Do you have a sense of belonging on your team or within your organization?

As many of you know, the mission for my work is for “every voice to be heard.” I recently read the book No Hard Feelings by Fosslien and Duffy. There are lots of good ideas on how to create a sense of belonging on your team or within your organization. These ideas may fuel you to think of other actions you can take to make everyone feel they belong. This matters.

What does “belonging” mean to you? Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having that voice be heard.

To create a sense of belonging on your team:

  • Use a colleague’s name in conversation. (This requires you to ask and remember how to correctly pronounce it.)
  • Once a month, grab coffee or lunch with a coworker you don’t know that well. Take the opportunity to learn more about who they are and what they do.
  • When new hires start, help them get to know others. When you introduce them to someone, don’t just say, “Hey you two should talk!” Instead find and mention an interest they share (ideally one that’s not work related) to give them a conversational starting point.
  • When someone joins a conversation, take a moment to bring them up to speed.
  • If colleagues go out of their way to help you, thank them.
  • When someone is talking to you, don’t multitask. Stop what you are doing and give them your full attention.
  • If you notice people getting cut off in mid-sentence, make a point to jump in and ask them to continue sharing their thoughts.
  • Always say “hi” to people you pass by or meet up on Zoom. (Lynne’s addition.)

To create a culture of belonging:

  • Assume good intentions: if colleagues you know and trust misstep, explain why their behavior made you feel excluded, etc. and propose an alternate action. Give people room to learn from their mistakes.
  • Belonging starts with onboarding: call new hires before their start date to tell them what to expect at orientation and to answer any questions.
  • Assign culture buddies: pair new hires with employees who already understand the culture. These buddies answer questions., give feedback, and help new hires understand that feeling a bit out of place is normal.
  • Make sure belonging does not nosedive in meetings: appoint one person to be an objective observer in meetings. That person records group dynamics, noting who speaks the most, who isn’t given any time to speak, and who keeps talking over other people. The observer than recommends ways to improve group dynamics.

 Advice on creating a sense of belonging for virtual workers:

  • Once we have earned it, trust us.
  • Set clear expectations. Measure our results.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t get a ping every five minutes.
  • Be mindful of time zones. Delay decision making until you have heard from everyone who should be involved.
  • Send stuff: a physical package, i.e. company swag, a cake, books, or handwritten notes.
  • Help us meet one another. Set up virtual lunches; teatimes.
  • Randomly pair employees with others at the company once a week. There is no set agenda…talk about families, hobbies, favorite shows or books, etc.

And if you are interested in measuring the “sense of belonging” on your team or within your organization, check out this survey. If you wish to have it administered anonymously, just let me know…no charge to you.

Click Here To Begin Free Survey

Lasso Leadership Principles

Ted Lasso, played by Jason Sudeikis, is a victorious collegiate football coach from Kansas City who is surprisingly recruited to be the Head Coach of a struggling soccer club in London. This Apple TV series models high performing leadership in so many ways. You must check it out. Here is how the winnngeq.com website describes it:

  1. LEAD WITH EMPATHY

He takes the time to listen to people around him, and always tries to put himself in their shoes so he can fully understand them and figure out how he can get the best out of them. As a result, each person he interacts with is left feeling cared for and heard.

  1. NEVER TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY

His credibility and coaching methods are subject to immediate and ongoing judgment, bolstered by unfavorable name calling from the British public, and even his own players. He shows us how to stay grounded in who you are and your leadership philosophies despite overwhelming scrutiny.

  1. WINNING AND LOSING IS NOT EVERYTHING

Winning and losing provides incentive and motivation to perform at our best, and yes, both carry consequences, especially in professional sport. Yet he doesn’t view winning as everything, or indeed the only thing. For him, the journey of inspiring others to grow and step into possibility is what drives him as a leader.

  1. EQUALITY OVER HIERARCHY

He disregards rank at the ground level, and he also strives to bridge the gap to the highest level of the organization, always encouraging the club’s owner to “join the team downstairs” more often.

  1. EMPOWERMENT BREEDS CONFIDENCE

He empowers his “kit man” to perform tasks beyond his role. He also encourages each player to give their input on game tactics, which creates a sense of ownership, leading to more engagement and motivation.

  1. NOBODY IS BIGGER THAN THE TEAM

Coaching a team of high performers will likely mean managing large egos and resolving personality conflicts. He tirelessly communicates his message that the team comes first, no matter your talent or superstar status.

  1. OPTIMISM IS INFECTIOUS

He is the eternal optimist, and this creates a mixture of first impressions. Not everybody knows how to take his almost over the top enthusiasm and positivity, but despite their initial resistance, they inevitably develop a soft spot for him. His “can-do” attitude creates a ripple effect that raises the collective vibration around him.

