The Big Idea
When we talked about this tip, Jen went off (as she often does) to do some research about around the language we’re using. A flock is often defined as a group of beings that eat, travel and roost together. We use the word ‘roost’ carefully here! From there, she started looking at the elements of flocks in nature that she has so often photographed and how these elements can work together in our every day lives. As we know, we as humans are social creatures – we need interaction with others. The purpose of this tip is to encourage you to really think about what flocks you’re in, whether they’re the right ones for you and what being part of a flock can do to boost your brain, body and mind.
We are often in several flocks – maybe your work flock, family flock, hobby or volunteering flock, sport flock or something else (please tell us where you identify being in a flock – we’d love to know!). Within each of those you can travel through your day or activity together, roost (or socialise/hang out) and eat together – even if that’s just grabbing a sandwich on the go, making lunch ‘bring and share’ or having a big family gathering. Within our flocks we can share goals, hopes, dreams, our journeys, frustrations, achievements and so much more. Those flocks may or can be loud, quiet, protective, encouraging, optimistic, supportive, caring, purposeful and bring a sense of love and identity to those within them.
In the same way that geese and swans work together when they’re flying in a V formation – each taking turns at the front to share the load or that starlings and other seabirds murmurate to protect themselves, we think that when you’ve found your flock, you can become happier, healthier, more productive and generally ‘better’ – there is strength and safety in numbers.
So flocks are also so important to consider if you are in any form of leadership.
We Are Not Sheep
There is of course another type of flocks. There is that old adage that sheep are just followers that do what they’re told – often by a dog! Many flocks that we can be in do have someone (or several people) in a ‘shepherding’ roles. This might be your natural place in the flock – but just as important in a flock are those that have ensured those ‘shepherds’ have got their lunch and everything they need to do their role and those that the ‘shepherds’ are there to care for. So shepherds (leaders) need supporters too. The point of the V formation is that we can take turns in these roles – which gives us timely purpose whilst also making the endeavours of the flock ultimately sustainable.
Being part of a flock is an active choice – within your flock we’d encourage you to stay true to yourself, your own values and beliefs, opinions, hopes and dreams, self-control and ultimately autonomy – otherwise you could fall into the shadow side of flocks, namely cults. As part of a flock, you need to be able to offer understanding, flexibility and trust to those there with you. Doing so means you can co-exist together, and with other flocks that may overlap or you are part of your life. In other words the value and trust you place in a flock needs to be continually earned or justified – and that’s a two-way street too.
Finding Your Flock/s
It might need a bit of thought for you to identify the flocks you’re currently in. It might help to consider this as by drawing or imagining them as you would draw overlapping circles (a Venn diagram), with you and what you do and are interested in at the centre. What groups (flocks) do you already identify with? Where do you meet them? What do you do with them? Being mindful of what flocks you are in, how you’re aligning with the way those flocks operate and your roles and responsibilities within the flock might be something that you can stack with #Tip3 Grateful Thoughts. Before you start, to help you get in the best frame of mind, how about stacking in some of our previous #Tips such as: #Tip 1 Cold Shower, a #Tip5 And Breathe, getting out in #Tip3 Morning Sun or taking time to identify #Tip27 The One Thing. Sometimes it can help to think of where or who we don’t want to be with too #Tip28 Mood Hoovers and / or to take a situation and #Tip23 Reframe It.
As we go through life, deliberately thinking about your flock/s, will better help you to find them and help keep you in the ‘right’ flocks for you. It will also help you consolidate them – like could you do other activities to strengthen your relationship or affinity to them? This could include meeting, sharing a meal or practising a related activity together – and there is no judgement here – we assume you are adults that can be ‘different’ together #Tip13 Treat Yourself. Being part of a flock can also help you better find, consolidate and align your own values, even your purpose and personal ‘why’ – to grow into the person and leader you want or need to be. After all it is flocks that really become movements that change the world #Tip26 Ripple Effect.
Got it…What’s the Science
The need and yearning to part of a flock is as old as being part of a tribe. So going back for at least 50,000 years to human’s behavioural modernity. It is quite literally in our DNA. So is being a bit different though. It’s this tension between being alike and different that has given our species in particular the ability to adapt, connect and overcome to survive and thrive. This also gives us roles and roles give us purpose and perhaps more appropriately here, ‘status’ – and by status we do not mean money or power here. Status, Dr Bob Murray reminds us, is in fact what we are really looking and striving for – status brings in interconnected, two-way, mutual meaning to the individual and to the tribe (flock). Ideally it is how and where we as individuals can best shine to the tasks that we are best at and most enjoy. This is part of a philosophy used in Dr Dan Harrison’s performance and career navigation tools.
Modernity has brought us many advantages but the denuclearisation (the disbanding and disassociation) of families geographically over the last century has increased pressure, anxiety and uncertainty that has manifested in contributing to our current pandemic of mental health issues. Studies have also linked this ‘dissociation induced stress’ directly to the dramatic rises in heart disease and cancer in traditionally more tribal families and cultures. It goes therefore that finding your flock will protect you and reverse this trend – to bring you more health, wealth (in it’s broadest sense) and happiness.
Status is the first part of a model that Dr david Rock has used in a model that our Dulcie has put in one her books ‘It’s Not Bloody Rocket Science’ called SCARF. This model is really built on the concept of flock or tribe. To be our best we need to have leadership (even if it is nebulous or decentralised) that ensures that we can express this Status (our unique contribution), with a degree of Certainty as to what is expected of us, the ability to do this in our own way (Autonomy), whilst being connected (Relatedness) in a social construct that ensures Fairness. The more that some or all of these conditions are met, the greater the likelihood of individual and flock performance and co-operation. A key factor here is the reduction of stress both for the individual and the flock as a whole. We know that stress, and the chronic exposure to the stress hormone cortisol, is not only bad for our bodies, but also reduces our brains’ abilities to think creatively and connectively. So ‘flocking’ helps us meet David Rock’s SCARF criteria, which in turn raises our ability to think, perform and be a cooperative entity – a healthy flock.
