Understanding Stage 3: I'm Great (and You're Not) Tribe Mindset

Casey Fenton

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Have you ever felt like you were competing with your colleagues, rather than working together towards a common goal? Perhaps you've encountered a co-worker who seems more interested in promoting their own achievements than contributing to the team. Maybe you, yourself, have felt the need to prove you're the best in the room, even at the expense of others. 

If any of these scenarios ring a bell, you've experienced the Stage 3 tribal mindset, often epitomized as "I'm great (and you're not)."

This mindset, while not uncommon in today's competitive workplace, can create a hostile environment that hinders collaboration and stifles innovation. But here's the kicker – this content is not for the bosses or the managers. This is for you, the employees, because change begins at the grassroots level. Together, all of you can transition from "I'm great, you're not" to "We're great!” with no exceptions.

Behaviors and Beliefs of Stage 3 Members

At the heart of the Stage 3 mindset are certain behaviors and beliefs that differentiate it from other tribal mindsets. Let's delve into some of the key characteristics that define a Stage 3 member.

A Lone-Wolf Mentality: Preferring to work alone is a significant characteristic of Stage 3 members. They often believe that their skills, ideas, and methods are superior, which leads them to rely solely on their abilities. They might reject team projects, prefer individual tasks, and may even feel burdened when required to collaborate. This stems from the fear of their work being diluted or their shine being dimmed by others.

Competition Over Collaboration: Stage 3 member often sees their peers not as collaborators, but as competitors. They operate in a zero-sum game mindset where they believe that someone else's gain is their loss. This could manifest as an over-competitive nature, constantly seeking to outdo others, or a subtle undermining of colleagues' achievements to maintain their perceived superiority.

Unwillingness to Share Knowledge: The withholding of information is another common behavior among Stage 3 members. They may see knowledge as power and hoard it to maintain a competitive edge. This can lead to a lack of transparency, with important details being kept secret, impeding the team's collective progress.

Blaming Others: Stage 3 individuals are often reluctant to accept their mistakes. Instead, they may seek to shift the blame onto others to preserve their self-image. This can involve highlighting others' errors while downplaying their own, creating an environment of finger-pointing rather than constructive feedback.

Arrogance and Self-Promotion: A distinct trait of the Stage 3 mentality is the frequent boasting of personal accomplishments. They often disregard or undermine the contribution of others, choosing instead to spotlight their achievements. While there's nothing wrong with taking pride in one's work, continuous self-promotion at the cost of others can breed resentment within the team and damage collective morale.

Challenges and Limitations of Stage 3 Thinking

Embracing a Stage 3 mindset can lead to a variety of challenges and limitations in the workplace:

Hindered Teamwork

When individuals constantly compete with each other rather than work together, it can create a divided and unproductive environment. With a lack of trust and cohesion, teamwork suffers. The absence of a collective spirit can lead to isolated efforts, conflicting agendas, and, ultimately, a reduction in the quality and efficiency of work output.

Lack of Shared Learning

Withholding information not only impedes current projects, but it also stymies collective learning and growth. Shared learning is fundamental for a thriving, innovative environment where ideas spark off each other. A Stage 3 mindset deprives the team of this enriching cross-pollination of knowledge and expertise.

Stifled Innovation

Fear of internal competition can lead employees to hide their creative ideas, causing a severe blow to innovation. The richest ideas often emerge from collective brainstorming, which requires a safe environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts. A Stage 3 environment, fraught with insecurity and competition, stifles such innovative thinking.

Low Morale

The "I'm great, you're not" mentality can foster an unhealthy working environment filled with resentment, defensiveness, and low morale. Employees may feel undervalued or overlooked, leading to decreased job satisfaction, decreased productivity, and higher turnover.

Workplace Scenarios Illustrating Stage 3 Tribal Mindset

Let's bring the Stage 3 mindset to life with some real-world workplace scenarios:

Scenario One: Picture a team meeting where everyone's throwing ideas around. John, however, dismisses all these ideas, insisting that his approach is superior. In this scenario, John's behavior reflects a classic Stage 3 mindset. He doesn't see the value in other people's ideas, which prevents the team from benefiting from diverse perspectives.

Scenario Two: Lisa consistently chooses to work alone, despite her manager's efforts to encourage teamwork. By doing this, Lisa might finish her tasks effectively, but she's losing out on the opportunity to learn from others, build relationships, and contribute to a vibrant, collaborative team culture.

