re like, “No, remember the reason that you did this, this is why,” or just those people that you get random text messages from, just, “Hey, I was thinking about you today. Hope you’re having a great day.” Those are the kinds of things that are like, okay, I can push through this day. And without that, we’re just left to the trash that’s in our head. And speaking for me, personally, I have a lot. And I can get stuck in that kind of garbage dump of my brain. And I need those people that are in my tribe to pull me out, to encourage me, to push me on, and also to tell me things that I need to hear that I’m not willing to necessarily say to myself.
Jason, would you be willing to kind of share with us who’s in your tribe, and how did you find them, and do they know you’re, they’re in your tribe?
Ah, that’s a great question. Because part of what I do in my company is I take people through something called a tribal inventory. I think we’re gonna – we might talk about that a little bit later, but I’ll talk about it a little bit here. So there are three stages in the tribal inventory. There’s the admirer stage, so who do you have in your tribe, and do they know that they’re in your tribe, and I call it the 2am tribe. Who are those people that –
I’m not in that tribe.
Yes, do not call me, JoDee, at 2am!
Susan and I go to bed early.
So not necessarily people that you would – you’re not necessarily picking up the phone at 2am. But if, you know, if the world came crashing down, who are those people that you would call? And what I’ve found…
You can call me.
Okay, and if I am your last resort, then, JoDee, you could call me.
But what I’ve found is that oftentimes, we have this list of people that are in that, in that 2am tribe, but they may not necessarily know that they’re in that 2am tribe, or it’s been a really long time since we’ve told them. So I think it’s really important to let them know. And here’s what I challenge people to do. I’d love to challenge your listeners to do this, even today, is to send a text message to somebody that’s in your 2am tribe, and just say – it’s also, I’ve found, good to do a little precursor, like, “Hey, I heard this podcast,” or “I was in this workshop,” because I got some feedback once from somebody who did this. They said, “I’m going to do that.” And they wrote their friend and they said, “I just want you to know that I love you and that you’re awesome, and I really appreciate you,” and the response back was “You okay, bro? Like, what’s going on? Do we need to have an intervention? What’s happening here?” And so, you know, they – it’s good to have a little precursor, let people know the reason that you’re doing that, that, you know, you’re not off the meds or, you know, life isn’t ending, you’re not having a garage sale with everything you own or something like that. But letting them know is really important, so admiring those people, and I would say, yes, the people that are in my tribe, first and foremost, the… I would say that – well, let me say this. You have your tribe, but I also say that there’s a tribal council, there are people that are really close to me. Definitely my wife, the best tribe member, the most… What’s the word I’m looking for?
Supportive, encouraging, trusting…
I’ll take those things as well, but definitely loyal. A couple of people that, JoDee, I know that you know, Rebecca Hession is a strong supporter, Alex Perry is a strong supporter in that tribe. My dad is, uh, you know, he’s 77, and he’s been around the block several times, and so he’s just got a better perspective. When I think the sky is falling, he’s been through some sky is falling things, and he can say, “Hey, you know, wait this out.” And actually, my kids, because my kids are a fountain of wisdom. And when I, when I ask them a question, they’re just like, “Hey, Dad, have you ever thought about this or that,” and, and it’s just from a different perspective.
And kids are so honest, too. It’s always good to…
Right. Right. Right.
Now, the word tribal council sort of makes me afraid that I might get voted off the island if I have one.
Yeah, I mean, there’s – I don’t think… I think if you, if you choose your tribal council wisely, there’s not a voting off the island. There definitely is, though, a permission of your tribal council to say, “What are you doing? You know, is this a good idea? Does this match your brand? Does this match your mission? Are you pushing yourself?” And that’s what I find the tribal council, for me, really does. They’re the ones who will ask me the hard questions that I wouldn’t necessarily ask myself, or they’ll push me to places where I’m like, “I don’t want to go there.” And they’ll, and they’ll say, “I know you don’t want to go there, but that’s where you need to go.”
And that’s the, that’s the big difference. And then the tribe is an extension of that, of having people – So one of the, one of the roles in the tribal inventory is a connector. Well, I have several different industries that I want to be connected with, with Fire Starters, Incorporated. People that are in education don’t know the people that I necessarily want to be connected with in the financial services industry, and vice versa. So I need those people to help me be that extension. “Hey, have you thought about this? And what about this, and I can introduce you to this person and that person.” My tribal council can do that. But it’s great to expand that network out into your tribe.
