“Belonging”, what a word! Simply writing it, and hopefully reading it, creates a feeling of safety, security, and the sense you have found a home where you can thrive in who you are at your core and your purpose. The opposite of “Belonging”, professionally and personally is quite sad; when someone feels they don’t belong, are outside the bubble, and what they bring to the party isn’t celebrated or appreciated. As a Leader, I would hope “Belonging” means something to you and is a gift you provide your Leaders, Employees, and Organization as a whole. Yes, it’s gotten much more challenging due to the increase in Hybrid and Remote Work, but not impossible! So, how do you do it when your people are physically in the office or remote?
I cannot stress it enough, CONNECTION MATTERS… As a Leader, it’s amazing how much more people will do for you, with you, because of you, and forgive about your requests, your favors, organizational change, and a bit of organizational dysfunction when they have a great connection with you! I’ve known Employees who dislike their job and the organization but stay and do great work because they are connected to their Team, Coworkers, their and/or Boss, or the Vision. I’ve also found connection enhances when The 5C’s are paramount within a Team: Connection, Curiosity, Congregation, Collaboration, and Celebration!
As a Leader, are you curious why your people show up every day and what they want to get out of working for the organization and with you? Years ago, I presented a Leadership & School/Life Harmony speech for a University’s Football Team and asked, “Why do you play this sport and what do you want to get out of the season?”. It surprised me… and their coaches that only three players said, “To win a championship”. Many players said because they love the game, they liked being around the guys/their friends, or to maintain their scholarship.
My point is, Leaders don’t assume to know why their people are showing up daily or what they want to get out of it! The great news regarding the example I shared is, none of the players knew their teammates “Why”, but afterward some of the players who were on the team to be around their friends began to give extra effort because they knew their teammate really wanted to win or go to the next level (The NFL). That NFL-focused player began to engage in more small talk with the teammates that wanted friendship or may have been going through a rough time at home.
In some organizations, we let BUSY beat us and the only time we’re curious about Employees is in the initial interview or when we want to promote them for doing one part of their job really well. Why are your people showing up daily? What do they want to get out of working for the company or for you? How can you help? What advice can you give? Whatever their answer, what great information to help them stay on course or allow for accountability when a “Tough Conversation” may need to be had… Be Mindful!
You’ve heard me say, CONNECTION Matters… so does PROXIMITY! I remember my first job out of college, I worked as a Residential Treatment Facility Activity Facilitator… which means I worked with teens and adults struggling with Mental Health in a facility and I got paid to do fun activities… such as playing basketball, baseball, go on field trips, you name it! The closeness and connection I was able to form with the Residents due to regular congregation was beyond powerful… and it certainly served me well when crisis would occur and my relationship and willingness allowed quicker de-escalation… most of the time, Lol!
After being promoted, I shared an office with all staff on the Unit. After leaving for another position, I shared an office with five staff and coworkers. By my final promotion, I had an office all to myself… and when they approached me years later to share an office again, I darn near quit on the spot! Somewhere along the line… as for many of us… the further we get away from the masses (Front-Line Employees and those our organization really serves), the more we lose our superpower to congregate; therefore our ability to connect and know the pulse of our business, the building, and our people!
Congregation, in terms of Hybrid & Remote Work entails intentional gathering with a purpose. It may be to meet regularly to review processes, success, or projects. It may mean a planned fun workday when the company or Leaders treat their people to lunch, a fun activity in the community, or bringing in a Speaker like myself to positively influence, impact, teach, and inspire a sense of increased belonging. Yes, some of your people will moan and groan… wanting to get back to their job or complain that its dumb… but an email from John who you met at the company get-together is usually taken more seriously that that email you got from the person you don’t know from Department J… Be Mindful!
In regards to Work/Life Harmony, the same can happen in your home. In my first apartment, I could stand in the living room, see every room in the entire place, and raise my arms to touch the ceiling! Although it drove me crazy at times… I never felt closer to my kids; as I heard every conversation, saw how they played, what they liked, their friends, and we ate every meal looking at each other! As you become more successful, the house gets bigger… and your kids and significant other disperse throughout the house. Each have their own room or wing of the house… and if you’re not intentional about curiosity, connection, and congregation… there will be none; and the consequences are slow and devastating!
