An Interview on Making the World More Meaningful
TRIBAL CEO Rachael Jackson is relentless in her desire to make the world a meaningful place. Years of hardship and overcoming taught her that our experiences, and how we interpret them in our personal stories, can change the course of our lives. When we share our stories, others have the chance to gain understanding, and in turn, are empowered to share their stories.
This is how TRIBAL was conceived.
In this interview with Shattered Media writer Elijah Andes, Rachael discusses why TRIBAL was founded, why she thinks the platform is so special, and how current clients are using TRIBAL to find meaning and purpose in their organizations.
Elijah: What inspired you to build TRIBAL?
Rachael: When my mom passed away, I felt like I needed to do something to reach out to people. My faith told me that it would be through stories and that stories could connect people to relationships. Relationships would move people to action. I started a blog — then I realized there are 600 million blogs, and they all say the same thing. So, I started an online magazine, and we went to print by raising $7K from a Kickstarter campaign. I later learned launching a national magazine with so little money was next to impossible. But we got lucky, and our first issue was picked up by Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.
Still wanting to reach millions, I kept fighting for the answer: What were we supposed to be doing? I realized that over time, people are getting more and more disconnected, that the rise of technology is separating people from meaningful relationships. While we may feel more connected, we’re actually more and more isolated.
I learned more about all the noise people have in their life — the average person sees 5,000 pieces of content a day — and how addictive social media is. There is harmful ramification for feeling like you’re connected to other people that you’re not actually connected to — not really — and I knew that it would be next to impossible to beat Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or whoever at their own game by creating a meaningful version of social media.
The things that go viral don’t bring us closer to a sense of hope, peace, purpose or community. You might read some things now and then that are uplifting, but the things that go viral are usually at the extremes of the emotional spectrum. They aren’t things that drive you closer to a sense of peace.
Tackling all these issues can feel daunting. I realized we needed to create a platform that had a bigger effective range, so to speak. A place where people could come together and create meaningful relationships, build hope and purpose. I believe that the way to do that is through strategic storytelling. Stories open up doors to relationships and resources in ways that nothing else can.
I realized no entity has more reach into people’s lives right now than corporate America. No entity stands to benefit more from impacting their people. That’s why I started TRIBAL — to help companies make that impact and build up communities and strong teams.
Elijah: For thousands of years, our primary method of recording history and building societal values was through stories. Why do you believe we’ve sort of lost our storytelling culture today?
Rachael: There’s no respect for stories anymore. Firstly, story is so powerful it shouldn’t be used without careful thought. You’ve got all these blogs, and everyone’s essentially sharing everyone else’s dirt. There’s no respect for the fact that your story isn’t just your own story. Your story impacts others. If it’s your story, you need to be careful about who and how you share it. Stories should be sacred.
I also think story loses its power when it’s overdone or done poorly. In a more practical sense, you have Facebook or Instagram calling some of their features “stories” — and I get it. It’s a story in time, but it’s not a real story. And then you’ve got Hollywood which, in a rush to make money, mostly bastardizes or perverts how powerful stories can be.
Elijah: You know, I think it’s interesting — it feels like people want real stories, but we’ve been so conditioned to seek satisfaction in social media and process things hyper-quickly. Instead of investing time in longer stories, we just sort of bounce between Snapchat stories or these short-term social media endorphin hits that don’t actually have substance.
Rachael: You know, some teenagers get depressed or start self-harming because their posts don’t get the reaction others get. I think it hurts when you share a piece of yourself, and people don’t react.
Elijah: Right. The Netflix documentary, “The Social Dilemma,” reveals how social media is causally linked to adverse impacts on mental health and other social issues. We just can’t ignore how addictive, or harmful, social media is.
Rachael: It’s a real problem. If the world understood the psychological manipulation that was used so these social media companies could make billions of dollars — it’s worse than gambling, I think.
Elijah: Right, I think we’ve written in some of our blogs about how social media is just gambling. But instead of money, you’re gambling with your own self-worth, which is even more destructive. Is storytelling on TRIBAL a way to retreat to something purer and avoid that destructive cycle?
