A feeling of belonging is as common as it is rare. However, before we jump in how to create a sense of belonging, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I’m a task force manager. The company I work for sends me to markets that are struggling in a specific area to observe, diagnose, give feedback and assist market leadership teams in creating a thoughtful action plan in order to increase performance. Saying that I love what I do would be an understatement. The thrill of rebuilding and transforming markets gives me a feeling that is euphoric.
I’ve always said that in hospitality, we are undeservingly inserted into the lives of others. I used to apply this philosophy from only my view of guests, and I now see it from a team member standpoint as well. One of the greatest gifts in life is being a part of a team, with members rallied and passionate around a common goal. I grew up playing soccer with the same girls for the majority of my life, and the impact this experience made on me professionally is invaluable. That sense of belonging has been something that I have longed to recreate in every aspect of my life and in every market that I visit. Doing so takes time; patience; compassion; and a strong, clear vision of the environment and culture we are striving to create. As leaders, I believe we must invest in and become masters of the following areas in order to create a sense of belonging.
As leaders, we must have the ability to put standards and values into perspective for our team members. We must become well versed in going behind the purpose of what we do. We must help our team members understand the “what,” the “why” and the “how.” What are we doing? Why are we doing it? How do we execute it?
Our goal is to create a purpose-driven environment, not robots. Through perspective, our associates discover purpose. Through purpose, our associates discover practice. Through practice, they discover my favorite – passion. I often tell employees, “Don’t do something simply because I tell you to do it. Do it because you have practiced it and you have experienced the true benefits of the process.” In order to ignite this discovery period, we must first be masters of perspective, as it affects behavior and willingness to learn.
We must be invested in continuous education. How do we sustain education? Through daily observation, one-on-one coaching, positive reinforcement and unwavering accountability. As we onboard new employees, aside from the paperwork, our initial action step should be to have the employee complete some type of online training. Once that training is commenced, we send the employee out “into the wild” but often forget that it is our duty to continually re-emphasize our standards, our values and the processes we are asking them to execute.
Continuous training creates a workplace culture that continually evolves. As a training manager, I am often asked, “How are you so passionate about these processes?” My answer is, “Because I’ve practiced them continuously, and I now excel in them.”
Think back to when you were a child and joined a new extracurricular activity. You may not have been thrilled about going to practice; however, as my parents always reminded me, “You’ve made a commitment to your team, so you are going to practice.” Over time, I became exceedingly good at the sport I once resisted. From there, my passion grew.
This story leads me to the art of accountability.
In order to sustain education, we must continually build upon it. If we allow our team members to possess only surface-level knowledge, in turn, their performance will also be surface-level. How do we hold our associates accountable to education, thus enabling us to build upon it over time? Through continual guidance and follow-up. Our team members understand what is important to us not simply by what we say but by what we continually emphasize and do.
What most people do not realize is that holding others accountable is a practiced skill. We must be willing to lay the foundation of education, build upon it and then hold our associates (and ourselves) accountable to it consistently each day.
Culture and teamwork are sacred. If we continually invest in our associates through perspective, training and accountability, we will create a culture that continuously evolves and also give our associates the greatest gift of all: a sense of belonging.