Season 1 of Square Circle’s Belong Series Yields Valuable and Implementable Insights into the State of Belonging Today
In May earlier this year, Square Circle launched a brand new video series on LinkedIn called The Belong Series. As a compilation of interviews and webinars, the primary purpose of the first season was to bring important topics and tools to the community during the upheaval of COVID-19, and to offer powerful insights into the state of Belonging in our society today.
Our team had the honor of interviewing leaders across 5 different communities around the world: higher education in the midwest United States, the sex worker industries in Las Vegas, Nevada and Portland, Oregon, parents and carers of children with additional needs in Australia, underrepresented minorities within the technology industry of the United States, and the transgender community of India. These incredible conversations brought to light three high-level key themes around belonging that we, regardless of location and industry, can all take valuable learnings from.
A sense of belonging is a basic human desire and it affects how we think and act
Each one of us has a desire to belong, and it is often overlooked. Feeling like you have a place within a community, within a social group, within your place of employment and part of a larger pursuit can be a major factor of success, engagement, participation, and even presence. What the leaders we spoke with all noticed is that one of the greatest risks an absence of a sense of belonging can result in is complete disconnection. Without a sense of belonging, individuals can completely disengage and simply seek out other communities, other employers, other groups to find a place that welcomes and values them. A sense of belonging is not a “nice to have,” it is a basic human need and essential for success.
Asking questions is always better than making assumptions
While we may feel uncomfortable or impolite asking questions, curiosity with the intention to better understand can actually be a powerful tool in deepening connection. When we assume that all people will, and even worse, should, think, feel, and behave the same way within a given set of circumstances, we are creating a narrowly defined box that others will either fit into, or not. The ones who do not end up mentally fitting into this box of expectations and assumptions end up being othered, and internally perceived and externally treated like they do not have a place, or that there is something they need to adjust in order to succeed or thrive.
How we think (assess, assume, judge, infer, interpret) determines how we feel, and how we feel determines how we act.
We each have a responsibility to take ownership of our thoughts pay close attention to how we are thinking about the boxes we are mentally constructing for those around us, for this is the first domino to fall in a sequence of events that can lead to us creating an environment in which a sense of belonging is being stifled for others. Asking questions and engaging in these conversations with empathy and intention to learn can directly help open up those mental boxes and enhance an environment of belonging we are all seeking.
Creating a sense of Belonging takes intention and action
The responsibility of co-creating a culture of belonging lies with each of us.
This is not an experience that we can sit back and wait to trickle top-down from leaders or place a burden on one individual within an org, a culture of belonging at home and at work is not one that exists passively without intention or action. In order to permeate a community’s way of being as one in which others feel they have a place to belong, and to therefore channel their energy away from self-preservation and security toward higher pursuits of engagement and contribution, we must each play an active role in the spaces we create in our interactions with one another. Being cognizant of the active and living nature of belonging allows us to co-create experiences and environments that enable us to show up as fuller and more creative and contributing versions of ourselves, which benefit our teams, our employers, our families, and our communities.
Our conversations during the first season of the Belong series brought to light this basic human desire to belong and the innovative ways they are working to meet this desire for their respective communities.
These insights demonstrate the fact that when tended to, an actively nurtured sense of belonging can yield amazing results for individuals, groups, and teams.
We look forward to even more of these conversations as we move into season 2 of the Belong series later this year!