Digital-First Leadership


Leading Your Tribe

February 9, 2021
Richard Bliss

In this episode, Richard drives home the idea that you need to stand up and begin to lead. However, now it’s all done through social media presence. Richard discusses the idea that the best way to begin building a tribe is to focus on giving before asking, focusing on what your tribe needs and what they need from you. It’s about “picking your platform”, you don’t need to be everywhere, you need to be where your audience is.

In short, you need to find your audience, get in front of them and then give them something of value.


Welcome to Digital First Leadership. The podcast that focuses on helping leaders and teams understand how to master the language of social media in today's digital-first world. Now here's your host Richard Bliss.

Richard Bliss:

Welcome to the show. I am thrilled to have you here and to join me for this conversation today, and thrilled that you have found the podcast, and you've been listening to this first season.

Our first season has really been about adaptability, about adjusting to the changing environment. Last year, it was an adjustment from the old to the new. This new environment, this work from home, this virtual reality.

This year, it's an adaption to, this is the norm. And now how do we adapt to it, kind of in a more permanent way. And so today that's what we're going to talk about. We're going to talk about tribes, and the idea of creating a tribe. And what I mean by a tribe is, I don't mean your employees that work for you, or you work with a group of employees, but I mean, people who are common in their goal and in their vision and what they're trying to accomplish, which means a tribe could be a collection of customers that you lead towards a certain selling solution.

But this isn't a podcast about selling tactics, instead, it's about, a podcast about how to create your digital online presence with a digital first presence. And what that means is think first, digitally. So how do you connect to people emotionally? How do you reach out to them? How do you find that connection?

A little bit of my background, when I was a young child, my family, my mother and my brother and I moved 14 times between kindergarten and the sixth grade. Actually, that was 14 times. Yeah. Before I even finished the sixth grade. That's 14 different schools, 14 different times that I, as a young person, a young man had to walk into a room of strangers and try to figure out the lay of the land.

You develop a hypersensitivity to the clicks, to the nuances, to the flow and the ebb and the flow and I was beat up a lot. Because I was the new kid from somewhere else and my clothes looked different, my speech was different. It was always something different, no matter where I was living from. A log cabin, one room cabin in Minnesota with an outhouse to a pig farm in, excuse me, a one-room cabin in Alaska with an outhouse and a pig farm in Minnesota to big cities to, it was all over the map. It was all over the map, but we can get into the details about why later.

But just let it be said that that was a skill set I developed was how to read the room, how to understand what motivated people, where were they coming from, and recognizing how I stood out, because I always stood out. And so this made it difficult for me to fit in, but it also made it a very skillful for me to understand how to start to wield influence in a very short amount of time.

And that's what I want to share with you is some ideas of how to wield influence, where you start to build a tribe of people who start to look to you. There's a great book out there that I based kind of a lot of this philosophy on by Seth Godin called Tribes. And it's the idea that there is people out there looking, there is a dearth of leadership right now.

A dearth, and I'm not talking on the political spectrum or anything like that. I'm just talking about how, what does the future look like? And what do we need to do right now to take advantage of it or to avoid the disaster that it might bring to us?

My clients tend to be executive C-level, chief executive officers, vice presidents of marketing, vice presidents of sales. And I tend to focus on Silicon Valley tech companies, big and small, but I also work with salespeople and individuals and teams, the sales teams.

And in this time period, what I do is I help the teams understand and these executives, how their voice can be portrayed online in a digital environment, to actually capture the attention of their audience. Let me give you an example.

One time, ways back, back in the financial crisis of 2008. So we're talking quite a while ago. My biggest partner, I was the partner to them because of the financial shutdown, decided not to have a conference because nobody could attend.

I had a smaller one. And so the company that shut down their conference, I was their biggest sponsor. So they let me know before they made the announcement, which was critical. So since I knew this announcement was coming, I rapidly, I was the vice president marketing. I rapidly developed a series of press releases and announcements that were going to go out at the same time ... As soon as the announcement was made by the big company they were canceling their conference, my announcements went out.

And my announcements were made up of this. One, I was holding my own conference, much smaller in a different city. Their conference was in Salt Lake city, my conference was in Las Vegas.

Then the second one though was a little bit more controversial. When I started reaching out to my customers about holding this conference, they said, "Look, we already bought tickets for the first conference that's being canceled. We can't afford. I mean, there's change fees and everything to switch from going to Salt Lake city to Las Vegas, even though it's not that far."

So my second announcement was, I will pay for every change fee necessary to bring you to my conference, because you've already bought this ticket to this conference has been canceled, I will pay for the change fees. It'll be included in your price of admission. Now, I got to tell you, I didn't run that by the chief financial officer and the founder. He threw a fit. "Oh my gosh, what can you do? This could bankrupt us, blah blah." I mean, it was blah blah blah blah blah.

