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Oswald Women’s Leadership Council: The Power of Belonging

March 20, 2024

Think of a time when you felt a strong sense of belonging to a team or organization. Now, consider a time when you felt like an outsider and didn’t fit in. Whether you felt safe, empowered, isolated or silenced, you probably haven’t forgotten how you were made to feel.

Belonging – a simple word yet a huge concept we all crave.

Belonging is an essential human need worthy of a leader’s attention, and it’s an essential piece of the diversity and inclusion puzzle. It’s one thing to have representation, but it’s another thing to include the underrepresented at the table. We forge a more positive engagement when we make others feel they belong, despite their differences.

When a sense of belonging exists, we improve and so do our organizations. Innovation, team collaboration, productivity and personal well-being are a few ways belonging creates a competitive advantage. Without a feeling of belonging, team members may experience stress and isolation, or may minimize their differences to blend in.

As leaders, do not discount your role in creating and amplifying belonging for each member of your team.

Start by asking yourself a few simple questions.

  1. Do you create opportunities for your team members to bring their whole selves to work?
  2. Who do you find yourself connecting with often? Are there others on your team you tend to ignore?
  3. How often do you spend time with those on your team who may not be gregarious, ambitious or outgoing?
  4. Do you ever ask yourself who is missing from the conversation?
  5. Do you encourage all team members to speak with candor and share their honest opinions?
  6. Do you speak offline with a select group?
  7. Have you ever shared your belonging story with your team?
  8. How much of your authentic self are you showing your team?
  9. When was the last time you shared your purpose, values and goals with your team?
  10. What do you do to shorten moments of uncertainty for your team?

Creating and amplifying a sense of belonging on your team is an active process that requires work. Take on the leadership challenge presented to you daily to show your team members how much you value their contributions and embrace their uniqueness.

View more from the Women’s Leadership Blog Series.

This blog was originally posted on March 28, 2019 and has been updated.