  1. HUMOR CUTS THROUGH TENSION

There is something to be said about injecting humor into a high-pressure environment at the right time, helping to ease the tension and remind players to relax and enjoy their work.

  1. EMBRACE CHANGE

The thought of leaving the comfort of your hometown to live in a foreign city abroad is scary enough for most people. Add to that coaching a sport you know nothing about at the professional level, and you’re left with very few individuals who’d be willing to take that on. He faces changes within the change throughout, embracing each challenge with humility and grace, always looking for the opportunities they present.

  1. BE A GOLDFISH

Which is the best animal to embody when you make a mistake? The one with a memory that lasts between 5 – 10 seconds of course. Next time you need to shake it off and get back to optimal performance…be a goldfish.

  1. COURAGEOUS LEADERSHIP EARNS TRUST

Despite his discomfort, he still finds the courage to have the crucial conversations, because he knows it will improve the individual, and serve the culture of the team. He also makes some massively courageous decisions in the face of ridicule, that earns the respect and trust of the people that matter the most.

  1. BELIEVE

Self-doubt can be crippling, especially when the odds seem stacked against us. It is virtually impossible for us to achieve our desires if we don’t believe we are either capable or deserving of achieving them. He teaches us that we must believe to achieve and remember to have as much fun as possible on the journey.

People Are Talking About You

As many of you know, I administer anonymous and confidential 360 Feedback Surveys as part of my leadership coaching process. Although I may be working myself out of a job, I recommend this article by Ron Carucci, Forbes, Feb 11, 2019:  Leaders:  Here is How to Find Out What People Really Think About You. Following are excerpts that will whet your appetite to read the entire article:

Knowing how others experience you is fundamental to influencing effectively. You don’t need a formal 360 process to find out how others experience you. People are talking about you. You should get in on the conversation. Pay attention to, and act upon, all of the data you are already getting:

Ask for pushback.  Whether in meetings, or one on one, if you don’t have people routinely offering dissenting ideas or concerns about actions you take or have taken, you should worry. No news is not necessarily good news.  After meetings where particularly difficult/decisions issues are discussed, check in with a few team members: “How did that go and what could have been done differently? Effective leaders simply ask for feedback on a regular basis in more intimate settings where the conversation can enhance the relationship.  

Read cues and faces.  The greatest “mirror” reflecting how others experience you is the faces of those around you. They can provide a steady stream of useful feedback about how your words and actions are perceived. When people avoid eye-contact with you, when talkative colleagues become quiet, or when even-keeled colleagues get defensive, pay attention. While people may withhold verbal feedback, their faces and bodies will often tell a different story. Offer your observations with curiosity. When moods or countenance take a sudden shift, ask, “Tell me how I should interpret your silence,” or “You suddenly seem to not want to look directly at me. I’m concerned something I’ve said isn’t sitting well.”

Monitor how you narrate the story.  We are notoriously bad observers of our own reality.  We interpret how things are going in overly positive or negative ways. Pay attention to your inner voice. If that voice is working to convince you things are fine, or harshly criticizing you, step back and re-assess. If your voice leans too heavily in one direction, force yourself to consider what interpretations you could be missing to develop a more balanced perspective. And do a reality check in with a trusted advisor.

Know and permit others to name triggers.  We all have buttons that get pushed that can trigger unproductive behavior. We may react defensively when confronted with mistakes.  Or become sarcastic or passive-aggressive when we don’t get our way.  Or become impatient when things don’t move quickly enough.  Self-aware leaders know their triggers and let others name them in the moment. Great leaders also apologize when triggered, cleaning up emotional messes.

Remote Work Stages

This is an excerpt from an article by Matt Mullenweg: Distributed Work’s Five Levels of Autonomy. I found it thought provoking as many of us continue to work remotely. Leaders can become more disciplined in creating measurable goals with their team members when working remotely.  Team members can share these goals with one another and truly hold each other accountable for results—rather than hours worked.

“To make sense of this journey — from a company’s cautious exploration of remote possibilities to a fully realized distributed experience — I like to think of how it plays out through the concept of levels of distributed work:

Level Zero autonomy is a job which cannot be done unless you’re physically there. Imagine construction worker, barista, massage therapist, firefighter. Many companies assumed they had far more of these than it has turned out they really did.