Finding you flock/s is an organic process. Importantly your Autonomy here means that people cannot tell you what to do. It also means that a flock can evolve, move and flex to meet the ‘in-flock’ (intrinsic) and ‘out-of-flock’ (extrinsic) needs and pressures – a bit like watching Jen’s starlings dynamic, flowing and beautiful murmurations. Although a leader is not essential at the start, a common purpose or interest is. As Seth Godin says, the Beetles didn’t invent teenagers, nor Bob Marley Rastafarianism, but they became leaders in that they understood and behaviourally optimised them, their hopes and beliefs. Bringing these to mind and life helps gives us as individuals both a sense of belonging and wellbeing (thanks to Serotonin) and pleasure (Dopamine). Outwardly this tends to manifest with specific differences in our appearance and / or behaviour that identifies us part of a particular flock. This can of course include what we wear (our flock ‘colours’), use of symbols and iconography that includes jewellery and tattoos, to how we hold ourselves (body language). These communicate to others our flock affinities.
As animals we are incredibly tuned into these coded flock / tribe signals – because they communicate to others a willingness and openess to connect with those that are like us. It can also be a ‘short-hand’ for us being characterised by certain beliefs and behaviour that speeds up, for better or worse, the process of gaining trust. There are obvious evolutionary advantages of this that also translate and provide advantages to our busy lives today – like “who is most likely to understand me and get where I am coming from on this?” It can also quickly ‘buy’ a degree of grace from others – for instance if someone ‘cuts you up’ whilst driving how much more lenient are you likely to be if they display on their car a sticker for a band, brand, movement or hobby you personally identify with? (Prof Amy Cuddy speaks of this happening to her in her podcast with Simon Sinek in the links below – she identifies as a fan and supporter of the band ‘The Grateful Dead’ who call themselves ‘Deadheads’).
This brings us again back to random acts of kindness (#Tip26 The Ripple Effect), which Amy Cuddy calls acts of “micro-love” as an antidote to the evils in this world. Now whilst we totally are up for finding your flock and random acts of kindness – if we only give of ourselves to those in our flock, are we really being altruistic? Are we really being random? That aside, it does show how flocks and their members don’t like to be manipulated. Their ‘code’ and ethos generally emerges from the flock. This code keeps them authentic to a culture that is the, as George Flynn (a retired Marine General) says, is the sum of (shared) Values and Behaviour (Culture = Values + Behaviour). Sharing a culture, whilst still being and individual, allows you to help your flock to have different perspectives (#Tip23 Reframe It) which gives the flock advantages to adapt to change and challenge. When this combines is in pursuit or service of a cause, truly World changing things happen. Leaders both be aware and warned! Flocks (or tribes) are part of our innate desire to challenge the status quo, to do things differently. You can be a part of it or fight it but they are part of the natural process and cycles that we are all biologically predisposed to. Research suggests that once a flock reaches 1000 ‘members’ a movement begins. A savvy leader both recognises and harnesses this to powerful effect – you only have to think of Nelson Mandela or Gandhi here.
Finding you flock also taps into our humans need to truly and deeply ‘see’ and be ‘seen’. Put another way finding your flock feeds an innate part of your soul giving you a sense of wellbeing. We have spoken about the connection or ‘love hormone’ Oxytocin here before in #Tip21 Hugs Matter. Even if not literal physical hugs these same chemicals and feelings can be induced when we are acknowledged and acknowledge others – this is affirming to them and us part of the flock. A South African Zulu greeting is “Sawubona” (pronounced sow-a-borna) that literally means “I see you”, the reciprocation for which is “Yebo sawbuna” (pronounced yea-bo sow-a-borna) which means “I see you seeing me”. Now the ‘seeing’ here is a deeper than the external, it is to the essence of who you are – which is in part where we find and have recognised (have affirmed) our status in the tribe (flock).
This is definitely a #Tip that taps into social science and anthropology of what it is to be human. We suggest that ignoring it is denying you being the person who can get the most out of life and more importantly, hopefully, the life you want and need. Flocks can bring out the best in others, ourselves and each other – that share, perhaps unsaid (implicit) or said (explicit), connection and shared and values. As humans we are ‘built’ (evolved) for team and co-operation. As John Donne said over 400 years ago: “no man [nobody] is an island”. The explosion of social networks and virtual connectivity that the Internet has given us raises the probability of being able to find your flock – so what are you waiting for?
Watch our #Tip34 on the Instagram Live Recording….
With special contributions from our Jen Smith.
Finding your Tribe – Simon Sinek’s ‘Little Bit of Optimism’ podcast with Amy Buddy
Tribal Leadership – online by Dave Logan and colleagues
The Importance of a Tribe – Interview for ICON with Dr Bob Murray
Finding your Tribe with Amy Cuddy – Simon Sinek’s Little Bit of Optimism podcast Episode 18
How do you signal to others your flock? Do you use stickers, wear certain clothes or make certain cultural references in your social media chat?
Last week our Dulcie was camping in a field singing her head off with thousands of others to the Manic Street Preachers. Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy is a Grateful Dead fan (aka a ‘Dead Head’). What affinities do you identity with from a band, music, style, sport or hobby?
Let us know your flocking stories.
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