There is much written about the importance of belonging and the positive impact it has on well-being, but I have always been hesitant to fully embrace the concept as an organizational goal. Belonging is not something that can be easily facilitated or practiced every day. Belonging can also be seen as an extroverted concept and conjures up images of being part of a large group or team, something that is not comfortable for everyone.
I am much more in favor of the concept of “mattering” as described by Nancy Schlossberg and discussed in dot #416. Schlossberg’s research showed that people needed to feel that they mattered to someone else – a more personal concept than belonging – and something more easily accomplished one-to-one and in short-term situations. Mattering is the feeling that you matter to someone else and you would be missed if you were not there.
Another concept that resonated with me is that of “responsiveness”, written about in Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (see more about their book in dot #2107). The Heaths describe responsiveness as the core tenant of successful relationships. To achieve it, partners must provide: understanding, validation and caring – in other words, “attunement” to how we see ourselves, respect of who we are and what we want, then the taking of supportive steps to help meet those needs. Responsiveness makes relationships stronger and more secure, whether they be of personal or professional nature.
Hospitals that are more responsive to patient needs receive higher satisfaction scores. Employees who believe their supervisor is responsive to them as a person have greater engagement and productivity. Teachers who are more responsive to their students help them learn more effectively. Customer service representatives who are more responsive to their clients are perceived as serving them better.
While belonging to a tribe may be the long-term goal, an initial positive connection can be cultivated more quickly and frequently through one-on-one responsiveness and mattering. Whether you are on a client call, meeting with a colleague or supervising an employee, begin by learning what is important to them and then respond in a way that shows that it matters.