Not many things make a person or Employee feel like they belong more than asking their opinion, using it, and rewarding them for it! I do this in two ways:
- Let’s take it to the Doctor! – When I have a BIG Idea, I take it to my Team to share… and the purpose is to take it to the Doctor to see what’s great about it, what needs to be addressed, and the best way to follow-through! My vision is… “We will be successful and provide an elite, real, and classy experience”; that’s not up for debate, but how we get there is! My second step is to put our discussion and plans into immediate action. Have you ever sat in 17 meetings about the same thing and nothing has happened yet? GET STARTED! I share with my Team, when you present an idea, one of three things will happen… your idea is so great, we have to go with it, we may fine-tune it, or it’s not within The Vision, Vision factors, or on-brand. When they can adjust their idea to fit… why not move forward!
- Call Out! – On calls with my Team or conducting a Training or Speaking Engagement… sometimes the quietest people in the room have the best answers. I call them “Silent Assassins”! They’ve heard, watched, and observed in the audience, in meeting after meeting, or on Zoom Calls; why not ask and hear what they’re thinking or what their Biggest Takeaway was? You may be surprised by what the quietest person in the room, the call, or the presumed “low-man on the totem pole” has to say! They may be more surprised YOU took THEM seriously and actually cared to know their thoughts… let alone implement them!
Remember, collaboration increases feelings of safety! If you’re asking for ideas and feedback and no one’s volunteering… you may have a BIGGER issue in which people don’t feel safe. Perhaps it’s due to organizational, leadership, or coworker issues within your company or perhaps someone was professionally abused at previous jobs and learned it’s unsafe to share or speak up in meetings. As a Leader, you may not be able to implement every idea, but every person must feel safe enough to share; allowing you to make your “Yes’s” powerful and you’re “No’s “ meaningful!
Celebrating is monumental! What’s the point of winning in business if you’re not going to celebrate others or the wins? That’d be like winning the Super Bowl, having no confetti drop from the sky, no celebration in the locker room, and getting in the car to go home as if nothing happened! However, every win doesn’t have to be celebrated like The Super Bowl… some celebrations are small, some are big, some are public, some private, some formal, and some informal. Here are three common sense and easy-to-apply ideas; as I’m sure you have your own:
- P.O.W.! – I swear by this in the beginning of all meetings and 1-on-1’s as the best way to celebrate others and connect! When it’s the first meeting or 1-on-1 with a new team or person, the Leader must always go first to provide a model for how to answer and provide time for their people to think… otherwise, you’ll hear crickets and boring answers, Lol! You share your Positive of the Week, both professionally and personally. When in a group, ask 3 or 4 people to get their P.O.W. ready and share in 90 seconds or less. Everyone that shares gets an applause; as I don’t know anyone going home to a standing ovation! Do you know how long it’s been since most people have been applauded for?
You’ll be amazed by some of the things you’ll hear and learn about your employees and coworkers. A few that still stand out as I conduct Trainings at organizations are, “I just became a Grandparent”… every Grandparent can’t wait to share about their Grandkids! “My daughter stopped getting bullied”. “I won a crochet tournament”. “My son hit the game-winning shot”. I could go on, but you get the point!
- Emails! – Celebrate your people and their incredible work with an Appreciative & Thank You Email… It Matters… especially regarding Hybrid & Remote Work!
- Events! – Plan and schedule celebratory events for your Team or Organization. Some can be as informal as a Happy-Hour to celebrate a birthday, a lunch to celebrate the end of a project and job well-done, or as big as a workday event to hand out awards for years of service and above and beyond effort. It’s funny, the same job I burnt-out of years ago… I was miserable, but still wanted my Acknowledgement Pin and to walk across the stage to receive it at my 10-year mark… and would have been crushed if I was forgotten. It matters more than you think and may be more than a person has ever received… Be Mindful!
You now know the 5C’s to best create a sense of Belonging for your Leaders and Employees… the Magic 6th C would be CARE! Asking your people what you or the organization could do to make them feel as if they “Belong” and be willing to marry what you want to do, with what they need most. Be sure to do it just a bit out of your comfort zone; not so much you wind up resenting them or the task! In closing, what was your Biggest Takeaway from the 5C’s? What homework are you going to give yourself from A Leader’s Belonging to enhance your Leadership & Work/Life Harmony… and that of those you’re leading?
“It’s amazing how much more people will do for you, with you, because of you, and forgive about your requests, your favors, organizational change, and a bit of organizational dysfunction when they have a great connection with you… Be Mindful!” – Andre Young
Written by: Andre Young
Looking to impact your Organization, Leaders, Teams, and Employees with a Leadership Training or Speaker? Click www.youevolvingnow.com to connect, chat, and customize with Andre Young!