Updated: Jul 10, 2022
Sometimes the most straightforward questions are the hardest to answer. I feel I belong when I am with my family, I feel blessed to be surrounded by them. However, beyond my closest family, the topic of belonging has been in my head for some time now. It surfaced at the end of last year through a discussion and self-reflection with my small supervision group of INSEAD alumni. Earlier this year, I gave a presentation on the topic related to belonging and how it affects people's mental wellbeing in organisations.
Belong = "The feeling of being comfortable and happy in a particular situation or with a particular group of people, and being treated as a full member of the group."
The importance of self-reflection
Over ten years ago, when I was doing my degree in organisation psychology at Insead, I started the practice of writing reflection papers. I continued this habit with my morning paper routine (https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/). As I reflected on the topic of belonging based on the articles our supervisor gave me to read, I had the urge to write. It felt so obvious now; everyone wants to belong somewhere; it is a basic need. I realised that everything we do with other people deals with belonging. The topic of belonging is vital for my startup (https://www.mindclip.com/ ) that deals with mental wellbeing and team communication. The mindclip™ app wants to help people change their behaviour with the help of insights from other people and the feedback they get from their team. If people don't feel like they belong to the group, they will not care about giving or receiving feedback. Only those teams who care about what you think of them and care enough to want to provide you with their feedback can help you change your behaviour. You can test your behaviour style on the website. https://www.mindclip.com/discoveryourpersonalbehaviour.
Surround yourself with the right people
Anyone who worked for a big organisation knows that you tolerate an incompetent person as a boss if your colleagues are outstanding. Companies rarely measure the feedback from subordinates to the boss. The feedback is always oriented downwards, although most superiors would benefit from getting feedback from people who work for them. We need a system for people to feel safe to give feedback. I guess only the children dare to tell their parents what they think of them. I had an insightful experience when my 9-year-old asked if he could fill in the behaviour style survey in the Mindclip™ app. I only needed to explain some of the adjectives he did not know, and he filled in the survey. Sometimes I was trying to help him choose, in my mind, a more "positive" option, but he looked at me and said, "No, mom, this is how I am". To have such self-awareness as a child was mind-blowing to me. We dismiss children too quickly; they seem more self-aware than most adults I have met in my life.
Job performance and belonging
Ten years ago, I would have probably not paid attention to belonging. I thought that all that mattered was doing your job well, getting paid, and getting promoted. Why did you need to belong? I believe this is because I never was a team player and did not know how impactful belonging was. My job was to be the boss, bring profitability to the company, and succeed. I did not feel I belonged in hindsight, but I did my job. Had I known that a team that belongs brings a 56% increase in job performance, I might have made an effort.
Belonging and mental wellbeing go hand in hand. People who feel they belong have fewer sick leaves and contribute to the organisation's success. Employers understand this, and it has become common practice to measure employees' stress levels and offer apps to support relaxation and sleep. However, still too many people feel isolated at work.https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/employers-enhance-emotional-wellbeing-benefits-for-2020.aspx
Where do I belong?
The first time I felt I belonged outside my immediate family was when I did my MBA. When we had to say goodbye at the graduation, I was overwhelmed. I felt so sad that I cried. I realised that these people had meant a great deal to me, we had made a journey together, and I might never see them again. I had built relationships with them, they valued my opinions, and I appreciated theirs.
I knew I had found a place I truly belonged when I joined the Insead Coaching for Change and Challenge (CCC). There we went through emotional rollercoasters with the "mother group". I learned how important role emotions play in people's lives, even my own. We all want to feel appreciated and have meaning in what we do. On the first day of CCC, our professor told us that 80% of us would quit or leave our jobs within two years. I would be one of them, although I did not believe it when I heard it. Two years later, I left my company. I believe in continuous learning and honest feedback. Therefore I feel blessed to have a supervision group of CCC-alumni to continue the journey. To enable change, I need to be surrounded by people who care, who make me feel safe to be myself and give "tough love" to continue growing as a person. Thank you all for making me feel like I belong!
Lastly, I started my company Mindclip Behaviour, partly because I think everyone has the right to meaningful work. We spend excessive time at work, whether remotely or in the office. I want to build a company where people feel that they belong and that what they do is essential for the company's success. I got a glimpse of why belonging matters when we started 2016 the Accelerator Frankfurt with Ram, my husband, who has a strong need to belong and has the gift of making people feel that they matter. It opened my eyes to the potential of what people are willing to do when they feel like they belong.
I tell people you can't belong as an observer; you must participate. Get your hands dirty and work.
It feels fantastic to be part of something more than your little world that you can make a difference. I tell people you can't belong as an observer; you must participate. Get your hands dirty and work. Some people tell me that it is not easy to get people to use mindclip™ app because the successful outcome depends on the fact that people have to use it! Yes, it is incredible that you can't change your behaviour and solve people's mental wellbeing problems without work and self-reflection, instead of just clicking a button or other passive action.
You can't change your behaviour without work and self-reflection.