The importance of fostering belonging
This Moment of Clarity column is the fifth, and last, in our series dedicated to sharing Lessons from Lasso.
A brief recap: the first lesson was Bake Cookies for Your Boss – Share Your Authentic Self; the second, Ted’s Diamond Dogs – Find Your Tribe; the third, Don’t Stop Believing; and the fourth, Be a Goldfish.
The fifth lesson: the Importance of Fostering Belonging.
Belonging is a powerful human need that extends beyond personal relationships; it has a profound impact on organisations. When individuals feel a sense of belonging within an organisation, it can lead to increased morale, engagement and productivity.
In the TV series Ted Lasso, the character Sam Obisanya illustrates the significance of belonging.
Sam's journey from being a foreign player feeling as if he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the team to becoming an integral part of AFC Richmond's family, demonstrates how belonging can transform an individual's life while also fostering a sense of community within organisations and teams.
Sam's arrival at AFC Richmond as a talented but reserved Nigerian footballer marked the beginning of his quest for belonging. He faced the daunting task of adapting to a new country, a different culture, and a sport that demanded his very best.
Initially, Sam's experience exemplified the alienation that often accompanies the pursuit of belonging. His hesitancy to open up to his team-mates and his reticence to share his cultural background with them reflected his internal struggle and his fear of how his team-mates would react.
However, Ted played a pivotal role in nurturing Sam's sense of belonging. Ted's unwavering positivity, genuine care for his players, and the team's motto of "believe" served as examples of hope for Sam. Ted's belief in Sam's potential and his acceptance of him, not only as a player but also as a person, broke down the initial barriers that hindered Sam from truly belonging.
Sam’s team-mates also contributed to his journey of belonging. Over time, he discovered that his differences were not obstacles but assets that enriched the team.
His camaraderie with other players showcased the power of sports to bridge cultural gaps and to foster a shared sense of purpose.
In moments of both victory and defeat, Sam found himself embraced by the camaraderie of the locker room, a space where he belonged not as an outsider, but as an equal.
This transformation exemplifies the profound impact of belonging on an individual's wellbeing.
As Sam found his place within the team, his confidence soared, both on and off the field. His cultural heritage, initially a source of trepidation, became a source of pride.
Beyond personal growth, Sam's journey in Ted Lasso also highlights the broader implications of fostering a sense of belonging at work. A strong culture of belonging creates an environment where employees feel valued, respected, and aligned with their organisation's goals. This, in turn, has positive impacts on organisational performance and outcomes.
A sense of belonging enhances employee engagement. When employees feel like they belong, they are more likely to be motivated and committed to their work. They develop a deeper connection to their roles, the team and the organisation, resulting in increased job satisfaction and a willingness to go the extra mile to achieve shared objectives.
Belonging also encourages open communication and collaboration. Employees who feel a strong sense of belonging are more likely to share their ideas, concerns and feedback, openly. This environment of trust and co-operation may lead to improved problem-solving, creativity and innovation.
A workplace that fosters belonging may experience higher employee retention.
When individuals feel appreciated and supported, they are less likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. A culture of belonging also promotes diversity and inclusion. When employees feel that their unique backgrounds and perspectives are respected and valued, it encourages a diverse range of voices to be heard.
This diversity of thought may lead to more comprehensive decision making and a broader range of ideas, ultimately benefiting the organisation's ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
These, in turn, may also lead to improved overall wellbeing and mental health among employees. When individuals feel connected and supported, they experience reduced stress, burnout and feelings of isolation. This positive impact on wellbeing results in improved productivity, higher energy levels and better overall performance.
Many of these organisational benefits were validated by a 2019 study undertaken by the organisation BetterUp and shared in a 2019 Harvard Business Review article titled The Value of Belonging at Work.
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