Leaders Who Are Creating Workplaces of Belonging.

While a sense of belonging has always been a basic human need, there are pandemic-type forces at work to isolate and/or polarize us. 

We believe we need to fiercely fight against those trends. Focusing on belonging for the greater good is an antidote! By really belonging to a group, we feel as if we are a part of something bigger and more important than ourselves. 

Individually, we do feel like a necessary ingredient, while the WE becomes greater than ME. 

The Belonging Project at Stanford notes,

“Importance of a sense of belonging has been demonstrated through empirical work on human resilience and factors that protect emotional health and personal well-being, even in the context of adversity and trauma. Individuals develop a sense of belonging when they feel connected to other people, especially those who share their distinct life experiences, interests, or goals.”

Numerous studies confirm belonging creates a lower prevalence of mental health issues, less unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, not exercising, not getting enough sleep, and too much alcohol/drugs. 

From an organizational perspective, belonging means one is also meaningfully engaged by intentionally finding ways of giving to others.

 Employees are even more connected when they activate a powerful purpose!

 “We forget how it feels to be filled up by giving to somebody else… When I drink a glass of water, I can feel it hydrating me on the inside. When you give a service to somebody else, it’s the same: It fills you up on the inside. We all have something to give to this world.” 

WE BELONG to an organization where purpose is about transforming lives and creating a place of belonging in a local and global community.

How cool is that? 

Each of us can make the journey from diversity to inclusion, to psychological safety, and ultimately to REAL BELONGING. If you have that continuum, we promise you a more productive and engaged workforce and a more joy-filled life! 

Let’s do it together. 

We will hydrate from the inside out! 

We’re restating our belief that BELONGING will be an emerging theme throughout this decade. 

Why? Think about the difference between when you’ve felt like you’ve really belonged, versus being an outsider. We want to belong without boundaries, fear of discrimination, or limitation. 

Additionally, we want to be able to be part of a tribe by showing up as we truly are, unafraid to make mistakes, able to genuinely speak our mind, and ask for/offer help in an abundant way. This condition for belonging is totally accessible. 

Each of us just needs to genuinely make it so, because we are GIVERS. 

Every one of us will have a last day with every group or organization we are part of. Sometimes that departure will naturally dissolve, like sugar in tea. Other times we will choose to leave for another opportunity, or be asked to leave because our group needs someone or something else we can’t provide. 

Nevertheless, it includes an ending of sorts. What we think we can do much better at, is bridging the notion of belonging at this exit point; when leaving occurs regardless of the reason. Let’s agree that investing and creating belonging feels at odds with any exit. However, there is an increasing amount of people and position restructuring based on the degree of rapid transformation and disruption in the marketplace. 

So what if we changed our approach to these exits, so they become way more dignified than they often are now? (This excludes people who have been egregious in harming others). 

We suggest we focus on treating exits as an extension of belonging. Even if people are asked to leave, we could thoughtfully invite them to be a valuable part of the alumni.

This includes but is not limited to: 

  • A fair severance package. 
  • Varied options of saying goodbye to teammates (no walkouts or disappearance in the middle of the night, and all the other stupid exit protocols created by legal, HR, IT and Risk). 
  • Meaningful support and investment for the person finding their next tribe.
  • Alumni privileges to help people feel like they always are part of the group; they still belong.

Not everyone will want to stay connected. However, it’s desirable that alumni speak highly of their time with a group/organization. This experience can be created if we put our minds to it. What’s stopping us? 

Organizations and teams that are leading the way in terms of performance and engagement are investing in belonging and psychological safety. At the same time, these groups are rapidly changing membership.

Often, this involves team members leaving both voluntarily and involuntarily.

Is it possible to maintain integrity at all levels in this context? We think it is, and we also believe it’s necessary. 

It’s important that psychological safety/belonging, and job security, are NOT to be conflated/confused. They are NOT the same. 

If we’ve learned anything from this whole pandemic situation, no one has job security. Conditions requiring massive restructure for survival can happen overnight. At the same time, ALL of us should expect to work in a psychologically safe environment. We should be able to bring our authentic selves to work and fully contribute in imperfect ways, without fear of repercussion. While it may feel hurtful, we need to know that our membership is subject to rapid and often unexpected change. One day we may be asked to take on a different role or to leave altogether. 

Both organizations and workers need to change mindset, policies, and processes. 

For Management: 

  • Organizations need to make it challenging for people to enter, and ensure people think about their last day, on their very first day. It should be clear that unless something egregious happens, they are now invited to be alumni for life. 
  • Outline the benefits of being an alumni. 
  • Explain that every assignment in the organization is TEMPORARY, including the CEOs. Outline what the leave process/system is in the event the organization has no ongoing role. (Some organizations like Amazon, are signing four-year contracts with key people). 
  • Make leaving an honorable, and always a positive experience. Management must not use this policy to be cavalier in dismissing people, or as a lazy excuse for not investing in people development. 
  • In the intervening time, invest in belonging and develop the person as much as possible. Expect the employee to have a growth mindset

For Workers: 

Join with a mindset of knowing that your involvement is temporary, and may last weeks, months, or perhaps many years. 