Rachael: Definitely. I call it “strategic storytelling” because you have to be careful about what you share and how you share it. If you’re a leader or an organization trying to achieve a goal or inspire people, you should be intentional about the stories you share. There should be an objective, a result you want to see. It should be compelling and delivered effectively. If you tell a story and nobody hears it, or it doesn’t resonate, does it even matter?
Elijah: Some leaders may hear terms such as “connecting people through stories” and think it’s just mumbo jumbo. What would you say to them?
Rachael: Their ability to build a strong team and recruit new talent rests solely on their ability to connect people to a sense of meaning at work. More and more, people are wanting to do something meaningful with their work. People find meaning in relationships, and stories are onramps for meaningful relationships.
There’s a rise in organizational storytelling, and I’m all for it. It just needs to be strategically done. TRIBAL provides that strategic delivery method. You can tell a story all day long, but it won’t make an impact unless you tell it right. I think ten years from now, every leader will have a storytelling director — someone who’s dedicated to telling the stories that inspire their team.
Companies have unlimited stories because their stories are made up of their employees, and every employee has a rich, unique life. What are their hobbies? Which nonprofits do they support? How are their families? The more your employees can trust you — trust is mandatory for storytelling, but telling stories also builds trust — the more they’ll tell their stories. Through the connections those stories make, they’ll find more reasons to stay at your company.
A good leader cares about their people. Not only their people but their people’s families too. When I was in the military, and we were getting ready to deploy, it wasn’t just my job to make sure my soldiers were ready, it was my job to make sure their families were ready, that their finances were in order, that the powers of attorney were signed, that they had a working vehicle, etc. That was my job, to take care of not only my soldiers but also their families.
I think we can learn a whole lot from that. If you’re a leader and your people are struggling, or their families are struggling with something, that’s going to impact them.
As a company grows, it’s hard to make employees believe you care about them. You might care about your employees, but if they don’t feel that way, it doesn’t matter. As people connect through stories, they take that burden off a leader and care for each other. If I know someone I work with is having surgery, I’ll go to the hospital or take them food. That strengthens the bond between employees, and ultimately the company gets stronger as a result.
I truly believe leaders are at war for the hearts and minds of their people, and they won’t win that war just by doing the status quo.
Elijah: How are current TRIBAL clients using the App? Are there any inspiring stories you can tell us about how workers and leaders have connected in TRIBAL?
Rachael: We’ve still got a ways to go — we’re still early stage — but our clients are using TRIBAL to connect employees through stories right now and share company news. Soon, they’ll start using it to create groups within the companies to extend their reach into common interests outside of the workplace. So far, we’ve heard employees love being able to connect with each other and also love feeling their leadership is more accessible — because leaders are sharing personal stories just like the employees are.
They also love knowing more about what’s going on in the company. Suddenly, people start having real conversations with each other when they see each other. We had two coworkers who sat next to each other for years — both volunteered at nursing homes on the weekends, but neither one knew the other did that. Now, they go together because they learned about that shared hobby through TRIBAL.
We had another employee, Crystal, who said, “Until I read Andre’s story about having an autistic child, I thought I was the only one at work who had an autistic child.”
Since that time, Crystal and Andre have formed a friendship, and they support each other. More than that, they formed a support group for parents with autistic children in their building. They’re part of a team of 40 employees working in a much larger building, full of government and DoD contractors who work for other companies. So now these two people, who connected through sharing their stories on TRIBAL, run a support group open to thousands of other employees who may also have autistic children. For me, that’s just fantastic. Now, those two have an authentic connection to one another, they feel supported by their organization, and they’re making a positive impact.
Remember how I said stories would move people to relationships and relationships would move people to action? This is our proof of concept right here.
As a leader, I get inspired by people who go out and do things.
Elijah: Any parting words you’d like to share?
Rachael: I really do feel TRIBAL is imperative. We’re at war for the hearts and minds and attention of people, and it’s not going to just get better. We have to win this war. And we start by making work and life more meaningful, by inspiring people and by sharing our stories.