I'm like, no, because he didn't understand, not that there's anything wrong with numbers guys. But he just was looking at the potential fallout, not taking in account the emotional impact of what was just about to happen.

So the announcement goes out this big conference that everybody wanted to attend got canceled. Oh bummer. Everybody's emotionally down. Announcement comes out that I'm holding a conference. Oh yay. Oh, but I can't go because I've already committed resources. And then my announcement comes out that says, "I'm going to pay for you to come to mine by paying any change costs."

You've already budgeted. You've already bought the ticket. It's already there. So I knew they already had money to come to a conference. I'll just pay the difference, because you might not have that in your budget. The response was incredibly overwhelming and positive. People just were shocked that a vendor would do that. And I had record turnout for my conference, record turnout.

Even though my conference was in only three weeks, I had a three week lead time. And guess how many people chose to take me up on my offer to cover their change fee. Zero, not a single individual. Here's what went on, ladies and gentlemen. Is that I took not a risk, well, I guess I did, the CFO thought I took a risk. I took a risk that this could cost us some money. Actually not even worth having that.

But I also took the opportunity of telling my tribe. I understand your pain, I understand the dilemma, and I'm willing to make a sacrifice on your behalf. And guess what happened? They were willing to make a sacrifice on my behalf. I gave and they gave back. And an exchange happened that was not measured in dollars and cents, but in emotional commitment and confirmation, and the people who came to that conference still talk about it. And it's been over a decade and they still talk about that experience and what happened.

This is what I mean by leading a tribe, is finding a way, an emotional need that exists in these people, your customers, your prospects, your partners, your employees, whoever it might be, and then understand how to communicate your passion and compassion for what you're doing. So there's some ways to do that. I just gave you one example of finding an interesting way, but when you're online, here's some things you can do to build your tribe.

One, don't sell. Okay, that's kind of an obvious one, but I don't know about you. But how many times do you get hit up by somebody on LinkedIn that's just trying to sell you something? Stop.

Number two. It's not all about you. It's really got to be about them, which means stop and think what problem do they have that I might know something about? Or what problem do they have that I might know somebody who knows something about? And now start going to find ways to bring them benefit.

There's an old saying, give away your most precious things and sell everything else. So if you have knowledge, share it. If you're a teacher, share it. Which is why I'm on this podcast, giving to you for free, as much as I can, as much of my knowledge as possible. Why? Because down the road, you're going to need something from me. You're going to say that guy was really good. I think I'll pay him money to come and tell me the same things he told me for free.

That sounds crazy. I got another example. I did a podcast for a very long time under Crowdfunding and Kickstarter, and it was very popular. It was the number one podcast out there for Kickstarter. And Kickstarter called me up and said, "Look, you need to run a Kickstarter, a Crowdfunding campaign for your podcast."

Well, "Okay. But do you know how much podcasts cost to produce?" Well, nowadays it costs a little bit more because there's all kinds of costs in the background, but at the time I was just doing it from my desk with a microphone. It was no big deal. It's a little bit more involved today, I have a team and there's all kinds of backend stuff. But I'd put out my podcast, my Kickstarter campaign and I watched the video by Amanda Palmer, her Ted talk. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.

I'm not a fan of Amanda Palmer's music, but I am a fan of Amanda Palmer. She's in my upcoming book, the Digital First Leadership. I mentioned the story about here, but I'll share it here on the podcast.

She gives her music away for free, but she charges for her concerts. And what she does is, she couch surfs. So when she goes into a city to do a concert, she'll go and sleep on a fan's couch, that's just what she does. She wanted to do a record. And so she went to the music labels and they said, "Look, you only have about 25,000 fans, that's not enough for us to launch a record. Sorry." She was like, "Okay." She went and did a Kickstarter.

And guess what? She got 25,000 fans to give her money to the tune of $1.2 million. So the record label knew exactly how many cut people she had, but they didn't realize just how committed that tribe was. And so when Amanda Palmer talked about this in her Ted talk, she mentioned this concept of giving your fans an opportunity of saying thank you.

So I heard that and it transformed the way I thought about like my podcast, when I was doing this with the Crowdfunding. So, I offered on my podcast, you could donate $1,500 to my Crowdfunding campaign. And I would come and do my podcast in your home and play board games because it was a board game podcast along with Crowdfunding. Three people took me up on that. Three people gave me $1,500. And when I went to deliver, they all gave me the same answer.

"Richard, the content you give us is so valuable, I'm willing pay you to give it to me for free." And every one of them turned me down to actually spend the money to come to their home and they wanted to say, thank you. My point here is that find ways to give to your community, to give to your tribe, to give, so that when the time comes for you to ask, they will be grateful and give back to you.

