The need to create a place where people belong grows out of the isolated nature of our lives, our workplaces, and our communities. The absence of belonging and the realization of its importance in re-engaging our workforce has been especially amplified in the past two years.
I believe that creating a place where people belong is a key driver of engagement, fulfillment, and success. So… what is belonging, and how do you create a place where people belong?
When we think of belonging, memories of high school often come to mind where belonging was about popularity, appearance, and fitting in. But through a more mature lens, belonging is about being valued for our unique contributions, knowing that we make a difference, being connected to our co-workers, supported and encouraged in our daily work and career development, and being proud of our work.
From my research and experience, belonging is rooted in five key elements:
1. Personal Responsibility: From our high school experience, many of us learned that it was up to someone else to make us feel we belong. While those around us undoubtedly impact our sense of belonging, belonging starts with a decision that “if it is to be, it starts with me.”
2. Heartfulness: Heartfulness, according to author Elizabeth Lesser, is “knowing what you love, and having the guts and grace to go for it.” The goal of our Authentic Leadership programs is to dig deep into your self and discover the essence of who you are. Until you can belong to yourself, you will never quite feel that you belong in the world.
3. Contribution: I learned from raising children that there is a difference between chores and contribution. We all must roll up our sleeves at times and get the chores done. But contribution is about knowing, deep within us, that our unique gifts, talents, and strengths are truly valued and make a difference to the organization and those the organization serves.
4. Care: People around you at work – peers and senior leaders alike – genuinely care. They are sincerely committed to helping you find the resources, support, and encouragement you need to succeed in your daily work and live a full life. With caring comes a sense that we are safe and among friends, that silos are being replaced by a genuine community, strangers are welcomed, diversity is celebrated, leaders are committed to creating systems and structures that support belonging, and problems are being exchanged for possibilities. When it comes to belonging, caring is everything.
5. Pride: While visions, plans, mission statements, and committed leadership are important, even essential, they cannot be successful without the engagement of every person in the organization. Pride is a genuine alignment with your organization’s purpose, vision, and values. Pride is what shows when you excitedly tell your six year old where you work, what you do, and why what you do matters.