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Oswald Women’s Leadership Council: The Power of Belonging

March 28, 2019
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In February, Oswald’s Abby Lewis, Talent Acquisition Manager, and I attended the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit hosted by the Greater Cleveland Partnership with the intent of gathering information and resources to build Oswald’s internship program further.

Camila Negret of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) moved me with her talk Expanding Diversity to True Inclusion where she shared PwC’s Diversity and Inclusion journey. It was a powerful message about creating and amplifying opportunities to make team members, interns, in particular, feel a sense of belonging.

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.

An important piece of the Diversity & Inclusion puzzle, belonging is an essential human need worthy of a leader’s attention. It’s one thing to have representation, and it’s another thing to include the underrepresented at the table. It’s when we make others feel they belong despite their differences, do we forge a positive effect even more.

When a sense of belonging exists, we improve and so do our organizations, as studies indicate. Innovation, team collaboration, productivity, and personal well-being are a few ways belonging creates a competitive advantage. Without belongingness, 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 belongingness 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 them 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, not passive 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.

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