By Lolly Daskal
A basic need of people everywhere is to feel they belong. A sense of belonging is essential to emotional well-being, and it’s also an intrinsic motivator, activating people to become more involved and inspired. In short, it’s an essential component of any successful team and organization.
In today’s climate, where people are dispersed geographically and often divided over political and cultural issues, it’s harder than ever to create that sense of belonging. But challenging as it is, it remains one of the most essential things a leader can do to ensure their team’s well-being and effectiveness. Here are some steps you can take:
Create a culture of inclusion. Exclusion often happens unconsciously and unintentionally. To combat it, you need to be purposeful about cultivating and maintaining a culture that equitably supports people from all backgrounds and walks of life in achieving their potential and ensures they are accepted and valued. An inclusive culture views differences as strengths.
Create a culture of respectful connection. In a connected culture, people are bound by strong ties; they support and trust one another. People inspire one another to give their best effort. Without sacrificing individuality, they build strong group norms that align them with the organization’s mission and goals, and they keep one another engaged and involved.
Create a culture of contribution. When people feel that they are making a contribution, that their work matters, that their talents and strengths are valued and their efforts make a meaningful difference, they develop an awareness that they’re working for something bigger than a paycheck—and their work will reflect that awareness.
Create a culture of safety. The best way to make people feel they belong is by creating an environment where they know they are safe to be who they are and express themselves without negative consequences. People can relax and let their true selves shine through. They know they can speak up and be heard—and even get it wrong sometimes. People can’t possibly feel they belong somewhere they don’t feel safe.
Create a culture of recognition. When you express recognition and appreciation, you foster a sense of belonging. You communicate to people that they matter—and when people know they matter, they feel empowered and able to excel.
Creating and maintaining a culture where people feel they belong is never going to be easy. It requires that every level of the organization view their actions through a diversity lens to make sure they’re creating opportunities for everyone to contribute equitably, and making sure that leadership knows how to motivate and inspire. But the results are powerful. When people know they matter and their contributions are making an impact, there’s no limit to what they can accomplish.
Lead from within: The best leaders take the time to understand the importance of creating an environment where people feel they belong.