I was already a foot shorter and I shrunk further in their presence.
Yup, that’s how I felt in my college years. The culture seemed to be dominated by tall men who went to prep school. They played basketball or rowed crew.
Their discussions seemed to take place literally above my head.
I felt I didn’t belong. At social gatherings and parties, I felt like I didn’t have anything to add. I felt those parties were not for me. Sometimes I would just slink home from the party, by myself
We all have a story (more likely MANY stories) of times we felt we didn’t belong.
As my colleague Denice Torres (former C-suite leader and President of multiple divisions at Johnson and Johnson) says:
Flex time, free lunches, and modest raises won’t fix the problem of a tight labor market and 20% of millenials changing jobs each year. We’ve “been there, done that.” The revolution required by leaders and their organization begins in the heart. Through genuine caring about our people and working to ensure every individual feels like they are heard, appreciated, rewarded for their work, and celebrated for their differences we can dramatically improve our financial performance and employee engagement.
Does this sound good but maybe naïve or pie in the sky?
Actually, we’ve got numbers on our side on this one.
According to Gallup, companies who created this sense of Belonging posted sizable gains through the last recession, compared with a significant decline at those who didn’t.
Recent research even found that a sense of Belonging is as good a retention strategy as good pay and benefits
When we are happy and feel connected we are more productive.
Are you creating a sense of belonging on your team? In your organization? In your family and community?
Here are five things you can start doing today to create a sense of Belonging around you:
1. Check in – A recent study by EY found that people feel the greatest sense of belonging when their colleagues check in with them, both personally and professionally. Yes it can be that simple, Just Ask. And Listen!
2. Give Personal Recognition – Recognize people for their contributions. This is the #1 thing that makes them feel they belong.For example, in my virtual coaching program that gets women next level roles, I start each coaching call asking for ‘wins/accomplishments.’ When a participant shares, I reflect back to her the qualities that enabled her to create that win. Then I require her to “own it.” From this watering of her soil, you can feel each woman blossom and take chances she wouldn’t before.
3. Pay personal attention Everyone around you is going to have some differences on dimensions of diversity, whether that is gender, race, age, cognitive styles. Elicit their input and opinions, value their ideas (especially from those that don’t speak up as much). Care about their concerns.
4. Inspire – Create a vision that is so inspiring it raises everyone’s sense of possibility. Make it a burning platform. Striving toward a stretch goal with a compelling purpose bonds your team members to one another and to the organization.
5. Create a No B.S. Zone around you. Be real, talk like a human! Move out from behind the shield of corporate speak. Be appropriately vulnerable.
Do you want to create a sense of belonging in order to increase loyalty, retention, engagement, and productivity?
Denice and I are training leaders in companies how to create a sense of belonging. Email me to learn more about what we’re doing to help companies create this in their culture.
Thank you for making your world a better place,
P.S. When I was asked to speak at two of my ‘big number’ College reunions, some of those ‘tall guys’ I never spoke to came up and talked with me. We immediately connected and talked ‘real’ with one another. That greatly increased my sense of belonging and now I/we all crave to be together.