Grow your total person and skill set as much as possible during your tenure with the company. Take positive advantage of every opportunity offered. 

Do not settle into a routine, or think you or your job is indispensable. 

Create a lasting legacy of contribution. 

Invest in relations with teammates as if they are lifetime friends. If you’re sincere, many will become just that. 

Leave with dignity and far richer from being with the organization. 

Do NOT resist belonging because of the word temporary. 

If we stand back and think about it, literally nothing in life is permanent. However, what we do and how we do it often is. 

Belong and give with joy, celebrate demarcation points, and be prepared to bring that wonderful gift of contribution elsewhere too.

We want to make a work prediction, and it’s about what many more working people will intentionally NOT do, or stop doing this year. At unprecedented levels, people with any reasonable level of choice, will say NO to doing work that does not personally feel meaningful and purposeful. 

We do not want this statement to come across as aloof, exclusive to knowledge workers, or tone-deaf to the reality of severe unemployment issues. 

Our current environment has taught us many lessons. One of them is a poignant reminder of what is really important to each of us at work. As an example, having a job requiring unnecessary hours of wasteful commuting to and from work, is going to become unreasonable regardless of management dictums and compensation. Waste of time/effort just won’t be worth it to many. Also, working in a toxic organizational culture and/or for a crummy leader is going to get more scrutiny. 

Our Chief of Belonging, Lorne Rubis had an old boss, he used to say the longest two weeks in the world were between pay periods if you were miserable at work. Life and time is too precious. This has always been true, and over the last year, we have ALL seen how fast the world can redefine literally everything.

We will not cling to or put up with crap. 

People at work, regardless of generation, and especially millennials and Z’s, are becoming more discerning and willing to both speak out and act on their feelings. 

They want to work for an organization that advances humankind. 

They expect social justice, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace. And now, amplified by the painful consequences of a pandemic, they are appreciating the importance of BELONGING! 

They want to be able to be their genuine selves, ask for and get authentic help, contribute and make a difference, while feeling trusted and welcome at work (and everywhere). By the way, remote working can provide this desirable work experience. It takes imagination and new mindsets. 

We know we all need to make money for the basics in life, and hopefully a little more. However, what many of us WILL NOT do is to put up with lousy workplaces and leaders. Yes, we need to be personally self-accountable as employees, and bring our imperfect best to work most days. Furthermore, we can’t expect leaders and organizations to be perfect either.

However, if we have little or no space to change ourselves for the better, how can we stay in a work environment that suffocates and denigrates us? 

Many leaders are not clear on specific action they can take to create a more psychologically safe workplace. Let’s work from the premise that you’ve reviewed the research and you’re convinced that you want to move your organization forward on this very important matter. However, you don’t know what to do next. Read on. 

Lorne recalls a time when an executive leader responsible for company safety, wanted to kick around adding a psychological component to an overall physical safety focus. His concern was that my viewpoint caused people like his boss to embrace this idea at the risk of diluting REAL safety (ie.physical). Our response was that we hoped the opposite might be true, that the broader definition would result in a much more effective, productive, adaptive, innovative and comprehensively safe place of work. 

Too often leaders, especially middle management, embrace inertia as their best strategy. A cynical leader may view “Psychological Safety” as a trendy topic at best, or mush-headed weakness at worst. 

Subsequently, rather than digging in and understanding, these leaders prefer to avoid or discount. At the end of our conversation, he asked me: “So what the heck do I do next?” Amy Edmondson, widely recognized as the leading expert on the matter, gives us some guidance.

Lorne referred the caller to the following and wanted to share the same recommendations with you.

What are some actions you could take? 

Consider Amy Edmondson’s guidance as taken from her book, “The Fearless Organization.” 

“1.0 Setting the Stage

 Framing the work

Have I spoken of failures in the right way, given the nature of the work? Do I point out that small failures are the currency of subsequent improvement? 

   Emphasizing Purpose

Have I articulated clearly why our work matters?

2.0 Inviting Participation

Situational Humility

Have I made sure that people know that I don’t think I have all the answers?

Proactive Inquiry

How often do I ask questions of others, rather than just expressing my perspective? 

Systems and Structures

Have I created structures to systematically elicit ideas and concerns?

3.0 Responding Productively

Express Appreciation

Do I acknowledge or thank the speaker for bringing an idea or question to me?

Destigmatize

When someone comes to me with bad news, how do I make sure it’s a positive experience?

Sanction Clear Violations

Have I clarified the boundaries? Do people know what constitutes blameworthy acts in our organization?”

Consciously setting the stage, intentionally inviting participation, and thoughtfully responding proactively will move you, your team, and the organization a long way forward down the road. Start with asking leaders to self-assess and act accordingly.

We’re talking about three simple ways you can apply psychological safety to your workplace. 

You may have read or heard a lot about it, but here are some easy, practical ways to actually implement it into your workweek NOW. 

Please feel free to watch and listen to find out how. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtU5R2jppWg

We ask if you practice psychological safety in your meetings, allowing your team members and organization to show up and bring their true selves and viewpoints to the table. Make it okay. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufiPBsShWoU

Thank You 
Living a life of gratitude

The Team At Belongify

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