Oh, that’s great. I know we’ve touched on tribal inventory, but can you kind of break it down for our listeners?
Yes. So in writing the book, I have realized that there are, or come to believe that there are seven quintessential roles that are in your tribe. You can get a tribal inventory for free from my website, it’s firestarterstribe.com. And I will say this, because I say this whenever I recommend this to people, that this is not something that you’re going to sign up for and then get 7,000 spam email messages to buy things and workshops. It’s literally you download it, and that’s it. So it’s something – I go over the admire stage, which we talked about already. There’s the hire stage, so what this does is as you go through your tribal inventory, you look at each of the seven different roles, and you see, okay, I’ve got a couple of people in this role, I’ve got a couple people in that role, ooh, I don’t have anybody in this role, or I’ve got one person, I need more of those people. And so that really helps you figure out who you have. The hire stage is where you look and you go, ooh, like when I just talked about connectors, I need connectors in the different industries that I need to be in. So this tribal inventory helped me realize exactly that. I need to go look for people who are in that, have this skill set in this industry. So that’s the hire. And I would – and, you know, some people will say, “Well, where do I go to hire people?” It was kind of funny, when I spoke at HR Indiana SHRM this year, I was doing something around the tribe, and it was about 10 minutes before the session, the room is filling up, and the session is about building an effective tribe. Well, I look up and there’s a couple hundred people in the room, most of them looking at their phones. So I turned, I had some music playing, I turned the music off, I turned my mic on, and I said, “Hello.” They all looked up and I said, “You’re here to build a tribe. Guess what? Those people are right next to you, in front of you, and behind you.” And then 30 seconds, you couldn’t hear yourself talk because everybody was talking. So where do you find those people? LinkedIn, your neighborhood, church, you sit with these people in the stands when you go to sporting events, you know, some of us are soccer parents or hockey parents or insert sport parents. Look around, because I guarantee you those parents are sitting there thinking the same thing you are, right? And, and what – the easiest way to get somebody in your tribe is simply this: Ask them. Say, “I need somebody like you in my tribe, is that possible?” And sometimes they’ll say no, but a lot of times they’ll say yes. And those have been some of the best relationships that I’ve had. The next one is the one that people get a little squeamish about. And that’s the firing stage of the tribal inventory. Because people are like, “oh, does that mean I have to cut people out of my life?” Well, maybe. But a lot of times what it means is that you might have somebody who you think – I use this example often, there’s, in the tribal inventory, there’s the dreamer and there’s the devil’s advocate, who are basically on two different ends of the spectrum. If you don’t have any dreamers, but you only have devil’s advocates, which, one of my clients when she went through this, she said, “I don’t have any dreamers but I’ve got five devil’s advocates.” So she said, “I don’t ever get out of the starting blocks with any of my ideas.” And she said, “this really helped me understand I need dreamers in my life.” What I’ve also realized is that sometimes we go to those people who are devil’s advocates hoping that they’re going to be dreamers. Guess what? They aren’t. And if you’re listening to this, and you have somebody in your mind, they’re never going to be, because that’s not what they’re made to do. And so in firing them, and I’m putting that in air quotes, maybe you need to move them to a different role in your tribe. Stop going to them when you’re dreaming, put them in the place where they are devil’s advocates, because that’s what they do well. And I have a couple in my life. I used to think that they were, they were trying to kill my dreams. What they were really doing was loving me well, because they didn’t want to see me fail, and they could see all the places where I was going to, because I was so dreamy. And I had another client who went through this, and this might resonate with some some of your listeners, and, and I said, “How was it for you?” And she said, “Well, it’s kind of depressing to take this, this inventory,” and I said, “Why?” And she said, “because when I got through the end, I realized that I don’t have anybody in my tribe, but I’m these things to everybody else.” And she said, “so at the end of the day, I’m tired and I’m not supported.” And she said, “so I’ve realized some people that I need to cut out of my life or put into different places, and I need to start looking around and hiring people into my tribe and asking them, because I need that.” She was feeling the burnout of trying to do it alone.
What a great wake up call that maybe she needs to ask for help and invite people in.
Right, right. I love that. You talked about this a little bit, about your tribe helping you get rid of some of the head trash that you might have. But how has a tribe helped you in your recent launch as a solopreneur?
