This article was based on episode 169 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Join a special member’s only event with Josh on September 23, 2021 where we’ll network, interact, and explore our own dimensions of diversity. To attend, become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has taken center stage for many organizations in recent months. Yet fostering DEI alone isn’t going to grow a thriving team. Josh Saterman, the CEO of the leadership development organization Saterman Connect, shares with me the missing letter that brings everything together - the letter B. As Josh explains it, DEI should always lead to a sense of Belonging.
Belonging goes beyond inclusion. It fulfills that human need to be connected to others. It affirms that you can show up to work as your true self, share your unique voice, and be accepted for who you are. Josh explains why belonging is critical to an organizations’ success and what managers can do to foster a sense of belonging with their teams.
WHY BELONGING MATTERS FOR THE BOTTOM LINE
Both research and personal experience have proven that when we feel like we belong, we are more engaged and fulfilled in the work that we do. Employees who feel energized by a sense of belonging are more innovative, which leads to better results for the bottom line. While it may seem like extra time and energy A sense of belonging amongst your team is therefore in everyone’s best interest.
Vernā Myers, the Inclusion Strategist at Netflix, offers a fantastic analogy for belonging. Verna describes Diversity as being invited to a party, Inclusion as being asked to dance, and Equity and Belonging like being able to pick out the music and help plan the event. Employees who feel a sense of belonging feel like co-creators of the experience rather than just passengers along for the ride. Within the context of an organization, it’s when employees have a sense of ownership of the culture they experience every day.
THE BEST WAYS TO CREATE BELONGING IN THE WORKPLACE
Create Opportunities to Speak Up
Trust and belonging develops when employees feel comfortable speaking up. But speaking up can be particularly difficult for those who feel like a minority voice within the organization. If you work for a larger organization, explore creating a Diversity Council or Employee Resource Groups (ERG) for employees to meet regularly with various leaders to discuss how to create more inclusive practices and policies. This may involve topics like onboarding, hiring, or meeting procedures.
If you run a small team, don’t call out or tokenize those who are in the minority. Just create space for collective forums to happen where people can reflect on what the organization or team might do to be more inclusive and equitable. Use facilitation techniques like round robins or anonymous polling to make sure that everyone contributes to the conversation, and then take actions based on those talks.
Share Stories, Not Belief Systems
Sometimes team members come from different backgrounds and therefore have conflicting belief systems. On the surface, this can make it feel incredibly difficult to talk about controversial issues like race, gender, and religion. The most effective way to talk about issues is by sharing stories rather than ideologies. When we share stories, we see things from others’ perspectives. This is one of the most effective ways to open up our hearts to each other. Through stories and empathy, we start to create a sense of understanding and belonging.
Become A Humble Listener
Employees will only feel comfortable speaking up if managers demonstrate an authentic willingness to listen. Listening can be hard for managers, particularly if employees are telling you things that you don’t want to hear. Cultivating belonging by listening is a humbling practice. It requires us to listen without defensiveness and show gratitude for the feedback or input, even if we don’t fully agree with it. As managers, we need to lean into what Carol Dweck calls Growth Mindset and realize that all of our failings are not failures, but just opportunities to change and do better.
Do Your Research
There’s a lot that we can do on our own to learn about our employees’ cultures. To start, try Googling it! Instead of making it our staff’s responsibility to educate us, look up information about things you may not know like Juneteenth, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, or Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, to name a few. When your employee requests a day off for their holiday, take the opportunity to learn more by asking what this holiday means to them. Acknowledging who they are builds trust and a sense of being seen.
Even though it’s great to educate yourself on holidays and histories that are relevant to your employees, be careful not to make assumptions. Each employee relates differently to their culture or background. Taking the time to ask how the holiday is relevant to them will build your understanding of them as an individual.
Remember That Everyone Is Diverse
As Josh puts it, even two white, cisgender men sitting at the same table have diverse dimensions. One may have a child with a disability, an uncle who is gay, or four kids at home. We all have stories to share with each other, to open up our minds to each other’s perspective. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging is an issue that affects us all.
Belonging develops when managers take implementing DEI to the next level. It’s not just about creating fair policies and procedures. It’s about the ongoing conversation. Are your team members co-creators of the workplace experience, or are they just showing up to follow orders? When we feel like we belong, we are safe to express our full selves and therefore contribute our full set of unique gifts to drive the organization forward.
KEEP UP WITH JOSH
Join a special member’s only event with Josh on September 23, 2021 where we’ll network, interact, and explore our own dimensions of diversity. To attend, become a member at themodernmanager.com/join. Purchase individual episode guides at themodernmanager.com/shop to help you implement the learnings and continue to enhance your rockstar manager skills.
This article was based on episode 169 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.