I first felt my heart skip a beat when I learned about belonging, along with diversity and inclusion, from Pat Wadors. Her DIBs course changed my world.
You might be constantly asking the question: “Do I fit in on this team and in this company?”
Now, a better question to ask is: “Do I belong on this team and in this company?”
To “belong” is a simple word, but it has grown to mean a lot more. In every team, workplace and community that you are a part of, ask the question “Do I belong?” versus “Do I fit in?”
I look back to my childhood days when the first group of friends helped me to realize that I belong even though we were in an international Indian school with students from around the world. I never asked what belonging meant in a team or a workplace or a community. Each experience over the past few decades has helped me realize that the world is more united than distributed, with our diverse perspectives across ethnicities, genders, ages and disabilities, to name a few.
Career Transition: Finding A New Home Where You Belong
When you go through a career transition, this becomes paramount. It requires finding your purpose and a place where you can be your own true self. A friend of mine shared two questions with me that I keep on sticky notes in front of my workspace at home:
- Is it making me happy now?
- Will it make me happy in the future?
This made me wonder, would these simple questions answer the power of belonging?
As I interviewed for a new role, I was in search of companies and teams that lived by their values and whose values resonated with my core beliefs. It’s one thing to talk about diversity and inclusion, but actions speak louder than words.
If you are in a career transition and find a good role, look at the company’s culture and values. Are the values authentic? Consider asking for examples from the hiring manager or human resources team of how they live their values.
Here is a question that helped me assess mutual fit, synergy and a better understanding of the role and responsibilities ahead: “What is the №1 challenge/opportunity for this role on day one, or after 30 or 90 days?”
If you get an honest answer, then you know what to expect. Yes, there will always be ambiguity. That’s where the fun begins to challenge the norm. Bring your authentic self to help solve these challenges, and prepare yourself and the team for the future. Personally, this question helped me to assess if I would belong in the new environment, and the answer is important to help make the right choice with the context you have.
Foster Belonging From Day One
For new leaders of teams or communities, here are a few tips that have helped me to provide a sense of belonging to all members of my team and foster a safe environment where everyone’s voice is heard.
- You’re not going to have all the answers. Believe in collective intelligence, shared wisdom and understanding. Sharing is caring.
- Bring out the best in one another. Hold no judgments, and be willing to listen and share diverse perspectives.
- There is no right or wrong answer, and no one individual is smarter than anyone else in the room. Our perspectives make us who we are, and we all have a place in the group with our similarities and differences.
In today’s times, many of us are talking the talk, but are we truly walking the walk? How can we, as leaders, do more to help our teams, workplaces and communities come together to be one?
Diversity, Equity And Inclusion: Be The Change
In my recent research, I came across some powerful initiatives aimed at working toward diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). For example, Diversity Plug gives access to diversity and equality data. Companies can join and publicly disclose their diversity data, while consumers and employees can ask companies to be transparent and make diversity data public.
The I ACT ON pledge encourages the commitment of leaders today to act on supporting inclusion. And two organizations highlight companies that are inclusive: InHerSight publishes “The 50 Best Places to Work As Rated by the Women Who Work There” list, and the Disability Equality Index publishes the “DEI Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion” list.
Knowledge Is Power
Knowledge is how we are going to lead and empower the leaders of tomorrow to belong and be their own true selves. Today, many employees want to support and grow businesses that value what they value. It’s no longer just about an amazing product or excellent customer service. We expect and demand more from ourselves, our teams and organizations around the world. We can all do more and be better than yesterday for a brighter tomorrow and for the next generation.
Let’s create an equitable workplace and actively listen to employees, teams and leaders. Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging don’t start or stop on your team. Go beyond and expand them to your workplace, community, interest groups, neighborhood, etc., until we reach everywhere.
When we really see each other, we can help each other to open up and connect — to belong.
A quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald sums up the idea of belonging for me:
“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com.