So I would say for me, these are the people who, I have such a variety of people In my tribe, people who are well seasoned in this business, so those are people that I can go to and say, “Hey, like, I had a lot of freakout moments the first couple months, like, should I really be doing this? Like, holy crap!” Like one day it was that, and the next day it was like, “yay,” and the next day it was like, “holy crap.” And I’m like, how often does this happen? And I saw, I talked to a couple of my friends. And they’re like, “that’s usually the first couple of years.” And I was like, oh, you know, one part of me was like, oh, my gosh, two years. But then the other part of me was like, how great to know that this is normal. This is, like, everybody goes through this. So that was super helpful. I have some other people who are just really good at the way that they market and sell things, and so when I can come and say, here’s a product that I have, and how, how have you seen success, or do you think this will work? And those are the people, again, who you’re asking to speak truth into, like, if they’ve tried something similarly and they just go, “Jason, it’s, I just don’t think it’s gonna work, and here’s why.” That’s really important that I’m not spending and burning all the calories to do something that I’m going to be disappointed because it didn’t work, because I’ve got three people in my tribe who have done the exact same thing and said, “Great idea. We know where you’re coming from. But it’s just not going to work.” But then also, I would say, for me, that encouraging piece, just having people who will say, “Hey, I haven’t heard from you for a while, let’s go have lunch. I know that this journey can be lonely.” And just that right there is like, somebody else gets it. And so I think for me in stepping out on my own and doing this, knowing that you’re not alone, that there are people who live, you know, people respond to my emails that I send out three times a week, or different stuff like that, like, “Hey, I haven’t written to you in a while. I just want to let you know that I’m still reading and I appreciate this.” Like, those are the kinds of things that keep me going through a whole week, because you’re like, hey, I am making a difference, because otherwise you don’t hear. It’s like, does it matter? Should I, should I go back and get, you know, just the nine to five and muddle through it? And it’s when I get those emails and get that feedback from my tribe where I go, I’m doing the right thing. And it’s made all the difference in the world.
That’s terrific. And I got to ask, the whole nomenclature of tribe, I’ve had some people, as we’ve talked about people kind of gathering tribes and whatnot, feel that there’s some insensitivity to Native Americans. Have you faced that, and have you – how do you work it through if people talk that way?
No, no, I haven’t. And this in no means, by no means is meant to, you know, take that lightly. But when you look back at the history of Native American culture and how unbelievably efficient and successful and good at what they did, because people in the tribe had specific roles, this is what you did, because that – I mean, there were people who were hunters, there were people who were scouts, there were people who made sure to protect the area where they were setting up camp and setting up home, there were people that made, you know, the communicators, and so all of that, I really wanted to take from that the, the power of what can happen when everybody has a role and everybody knows what they’re doing and you’re rallying around and motivated around a common goal. And so that’s really, I can understand why people might go, wait a minute, you know, you’re a pale skinned redheaded white dude. Like how is…
Right, used to be. I say once a redhead, always a redhead. But I can see how that would happen. But I’m hoping that what I’m doing is really, is really putting a positive light and showing the most positive and powerful things that you can have when you have a tribe working the way that it should work.
Yeah. And you talked about the power of a tribe and launching your own business and being a solopreneur. But everyone could have a tribe, right?
Or maybe should have a tribe.
Absolutely. In fact, one of the things I do in my workshops is I ask people, I put some circles up on a, on a screen, and I say, “You’re in the middle. What different tribes are you a part of?” Because we have work tribes, we have church tribes, we have neighborhood tribes, we have the sports tribes. I mean, there are tons of – I think that’s one of the reasons that CrossFit has become such a huge thing, because those are your people. That’s your tribe. I think, you know, one of the reasons that HR Indiana SHRM conference is such a powerful thing, it’s because you’re getting together with like minded people, and they get you. That’s the other thing about a tribe. You don’t have to sit down and explain everything 100 times or to great lengths. They’re just like, “yeah, I get it.” And I felt that the first time I went to an ATD meeting with all these training and development people, I came home and I actually told my wife, even before I started talking about tribes, I said, “I found my tribe,” like, these are my people. And so you can – and absolutely, it can be you know, musicians, it can be hobbies, it can be… you know, that’s why I think you see people running in packs or riding bikes in packs. Those are all tribes. These are people who know you, who will miss you when you’re not there, who will encourage you when you are. So absolutely, I belong to several different tribes.
