Our collective drive to be busy, to achieve more, fix things or find solutions at pace and complexity has never been higher. The speed of social media, the news each night – fraught with death and decline – the isolation of lockdown, and the inability to slow down to connect with others the way we would create a space where existential anxiety breeds because many of the questions we face now are big ones.
High on the list of these is diversity, inclusion and belonging. How do we unite despite our differences? How to do we accept and appreciate the difference between others and ourselves and invite them into our systems? How do we create spaces where we can all share the sense of belonging that comes with being part of a team or organisation we feel connected with?
When the change that we look to create is around processes, tasks or even strategy – moving at pace is possible. Rapid adjustments and agility are all necessary, especially as organisations strive to remain relevant and competitive in turbulent times. But when we move into the realm of emotions, the same drive to move at speed towards a solution can hurt more than it helps.
Prioritising relationships means moving at the same pace they build, not rushing them through. If you need an example of this, think about the last time you became friends with someone. There’s that small-talk period at the start, the slow spending of more significant amounts of time together and the building of shared experience: the realisation that a friendship was growing, and the periodic testing of that by difficult times.
The process by which we come to feel a sense of belonging in work is not too dissimilar to this. Fist of all, we are attracted to an employer. When we join, we go through understanding how welcome we are, of knowing that our voice is heard and that our contribution matters. Completing this under the best circumstances can take a little time. Completing it at all if we belong to a marginalised group or are trying to build this sense remotely can be a big challenge.
This type of change can’t be project planned or outcome measured. Like behaviour change, it takes time, the patience to slow down to connect and a focus on creating the right conditions and trust in the process – not drive for results.
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