Where do you belong?

You, like many of us, probably feel a need to belong, to connect with your surroundings. This is part of what makes us human. From this sense of belonging, you derive your self-worth and the reasoning for your behavioural patterns.

What belonging means can vary from person to person. You could be someone who’s geographically rooted to a location, deriving your identity from a sense of place. There are others who lead more nomadic lifestyles and can move easily without any emotional upheaval. Whether it’s our family, our work, a gang or our religious beliefs, belonging can be empowering. Without it you can feel adrift, not knowing where you fit in.

Many companies do a great job of creating a sense of belonging, so that their employees feel they work in a positive and creative environment. Equally, there are businesses that do the exact opposite, with workers often disenchanted and disempowered.

As a business leader, you can make choices that steer your company along a path towards an effective working culture; a place where you have happy, well-motivated employees.

The best examples of working cultures that foster inclusiveness are those that take a proactive approach. A conscious company culture is clear on the vision for the business as well as the values and behaviours necessary to achieve it. In this type of environment, workers buy into the values and, taking their enthusiasm, they articulate the values to others. As the culture is transparent, it then becomes easier to recruit like-minded staff, those more likely to fit in.

An example of this approach is IT solutions business, Softcat, voted the top UK small company to work for in 2012. Their democratic ethos ensures that all staff are involved in company-wide decisions, and anything that goes on in the business is communicated to employees. Motivated, enthusiastic and well-balanced staff are the key to Softcat’s success, with the result that they achieve year-on-year high levels of customer satisfaction.

So why do conscious cultures, like that at Softcat, work? A common thread is a focus on long-term stability. They will have also built up a resilience to negative influences, as their values have been made public, shared, and bought into.

At the other end of the scale is an unconscious culture. This is often seen as a culture defined by the vision and values of its leaders. A place where the values are not widely articulated and where a vision statement is published purely for promotional purposes.

Finnish mobile phone giant, Nokia, went through a cultural crisis a couple of years ago. Lagging behind its competitors in the smartphone market, it fell back on its hierarchical and predominantly masculine corporate culture. Important negotiations were said to take place in the sauna, a staple of the Finnish way of life. Needless to say, this pattern of behaviour drew heavy criticism. It is only now, in 2013, that productivity, competitiveness and a more globally-focussed ethos across the workplace has seen the company pull through.

A company with an unconscious culture is not necessarily a negative place to work, but its mood and makeup depends on its leaders, leaving it vulnerable and subject to outside influence.

Take a look at your company culture. How have you, as a leader, created a sense of belonging for your employees? Focus on long-term strategies to develop strong and stable values, to ensure your workers are happy, healthy and motivated.

Thanks to Neil Crofts’s Magic Monday blog for inspiration.

Contact us on 01865 881056 or email us at info@leaderslab.co.uk if you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this post.