Scenario Three: Robert receives feedback from a colleague but instead of accepting it graciously, he deflects the blame onto others. This behavior hinders personal growth and can breed resentment within the team.

Scenario Four: Melissa has vital information that could help the team meet their project deadline, but she chooses to withhold it to maintain her advantage. Her action, while potentially advancing her personal agenda, could jeopardize the success of the entire project.

Scenario Five: Mark frequently brags about his accomplishments, undermining the contributions of his team members. His behavior may create a divisive atmosphere and demotivate others from working collaboratively.

Approaches for Fostering Collaboration

Addressing a Stage 3 mindset requires fostering a culture of collaboration, understanding, and shared achievement. Here's how you can help nurture such a culture:

1. Promote Transparency

Encouraging openness and honesty can foster trust among team members. When everyone has access to the same information, it levels the playing field and reduces the urge to withhold or hoard knowledge. Regular team meetings, open communication channels, and clear reporting structures can contribute to this transparency.

2. Acknowledge and Appreciate

Recognizing each individual's unique contributions can help combat the sense of competition and build a more inclusive environment. Highlighting team members' skills and accomplishments in team meetings or through an appreciation board can foster a sense of worth and encourage collaborative efforts.

3. Build a Collaborative Culture

Cultivating an environment that values collaboration over competition can shift the tribal mentality from Stage 3 to Stage 4. This could involve restructuring tasks to require teamwork, fostering interdependency, or implementing rewards for collaborative success. The aim is to underscore the notion that a team's strength lies in its collective efforts, not individual superiority.

4. Encourage Collective Learning

By promoting knowledge sharing, you can help break down the silos created by a Stage 3 mindset. This could involve setting up learning sessions where team members share their skills or experiences or creating a shared repository of resources. The objective is to establish an environment where learning is a collective pursuit, not a competitive advantage.

Tools and Techniques to Help Colleagues Move Forward from Stage 3

Transitioning your colleagues from a Stage 3 mindset might seem daunting, but there are practical strategies that you, as an individual employee, can employ:

1. Active Listening

Everyone wants to feel heard and validated. By practicing active listening, you're telling your colleagues, "I hear you. Your thoughts matter." This empathetic approach can make others feel valued, reducing the need to compete for recognition.

2. Equity Compensation

While you may not directly control the compensation structure, you can initiate conversations about it. Discuss with your colleagues the concept of equity compensation, where everyone has a stake in the company's success. This can align everyone's interests, shifting the focus from personal wins to the company's collective success. You could potentially bring this up in team meetings, suggest it during feedback sessions, or even broach the topic informally with your peers to gauge their thoughts.

3. Mentorship

Encourage a culture where you and your colleagues mentor each other. You can offer to share your skills or experiences or invite a colleague to share theirs with you. This reciprocal learning experience can foster empathy, enhance skills, and promote a sense of camaraderie.

4. Feedback Culture

Advocate for an environment where constructive feedback is valued and appreciated. Be the change by giving thoughtful, respectful feedback and welcoming it from others. This helps everyone grow and learn, fostering a sense of collective, rather than just individual, progress.

5. Showcase Success Stories

Be vocal about team achievements. When you notice an instance where collaboration led to a successful outcome, don't hesitate to highlight it. By celebrating teamwork, you can inspire your colleagues to embrace a more collaborative mindset, showing them that "We're great" leads to greater success than "I'm great (and you're not)."

Breaking free from the "I'm great (and you're not)" mindset and fostering a collaborative work environment requires collective effort. As an employee, you have the power to initiate positive change within your team and influence the culture around you. Despite this, strive to create an inclusive, supportive, and high-performing team where every member feels valued and contributes their best. It's time to transition from "I'm great (and you're not)" to "We're great" because true greatness is achieved when we rise together.

If you liked this article, feel free to explore more of this topic on tribal leadership and ownership mindset here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Casey Fenton

Founder, Upstock & Couchsurfing, AI and Equity Innovator

Casey Fenton, the founder of Upstock & Couchsurfing and an AI and equity innovator, has revolutionized how we perceive and implement equity in the workplace. His foresight in creating platforms that not only connect people but also align their interests towards communal and corporate prosperity has established him as a pivotal figure in technology and community building. Casey speaks worldwide on topics including ownership mindset, worker equity, With Upstock and Couchsurfing, he has demonstrated an unparalleled expertise in harnessing technology for the betterment of community interaction and organizational benefits.

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