Okay, so Jason, can you walk us through the three stages of a tribal inventory and what happens in each stage?
Yep. So that first is admire, so you’re making sure that you know the people that are in your tribe, and seeing, and I would encourage you, part of the admire thing is to make sure that you are telling those people that are there. Secondly is the hiring the people that you don’t have, making sure that you are diversifying as much as you can, from different walks of life, from different experience levels. And then that firing thing, which could mean you’re not answering the phone when that person calls, but it could also mean you’re just moving people to the correct place in that, in the tribal inventory so that they’re doing exactly what it is that they need to be doing.
Very good. I follow you on social media and I noticed you always use the hashtag #TribeOn.
What – Why is that?
So when I started, this whole idea came from going to a leadership conference a couple of years ago, where I was encouraged by a guy named T.D. Jakes. It was at the Global Leadership Summit, and he had two questions that he asked. The first question, and I think about these questions probably on a weekly basis, if not on a daily basis, but he has two questions. He’s said the first one was, he said, “If you serve a magnificent God, do you have a magnificent vision to match?” And I was like, “Man, like I have a vision, but it is by no means magnificent.” So that was just real…that was a real, you know, something for me. And then the second question that he asked was, “If you know that you are called to be a leader, whose permission are you waiting for to lead?” And so that day, I drove home and I started this small organization, and we called it Tribe Vibe. And Tribe Vibe was a group of people that came together because we wanted to be inspired. The question that I ask people is, “When is the last time that you were inspired at work?” And I had asked myself that question, I went back two and a half years, and I couldn’t remember.
And so one of the things that we did is we wrote mission statements as, as individuals, but we did it collectively. So when you came back the next month, you were to bring your mission statement. So I was challenged with writing the mission statement for Tribe Vibe. And so this was Tribe Vibe’s mission statement: Tribe Vibe’s mission is tribe on. And so that became our catchphrase, to tribe on, and what that means is to challenge, to inspire, to connect, and grow. And so when I say tribe on, it’s all four of those things, challenging, and inspiring, connecting, and growing, because I think in those four things, when we do that, that’s where true change and development happens. And that’s typically, for those of you who are listening and want to stay right in your comfort zone, it doesn’t happen in your comfort zone. In fact, another hashtag I use often is #ComfortableBeingUncomfortable. I think we have to get to that place, because if we’re not willing to be uncomfortable, I honestly don’t think we’re going to grow. I’ve grown more in the six months that I’ve been on my own than I have grown in the last six years. And that’s not a joke.
I had a boss once who said to me, “Susan, if you’re not in pain, you are not growing.” Well, I like uncomfortable better than pain.
But I do get the concept.
It’s a little more user friendly, I think.
But agreed. I agree.
So Jason, tell us – you don’t have to tell us names of clients, but who are the types of businesses or individuals that you count as clients?
So I’ll put it into two different categories. The first is individuals. And so individuals that I rode the elevator with for 10 years at my previous corporate job that were completely stuck. These are the people that you meet on Monday morning, that just look miserable, because they’re miserable. And when you ask them how they’re doing, their response was always very Eeyore-like, “Not bad for a Monday.” And I’m just like, and I think sometimes it just became routine to say that, but they’re, they’re not, they’re not engaged. They’re not fulfilled. These are the people that drive into the parking lot on Monday morning, they turn off the key, and I was one of these about this time last year, I turned off the car, and literally did this. [Sighs] So people that, that think there’s got to be something different, and I would say if you’re listening, and you think that there’s something different, there absolutely is, but you can’t do it on your own. And so I have clients who are like, “I’m done living the life that I’ve lived for these years. I need somebody who can walk me through some of this tribal inventory stuff to get feedback.” I have a program called 30 Days to Blaze where you do one thing every day to get that momentum, because the thing is you, like, you’re sitting on one side of the valley and you can see, see the other side of the valley and you know that you want to be over there, but you have no idea how to get there. It’s like the old saying that people say, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Well, how do you get to the other side of the valley? One step at a time, but you need somebody who can help you do that. So I would say if there’s somebody listening who’s like that, those are the types of clients that I work with individually. Corporately, these are people who want to have intentional culture and better synergy within their teams. I cannot believe how much people work within 10, 15, 20 feet of each other for years, but never go to lunch together, never take a two hour time in the afternoon to just get out and know each other. Because I’m sure many of your listeners have heard this phrase, “We do business with people we like and trust.” Well, how do you get to like and trust people? You spend time with them, you find out who they are. And so we go through a lot of these feedback exercises and we talk about the importance of transparency and vulnerability and trust and clarity and all those kinds of things. And there’s a lot of, I mean, you know, you’re in the HR world. There’s a lot of dysfunction out there, people. People are dysfunctional when you put a bunch of people together on a team. I mean, that’s why that’s a Patrick Lencioni, the, the dysfunctions of a team, he could write that book because we’re dysfunctional. So teams that are looking to have better synergy, more intentional culture, smaller companies, I like working with big companies, if I can work with a small group within that company who has some empowerment to really make change. I don’t want to get into a room with people where we have to have 15 meetings to decide if we can move the pencil to the left or to the right.
