A Sense of Belonging

Can you remember a time when you felt like you really belonged?

For me, it was the day I became a submariner.

During the pinning ceremony, the gold dolphin insignia was placed on my uniform signifying I was a qualified submarine officer. That insignia told the world I belonged to an exceptional group of people qualified in underwater warfare.

It was one of my proudest moments, and it’s an important identity I have kept my whole life.

So what about you? How do you feel when you really belong?

There something powerful about that feeling. It’s in our human nature to want to belong, to be part of a tribe. The problem is that this feeling is missing for so many people. Unfortunately, COVID has even made the situation worse. Young people, especially, are feeling increasingly disconnected.

It’s in our human nature to want to belong, to be part of a tribe. Click To Tweet

While we are connected more-and-more virtually, we are becoming disconnected both physically and emotionally.

Human connection was a primary topic in my conversation with Gabriel Klingman on my recent podcast episode. Gabriel was a manager at Starbucks for nearly a decade. One of the things he observed about young people is that they had a real “longing to belong.”

He also observed that, if you could create an environment where they felt like they were part of something special, it unleashed their potential as an employee. They became dedicated to what they did because there was a feeling of belonging.

He observed that belonging drove performance, especially with younger employees.

Creating a sense of belonging is an integral part of leadership. As you build your team, you need to consider if your employees feel like they belong to something special.

Have you created an environment where it’s special to be part of your tribe? Or is it just a job?

Work has the potential to be more than just a four-letter word. It can be where people can go, have friends, and strive together towards a common goal.

Work has the potential to be more than just a four-letter word. Click To Tweet

For some people, it might be the only place where they feel like they belong. They might have a troubled home life, but when they come to work, there’s stability. I know for me, my business feels more like a family than a company.

The question is, how can you create a culture of belonging within your team?

Creating a high-performance culture and a high-performing team requires a feeling of belonging and connection.

I challenge you today to think about how you can create a tribe with a true sense of belonging. It will help your employees reach their full potential and help you become a more effective leader.

Listen in to my whole discussion with Gabriel Klingman here.

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The Forgotten Employee is your Greatest Asset

Did you know the most senior sailor on a nuclear submarine will back up the most junior sailor in an emergency?

It certainly was a surprise to my recent podcast guest, Jeff Akin.

When Jeff was a young sailor training to be a helmsman on the USS La Jolla, he heard something he would never forget. The Chief of the Boat, a man who had been in the Navy for nearly 20 years, told him:

“If it ever goes down and something bad happens to you, the first thing I’ll do is leave my post and take over yours.”

He said, “A submarine can operate without a Chief of the Boat, but it cannot operate without a helmsman.”

Jeff realized at that very moment how important his job was. His work was so critical that he would be replaced with the most senior watchstander on the boat if something happened to him.

On a submarine at sea, every sailor is essential to achieving the mission.

Even the most junior sailor.

This is also true in the business world. Every employee is essential to achieving the mission.

Every employee is essential to achieving the mission. Click To Tweet

But, unlike a submarine crew, most company managers don’t see junior employees as vital to their success.

Consider this.

Employees in positions like factory workers, customer service representatives, cashiers, and service technicians are mostly taken for granted.

They are often referred to as “headcount” or labor expenses. They are considered replaceable and non-critical. They are the first to be let go or automated away.

Very few companies see these employees for what they really are – critical to achieving the mission.

In fact, these forgotten employees are your greatest assets.

They are the ones interfacing directly with customers. They are taking orders, building components, making repairs, shipping products, and collecting cash.

In short – they are your company’s front line.

They are adding value to your products, your business, and your customers every day.

A company can function without a manager, but it cannot operate without front-line workers.

A company can function without a manager, but it cannot operate without front-line workers. Click To Tweet

So, the question is – what are you doing to support these critical employees? Are you showing them the respect they deserve, or are you taking them for granted?

Stephen R. Covey said it best, “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.”

Today, take the time to remind your front-line employees how mission-critical they are. It may be the first time they have ever heard that from a leader.

Order the book: I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following


Listen to my full interview with Jeff Akin here and pick up a signed copy of my latest leadership book. It will teach you better ways to engage employees and achieve more remarkable results.

Why Good Employees Go Bad

Let’s talk about employee engagement.

According to Gallup, only 34% of U.S. workers are engaged and enthusiastic about their jobs and companies. And, it’s a number that hasn’t changed much in the past 18 years.

So, what’s engagement and why should we care?

Well, engaged employees are better employees. These are the people who care the most and routinely go above-and-beyond for their organizations.

They are your BEST employees!

Marcus Buckingham, author of First, Break All the Rules, defines engaged employees as having “a positive state of mind characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption”

He goes further to explain…

Vigor is the willingness to invest in work with high levels of conscientiousness, persistence, energy, and mental toughness.

Dedication just means being connected to work, experiencing a sense of significance, pride, enthusiasm, and challenge.

Absorption describes how deeply involved in their work these employees are. For them, time passes quickly and disconnecting from work is difficult.

OK. That makes sense.

So, it’s in our best interest as leaders to create and maintain a high level of engagement in our organizations. We will be more successful when we are surrounded by engaged and dedicated employees.

We will be more successful when we are surrounded by engaged and dedicated employees. Click To Tweet

Got it.

So, what are we doing wrong? Why are 60-70% of employees disengaged and disinterested?

And…why does this affect even our BEST employees?

Let’s review some of the causes:

  1. Good employees become disengaged when managers don’t listen to their ideas and concerns. This is especially true for new employees!
  2. Good employees become disillusioned when managers allow circumstances to compromise the mission. When the actions of management don’t support the mission, good employees get frustrated.
  3. Good employees become disenfranchised when managers are disengaged and disconnected. Disengaged managers create disengaged employees.
  4. Good employees lose trust in their organization when their manager’s actions don’t match their words. A recent ADP study shows that employees who trust their manager are 12X more engaged!
  5. Good employees get frustrated when bad employees are not held accountable. Whether you like it or not, this is true.

I like this quote from Hilton Barbour: “Your culture is defined by the worst behavior tolerated by leadership.”

“Your culture is defined by the worst behavior tolerated by leadership.” Hilton Barbour Click To Tweet

The final thing I would add on this topic is something from my good friend, John Brubaker, over at CoachBru.com. Speaking to great employees, he said…

Go where you’re celebrated not where you’re tolerated.”

As leaders, I would say, if you don’t want your best employees to become disengaged, frustrated, and disconnected, you need to celebrate them!

And if you don’t what that means…

Go get a copy of my latest book – “I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following”  Chapter 10 is all about Celebrating Employees!

That’s it for today

Think about this topic this week. What are you doing as a leader to keep your BEST employees engaged?

If can keep them engaged and happy, you will be a more effective leader.


By the way, If you want to get more out of your daily commute, listen to my podcastDeep Leadership.  It’s available on all podcast apps.

And my best-selling leadership book, I Have the Watch, is also available on Audible for your commuting pleasure.