What “S’Up”? Using Triads to Develop Tribal Leadership
By Daniel Doubrovkine, CTO at Artsy
My job as CTO involves talking to a lot of engineers, but my first meeting (a video chat) this morning was with Sophie, a Gallery Partnerships Manager in London, and Soojin, a Gallery Relations Liaison in New York. Sophie sells our services to galleries, and Soojin makes sure our customers are successful on the platform. Sophie expressed her excitement about team growth mixed with a bit of sad news of someone leaving the company after many years of excellent service. Soojin talked about her team’s new approach to discussing successful sales with galleries. I described our challenges getting various services to talk to each other with APIs, and we ended up wondering whether our approach to making choices as a company is too open, discussing examples of democracy in the real world. Finally, Soojin and I shared some tips and a link to a blog post on mentoring versus managing — Sophie has a new mentee. This was an incredibly inspiring, useful, and interesting 20 minute long talk.
As interesting as it was, I didn’t share a recap of this meeting just for the sake of it. I shared it because this meeting was an example of a “S’Up,” an informal weekly gathering of three randomly selected colleagues that you typically don’t get to work with on a daily basis. A S’Up is a way to create a triad, a concept popularized by a book called Tribal Leadership. Tribes are more powerful than teams, companies, or even CEOs. In Tribal Leadership, Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright show us how to assess our organization’s tribal culture and then suggest specific tools to enable it. Stages of Tribal Leadership are often categorized by evaluating the number of connections and communication channels between team members, and triads are the most stable and valuable foundations, a building block of a Stage Four culture. S’Up is a tool we built that creates triads. The result can often feel inspiring and lead to durable communication channels at scale.
“The most valuable relationships are not made of two people, they’re made of three. A third person will always stabilize and grow the relationship between the other two. It’s called a triad, and the more you create, the stronger your network.” — via CultureSync, Tribal Leadership
A 2002 Harvard Business Review article proposed three new categories of successful individuals at non-managerial levels of the organization: connectors, boundary spanners, and peripheral specialists. Looking at my own patterns, I realized that I had always been a connector and naturally created triads without even knowing it.
First and foremost, I have always naturally tried to be helpful. I would offer rejected candidates help with finding a job and make sure to follow up with them. Additionally, I’ve always been an obsessive documenter of technical issues so that other engineers could find answers to similar problems. It turns out that being helpful, for me, has always been a way of earning trust towards a more useful purpose — connecting people. Helping someone achieve what they need created a stronger connection between us and an opportunity to connect incredible individuals to other incredible individuals.
Leaders lead when they connect with their tribes and when they help the tribe connect to itself.
At Artsy, we’ve enabled the pattern of connecting people with software on top of Slack. You too can try our open-source S’Up Bot for Slack. It will generate fresh triads every week, follow up with them, and collect stats. My advice: Advocate for triads to meet, and share your experiences with others on your team. A stronger, more connected, and more effective team will result.
If you enjoyed this read, you might be a good fit for our team. Check out open jobs at Artsy here.