Belonging encompasses the feeling that you have value in a home or a place in which you are fully accepted. When it comes to the workplace and inclusive leadership, creating a culture of belonging means more now than it ever has, especially in the wake of the Great Resignation. Seeking to understand your people goes beyond who they are once they walk through the door. It’s a deeper level of recognizing their intricacies that extend beyond the workplace. Everything they go through plays a huge part in who they show up as each and every day. Welcoming your employees’ voices and input helps them feel safe and cared for.
A Deeper Understanding
You know the saying, “walk a mile in their shoes?” One of the biggest mistakes leaders continually display is making assumptions about people. Assumptions lead to microaggressions, misunderstanding, and otherwise harmful behaviors. Start to understand your employees better by practicing active listening and including everyone’s voices in the conversation. The deeper your understanding of your people goes, the better suited you will be to find the perfect fit for them within your organization.
It’s equally as important to foster relationships among your team as a whole. When you introduce a new team member, make it personal. Keep the dialog flowing and always make an effort to ask questions about how they are and truly listen to what they have to say. Make it a habit to check back in with them, especially if they have shared a hardship with you. Listening is one of the biggest skills you can hone in on within leadership, and this is a great time for it to stand out.
Learning to Trust
Seek out your teams’ strengths and let them shine. Always get their input and make sure to include everyone on your team when it comes to meetings, gathering opinions, and be sure to always genuinely value their feedback. Ask them where they think they do best and where their biggest area for improvement is. Ask them which part of their job is their favorite; we tend to enjoy doing what we’re good at! If you have already spent time connecting with and getting to know your team better, it won’t be too challenging to discover their unique talents.
On the flip side, learn to let go and not micromanage. Delegating tasks from your to-do list shows that you trust your team to get the job done and can foster collaboration. Accompany these new behaviors with recognition and positive feedback, even if the result is a failure. Commend your employees for trying and testing their limits and show respect by fully engaging in whatever your people have to say.
You can begin this process of inclusion by sharing your own stories first and leading by example to show how powerful the desire to belong really is. Ironically, one of the biggest steps to creating a sense of belonging is, in fact, inclusion. You will only feel that you truly belong somewhere if you are welcomed to the table. Trust is the foundation for any safe space to be possible, but there needs to be an explicit and implicit invitation to your employees to speak openly and honestly. Give them your full attention by making eye contact and eliminating distractions. Let them know by your physical actions that when they speak, you are ready to listen.
Mentorship and professional relationships can make or break a career. You can take small steps to improve your inclusive leadership and help someone by sharing your own journey and listening to theirs. You’ll get a chance to share your successes and failures and you’ll hear another person’s diversity of experience. When it comes to creating belonging at work, it isn’t just about creating psychological safety, though of course that is extremely important. But you’re building and optimizing the connection of your community and your people. Embrace a culture of belonging, and you will see your people grow and collaborate even more, which will produce all the positive business results for which you are aiming to achieve.