Diversity, Equality and Inclusion have become important principles or values for many organisations. Driving this, is the research that highlights the positive economic reasons for DEI, the sustainability of business driven by diverse workforces, and the strong ethical reasons to back DEI.
Yet many DEI agendas have stalled, or not achieved the outcomes they had wanted. Perhaps because we are all different and this creates a zero-sum game? Perhaps because systemic tension promotes the need for order, and one way of perceived order is to retreat to past structures? Perhaps because DEI practices, for all their best intentions, help to build tribes rather than truly diverse communities?
In an organisational sense, Belonging is acceptance and feeling fully part of a bigger collective. As Wikipedia states, often “people tend to have an ‘inherent’ desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves.”
Belonging “belongs” to everyone. Belonging to a successful and inclusive team is a truly rich experience for anyone that takes organisational life seriously. It is core to intrinsic motivation and instinctively provides drive to perform and engagement with the group’s purpose and strategy. . Belonging drives engagement and productivity.
If team leadership creates the condition for all to belong, then there is little need to champion many of the specific agendas of DEI as people are already included.
Belonging can be fostered as a core informal structure for any team or business. The smaller the unit the easier. So starting at a team level is important and sensible.
The first step is for the leader to find their own true purpose for wanting a team they lead to experience belonging. Task focused leaders may find this challenging at first, and will need to see the benefits of attending to team culture in this way. Once committed, belonging can be shaped by:
- Commitment across the whole team to a shared purpose
- Deepening the density of communication across the team
- Consciously working to reduce fragmentation and disconnection that blocks execution.
- Increasing trust as a team ingredient through elevating both support and challenge
- Find more opportunity for genuine collective decision making involving all of the team
Belonging may supplant the need to attend to many of the detailed DEI requirements now in place
It generates motivation that drives all of the team to higher productivity and will significantly increase engagement. It takes the pressure of the team leader to drive tasks and own most decisions.
And importantly it reveals to individuals and teams some hidden systemic forces that once addressed can grow leadership maturity. Belonging comes through healthy supportive relationship and is a foundation for trust.