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Thought Leadership


From Belonging to Culture-Actualization at Work

All human beings have a need to belong, though the manifestation of that need will look different for everyone. This may look like belonging to a family, a team, an organization, a country, a nation, and/or an industry. Which groups resonate may be very different for your Introverts vs your Extroverts, your Cheerleaders vs your Mavericks—but regardless of preference of how to do it, belonging is a universal human need.

Belonging has roots in biological protection, physical safety, and security. We want to belong so we are not left alone. These days, we’ve evolved so that it’s not just limited to the security drive—belonging can carry you into self-actualization through service, dedication, and collaboration. This is the need that helps our brains develop capacities of empathy.

Belonging, at the core, is about relationships and relationships require commitment and dedication. Further, many people take relationships for granted. All relationships need attention and effort to foster belonging as a flourishing force, otherwise they can turn into a prison and prevent self-actualization.

Belonging and Synergy

Belonging is the core need that empowers collaboration and synergy. Throughout history, no victory has been won alone. As Napoleon Hill shares, success is always a product of a mastermind team, a team that is an internally aligned and connected community.

In Buddhism, followers believe in taking refuge (taking shelter, or finding a home in) the Three Jewels (values). One of those Jewels is the Sangha, or community. Buddhists believe that this is a key part of the path to enlightenment, as enlightenment cannot be achieved alone. Similarly, belonging is a key part of collaboration, which is necessary for self-actualization. From the Free Masons of thousands of years ago to today’s CEO Forums, creating community creates synergy and contributes to realizing our potential as human beings.

Connecting with like-minded individuals is crucial to achieving goals.

Belonging and Well-Being

Belonging to a community is not just about being successful, it’s also about our mental health and well-being.

Gallup’s research on well-being shows that well-being can be divided into pillars, one of which is social well-being. Having meaningful social connections (4 hours per day, at minimum) significantly contributes to our overall well-being.

It’s important to call out, however, that the ways in which we seek belonging can be healthy or unhealthy. When belonging is used to create a sense of “otherness,” it can turn detrimental. This can show up by assigning so much meaning to your belonging that everyone outside of the group is wrong or “less than”—a concept often evident in political affiliation, for example. Further, sometimes we want to fill our need to belong so badly that we settle for groups that don’t align with our values, therefore compromising our whole selves in desperation to feel like a part of a community. It is critical to assess whether your need for belonging is being met in a way that lifts you (and others) up and contributes positively to your goals.

Belonging and Culture-Actualization

Our research has shown that corporations must include an embodied purpose, leader cohesiveness, and leaders that act as coaches and mentors in order to differentiate themselves in the market and achieve a triple bottom line business. We call this culture-actualization, the organizational manifestation of self-actualization.

Our findings on belonging, specifically, shows 3 key facets that must be present in today’s workplace: collaboration, inclusion, and social connections. And yet, the area where most organizations are struggling is in this psychological safety. If your employees feel like they belong and have a sense of worthiness, they feel psychologically safe. If they don’t, they feel overlooked, undervalued, and unsafe. Without this safety, culture-actualization is not possible.

Creating a culture of belonging is a vital part of creating a self-actualizing organization, on the way to culture-actualization, but cannot be done in a vacuum. Organizational strategies must tie belonging strategies with self-actualization strategies, and weave People & Culture initiatives throughout. This interwoven intention will provide a throughline that your employees can recognize and connect with, bringing you closer to your goal of higher engagement and bigger profits.

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