They might give back to you in money, but they might get back to you in recommendations, in time and endorsements, in support, the times you're low they might lift you up, the times that you can't deliver. Elon Musk is the perfect one with the Tesla, that people were committed to his vision, and so even though the car was delayed and delayed and delayed, they waited and they were committed, they gave him something because he had given them a vision. And that's what you can do. Focus on that vision, focus on how you do that.

Seth, in his book, Tribes, does a great job of talking about some of the elements of leadership when you're trying to build this tribe. Let me share them with you.

Leaders change the status quo. Leaders create a culture around their goal and involve others in that culture. Leaders have an extraordinary amount of curiosity about the world they're trying to change. Leaders use charisma in a variety of forms to attract and motivate followers. Leaders communicate their vision of the future. Leaders commit to a vision and make decisions based on that commitment. And finally, leaders connect their followers to one another.

Okay. Now, let's think about how that applies to what you're listening to right now. And that is digital first leadership. So digital first leaders want to change the status quo. What's the status quo? That you show up to a customer site, that you take them out to dinner, that you play golf, that you, whatever. No, the status quo is now you find ways of bringing them value without ever meeting them. Leaders create a culture around their goal and involve others in that culture.

So you're trying to find a way to communicate the value that your organization, your product, your service brings to this audience as a salesperson or where your company is going as a leader and how to communicate that to your employees, who you might not even get a chance to meet anymore. Leaders have an extraordinary amount of curiosity about the world they're trying to change.

Digital first leaders are out there trying to learn the tools. How do I post on LinkedIn? How do I share content? How do I respond? What do I say? Those type of things. Where can I find content that I want to share? Here's something I found interesting to read. That's what leaders are trying to do. That's what you should be trying to do. Is figuring out how to do that, carefully.

Leaders use charisma. Now that's an interesting thing. Charisma, how do you have charisma online? Well, one way is you have charisma is there's self-deprecating, where you're don't take yourself too seriously. One way that charisma is exhibited is through success, and success is defined by actually the doing. Oftentimes, and Seth says this later on is that charisma is oftentimes, if you're ... That leaders are charisma ... How does he say that? He says basically that charisma isn't about, "Oh, I'm charismatic you're going to follow me. If you follow me, then that's what makes me charismatic."

Being a leader makes you charismatic. So if you start to show leadership out there, no matter what you're like in person, if you start to show leadership by creating content, engaging, answering questions, posting, being there, helping guide the customer or the product or the company, you now become a leader, and people start to then be drawn to you, because you appear to know where you're going and how to get there.

Leaders communicate vision of the future. How in the world do you communicate the vision of the future if you aren't using the tools of the future to actually do the communicating? That's why you're here listening to this podcast, that's why you should just think about finding a way to be a guest on a podcast, to have your own podcast, to start writing articles, to be posting on LinkedIn, to find out if Twitter is really for you. All of those things are ways for you to do that.

I know I'm kind of beating the drum here, but these are things that you can do to build that tribe. And then lastly, leaders connect their followers to one another. Many of you are following me, I really appreciate it. And so when you reach out and communicate, I try to then communicate back and then have that conversation happening in the open. When you communicate with me, I try to have you be in the open, which is why my guests are on here talking about how they can communicate and lead.

These are the types of things I'm trying to do to help you learn how to be a digital first leader and kind of how to build this tribe. So hopefully this has been helpful for you.

I strongly recommend the book. It's been out for quite a while. It's called Tribes. It's a very simple, easy, small little book. And if you've got an E reader, you can do that. And then if you looking at books, my book out is due out, I don't know when this publishes soon, Digital First Leadership.

I've been working on it for two years, focused on these concepts. Because I'm very passionate about helping people, empowering people to make the transition to the way they've done business up until this point and now the way they need to do business to stay successful. And that's why this podcast exists, that's why I wrote the book over the last couple of years. And that's why I'm trying to do my best to help empower you to make these changes and to understand the challenges.

Now, if you'd like to talk to me, we're going to have some live, we're going to have a LinkedIn, not a LinkedIn, a Facebook live. We're going to have a Facebook live training on my Facebook group, Digital First Leadership podcast group on Facebook, go and join. And we're going to be able just to answer questions. If you have questions, join it.

We also will be setting some up on clubhouse so that you can go out there and find me on a occasion just to chat, ask questions, open-ended about many of the things that we're talking about. Also about LinkedIn, and about how to do this digital first leadership concept. I really enjoy this. I'd like talking to you and I like the feedback that I'm getting.

So thank you very much for your time. I try to be sensitive to it, make sure that I pack in enough content that you find it interesting. But thanks always, thanks for listening and thank you for being a fan of the show. Take care.


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