When we all focus on creating a sense of belonging at work, it helps us feel secure, supported, accepted, and included. I was reminded of this recently when I took my son to his Civil Air Patrol meeting. It was around 40 minutes from my home, and I had a few hours to wait for him, so I decided to pop into an Italian restaurant that I had visited a handful of times in recent weeks.
As I walked in, the server cheerfully greeted me with a smile and said, “Hi Heather.” The lady must have picked up on my name and remembered me from a previous visit several weeks ago. This experience made me feel incredibly special and extremely valued as a customer. But more than anything, it gave me a sense of belonging.
When we think of diversity and equity inclusion, it also includes this same sense of belonging. Regular readers will know that my personal story from my Ted Talk and many articles where I have explored what true belonging actually is. I have shared how I often felt excluded as a child and literally like the black sheep of the family. They loved me, but they needed to keep me hidden.
There was a time that I never felt important or that my voice mattered. These experiences made me more resilient and inspired me to help other people feel like they do belong. For me, this sense of belonging gives you a special place where you are treated as an essential part of a group or a valued member of a team.
When I walked into the Italian restaurant that day and was warmly greeted by my name, it reminded me of the TV Show Cheers. Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. We return to places like this because people know who you are and make you feel like you’re important. When others see the value that we bring to the table, it enables us to be the best version of ourselves.
The reason I wanted to share this story with you all is to encourage you to think about belonging from an organizational perspective. What can your organization do to create that sense of belonging? For example, one leader that inspires me is Gary Ridge from WD-40. He greets his team members personally when they walk into the door and proudly calls them his tribe.
Although WD-40 is a billion-dollar company, Gary gets up early every morning to greet team members by their name as they walk in. In doing so, he has created a sense of belonging and a sense of importance. After the events over the last 12 months, I think this is something that every organization and individual is missing.
When thinking about your organization, how can you design your processes to create a sense of belonging and importance at every touchpoint of your employees and customers’ journey? It’s something I encourage everybody reading this to think about. Remember, if you want to carry on this conversation or need help exploring this topic further, please reach out to me.