Leaders: Creating a Sense of Belonging Makes Your Team Stronger

This post was written by Jay Prewitt, Director of Coaching and Facilitation at The Latimer Group. 

It was Saturday, January 28, 2023, and I was on my way to Starbucks, and then a hike in Laguna Canyon, when my phone rang. It was my colleague, our CEO Dean, and I immediately wondered if I would be heading back home to get in front of my laptop. But I soon realized that this call was about something other than work.

The day before, the Memphis Police Department released the recordings of Tyre Nichols being beaten to death. And on this Saturday, Dean wasn’t calling to talk business. He was calling to ask me how I was doing. He let me know that he was aware of what had occurred. He checked on my well-being, created a safe space to express my feelings, and let me know that I would have the space in our Monday meeting to decide how, or if, I wanted to discuss the topic.

That call meant a lot to me.

I‘m not sharing this simply to brag on Dean, be voyeuristic on a private conversation, or make this blog overtly political. I’m sharing because this conversation deepened the well of trust I have in my boss, allowing me to feel comfortable bringing my whole self to work. Research shows that trust is the glue that positively binds people to their organizations. And we know that people usually don’t quit organizations; they quit bosses. 

This trust is essential to the concept of Belonging, a concept I and my colleagues care deeply about. Belonging is a relatively new concept in the realm of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and many organizations are still trying to figure out how to create Belonging in their environment. But don’t let the newness of this conversation make you feel overwhelmed. You can create Belonging in your work environment without being a DEI expert. This conversation doesn’t have to be tedious or complicated.

Deloitte defines Belonging in three concepts: comfort, connection, and contribution. As a leader or a colleague, you can make everyone feel at home at work, like an integral part of the team, and that what they do matters. This process is more about holding space than being an expert on their individual situation. Every person is unique, notwithstanding the ways people can identify.

People need to bring their whole selves to work to feel whole. This is good obviously for the mental and physical well-being of the individual. It is also good for the well-being of the organization. Organizations that do this well get better performance from their human capital, less turnover, more people getting promoted, and fewer people calling out sick. Those are solid results for a concept that feels as theoretical and abstract as Belonging.

My colleagues and I make this case every day regarding communication skills. If you have taken our workshops, you know we disagree with calling communication a soft skill, which makes quality communication seem optional and secondary. We know that strong communication skills drive hard, quantifiable results in the workplace, and that this is a skill we all need if our business is to thrive. The same can be said for Belonging. It is directly connected to your business results. And it’s also just the right thing to do.

When executed well, a sense of Belonging can create bonds of understanding and connection that bring people together and create healing spaces. This result is the icing on the cake.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Jay Prewitt

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.