I’m with you on that one. Well, how can our listeners find out more about you and Fire Starters?
So I post a lot on LinkedIn, I would love to have you follow me, and you can find me just under my name, Jason Barnaby. Secondly, you can find me on the web at firestarterstribe.com, and there are some videos there. I also have some resources that – from me and from others – I think are incredibly helpful. I’m also on Instagram, I just post a couple pictures a week, typically, and that is under the name of Fire Starters Tribe. And if you’re a Facebook person, I am on Facebook as Jason Barnaby dash Fire Starter. A lot of the things that I post on Instagram show up on my Facebook account and vice versa. But I do a lot on LinkedIn, because I find that there are a lot of people who are stuck and who are spending their lunch hours scrolling and who, who need to be inspired.
Right. Very good. I mentioned Jason’s book in his intro. The book is called “Igniting the Fire Starter Within,” and it’s just getting ready to come out.
Yeah, so I’m super excited. I’ve been working on this thing and it’s turned into a gigantic monkey on my back and I am ready to get it done. We will be releasing it at a launch party here in Indianapolis. We’re gonna have a big party…
…and get this monkey off our back, but you’ll be able to, there will be a link on my website for it, and it’ll be on Amazon.
Well, Jason, I wish you much continued success. I’m really excited about your business.
Thank you so much.
I am too. Thanks again.
So JoDee, our listener question today comes from Kyle from Huntsville, Alabama. He reached out to us on Facebook. He has a coworker who was off recently for a death in the family. He went to the HR person to get the person’s address so he could mail a card. Kyle said he was surprised that the HR manager said that information was confidential, and he would not give out the address. Kyle thought there should be a better approach and that the employee would have appreciated hearing from him. What would we recommend?
Yeah, tough situation, really, because it seems like such a common issue that we might have. And that, of course, who wouldn’t want to receive a card when there’s a death in the family, but yet awkward for the HR person who needs to keep the information confidential. So I would suggest asking the HR manager if they would consider mailing the card or maybe even mailing a group, a bundle of cards from employees that they could send out to show that people are thinking about them with still not having – they wouldn’t then have to share the confidential information. Any other suggestions?
You know, when this has happened to me in the past, I have asked the individual who was out, I’d let them know that people in the office want to send notes and cards, would they be open to me sharing it?
So I get their permission. However, in this day and age, it’s probably, you know, I like your advice better. At HR, bundle them up and send them.
Yeah, yeah, either one is good. So thanks for asking, Kyle.
In our in the news segment today, we’ll talking about the flu. Whether, whether they have paid sick leave or not, the number one reason employees show up at work when plagued with the flu is because they have too much work. And that means every time they touch the copy machine, the elevator, door handle, a desk, a pencil, a stapler, they’re exposing the rest of their coworkers. According to the Center for Disease Control, the 2018 flu season had a record number of cases reported, including myself, by the way, and it’s predicted to be worse in 2019. A survey by Walgreens found that nearly 40% of respondents reported going to work when sick with the flu. And then another survey conducted by Staples Business Advantage reported that 45% of people blame their flu on colleagues who came to work with the flu, and that employees took an average of just 2.7 sick days, which means many returned to work when they were at peak contagiousness. So what should employees do? Well, no surprises here. What we’ve heard for years: get a flu shot, drink lots of water, wash your hands frequently, and stay home when you’re sick. And what should employers do? Well, they should encourage all of those same things. If it’s an option, and sometimes it might be, but when it is, maybe employees could work from home until they are certain they are recovered. That might help both the employee and the employer.
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