  1. The first level is where most co-located businesses are: there’s no deliberate effort to make things remote-friendly, though in the case of many knowledge workers, people can keep things moving for a day or two when there’s an emergency. More often than not, they’ll likely put things off until they’re back in the office. Work happens on company equipment, in company space, on company time. You don’t have any special equipment and may have to use a clunky VPN to access basic work resources like email or your calendar. Larger level one companies often have people in the same building or campus dialing into a meeting. Level one companies were largely unprepared for this crisis.
  2. Level two is where many companies have found themselves in the past few weeks with the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve accepted that work is going to happen at home for a while, but they recreate what they were doing in the office in a “remote” setting. You’re probably able to access information from afar, you’ve adapted to tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, but everything is still synchronous, your day is full of interruptions, no real-time meetings have been canceled (yet), and there’s a lot of anxiety in management around productivity — that’s the stage where companies sometimes install surveillance software on laptops. Pro tip: Don’t do that! And also: Don’t stop at level two!
  3. At the third level, you’re really starting to benefit from being remote-first, or distributed. That’s when you see people invest in better equipment and in more robust asynchronous processes that start to replace meetings. It’s also the point at which you realize just how crucial written communication is for your success, and you start looking for great writers in your hiring. When you are on a Zoom, you often also have a Google Doc up with the other meeting participants so you can take and check real-time notes together. In a non-pandemic world you plan meetups so teams can break bread and meet each other in person a week or two a year.
  4. Level four is when things go truly asynchronous. You evaluate people’s work on what they produce, not how or when they produce it. Trust emerges as the glue that holds the entire operation together. You begin shifting to better — perhaps slower, but more deliberate — decision-making, and you empower everyone, not just the loudest or most extroverted, to weigh in on major conversations. You tap into the global talent pool, the 99% of the world’s population and intelligence that doesn’t live near one of your legacy physical office locations. Employee retention goes way up, and you invest more in training and coaching. Most employees have home-office setups that would make office workers green with envy. You have a rich social life with people you choose. Real-time meetings are respected and taken seriously, almost always have agendas and pre-work or post-work. work will follow the sun 24/7 around the world. Your organization is truly inclusive because standards are objective and give people agency to accomplish their work their way.
  5. Finally, I believe it’s always useful to have an ideal that’s not wholly attainable — and that’s level five, Nirvana! This is when you consistently perform better than any in-person organization could. You’re effortlessly effective. It’s when everyone in the company has time for wellness and mental health, when people bring their best selves and highest levels of creativity to do the best work of their careers, and just have fun.

Check out Daniel Pink’s Drive. He introduces the three things that really matter in motivating people: mastery, purpose, and autonomy.

Mastery is the urge to get better skills.

Purpose is the desire to do something that has meaning, that’s bigger than yourself. These first two principles physically co-located companies can be great at. But the third, autonomy, is where even the best in-office company can never match a Level 4 or above distributed company.

Autonomy is our desire to be self-directed, to have agency over ourselves and our environment. Close your eyes and imagine everything around you in a physical office: the chair you’re in, the desk, distance from a window, the smells, the temperature, the music, the flooring, what’s in the fridge, the comfort and privacy of the bathrooms, the people (or pets) around you, the lighting. Now imagine an environment where you can choose and control every one of those to your liking — maybe it’s a room in your house, a converted garage, a shared studio, or really anything, the important thing is you’re able to shape the environment fit your personal preferences, not the lowest common denominator of everyone an employer has decided to squish together for 8 hours a day. The micro-interactions of the hundreds of variables of your work environment can charge you and give you creative energy, or make you dependent, infantilized, and a character in someone else’s story. Which do you want to spend half of your waking workday hours in?”

Check out this presentation by Daniel Pink

Envision Your 2021

Happy New Year! I practice an annual ritual of reviewing the past year and envisioning the new year on New Year’s Eve.

I have permission from Terri Werner to share her wonderful reflection questions with you. Terri is with Energy Flow Consulting (www.energyflowconsulting.com).

Just grab your favorite hot beverage, find a nice quiet space, light a candle, have a blank piece of paper or journal handy, and do some “stream of consciousness thinking.” Your vision and your goals will create your actions and your future.

Live a life that matters to you.

May 2021 be your best year yet!

 Completing and Remembering 2020

In 2020…

What were the most important things you learned?

What was the most loving service you performed?

What was the biggest risk you took?

How did you encourage others?

Who made the biggest difference in your life?  How have you acknowledged them?

How did you improve your relationships with those you love?

What were your greatest achievements?

What do you need to do or say to be complete with the year?

Creating 2021

In 2021…

What are you looking forward to learning?

What undeveloped talent are you willing to explore?

How will you experience more joy?

What loving services will you perform?

What risks are you planning to take?

How will you encourage others?

How will you improve your relationships with those you love?

How will you make a difference in the world?

What will be your greatest achievements?