“Way to get a piece of it!”
You’ve probably heard this phase if you’re a baseball mom like me. My teenage son has a passion for baseball, which began when he was really young. He’s played on many different teams, some more successful than others.
But when I ask him which team has been his favorite, it isn’t the winning team. In fact, it is the team where he felt a connection to the coach that is the most memorable. The team where the coach took the time to get to know him personally and made him feel like a valued member of the team is where he played the best.
We see the same phenomena in the corporate world. The more included employees feel, the more engaged they are. And we want engaged employees because, according to Forbes, they “are better producers, they’re more committed to the organization, and they are in it for the relative long haul.” This means that as leaders, we need to focus on being inclusive.
Below are some tips for helping employees feel a sense of belonging.
Take stock of your own biases. As humans, we all have biases. Bias gives us the ability to navigate a world in which we are constantly confronted with a large amount of information. All of us use our own perceptions to filter this information, which includes the biases we’ve adopted over time. We also have unconscious biases that we may or may not be aware of—these are prejudices we form about certain groups of people that help shape our perceptions, whether we realize it or not. As leaders, it is imperative that we identify the unconscious biases we have so that we can better inform our actions.
Really get to know your team. Spend time with individual team members to find out what makes them unique—not just the things we can see on the outside, but what lies underneath. How do they like to communicate? How do they like to work? Are they an extrovert or an introvert? What do they find value in? Finding out what makes an individual unique puts you in a better position to find ways to foster the relationship, which helps create a sense of inclusiveness and belonging.
Focus on being transparent. At the end of the day, we’re all humans living in a fast-paced, stressful environment. Let your team see you for who you are: a human being who is willing to take risks and own mistakes. One who is real, authentic, and sometimes vulnerable. One who is willing to give feedback, but also accept feedback. And one who recognizes others’ contributions rather than their limitations.
Think about your own experiences being on a team. Where were you the most successful and why? We would love to hear from you. Share your experiences with us!