Belonging, not buying-in

I was having a chat with my son who had just started high school.
They were developing a design for a sweatshirt to wear to a national secondary schools cross country running event.
I was delighted to see my son be in the team and be involved at such an early stage of his time at the school.
Even more enlightening was his attitude towards the sweatshirt design.
As he enthusiastically described the approach to me he stated that ”this bit of the design goes here, this bit goes here, and our school crest goes here (patting the left side of his chest) – because that’s where your heart is.”

“Because that’s where your heart is…”

It really made me think.
He’d been at the school for just a couple of months.
He’s not being paid to be there. Not being made to go there.
Yet he has such a strong sense of belonging.

There has got to be some lessons for businesses in there. Businesses that have disaffected, disengaged staff (who are paid to be there), but have got no connection to what they do, the business they do it for, or the customers they ultimately provide for.

Businesses often talk about buy-in from internal teams. And they can use enormous amounts of resource trying to persuade them to buy in to the corporate ethos/company culture – often developed from the outside and expected to be picked up and ‘owned’ by internal teams.

Is that the right approach?
What about this sense of connection and belonging that a young teenage boy feels without being asked to.
How does that come about?

There are lessons to be learned from schools.

Lessons of encouragement, of inclusion, of inspiration, of carrying the torch and of setting a standard to which everyone understands and wants to help be a part of.

I know my son is immensely proud of the school he goes to (a public, not a private school) and it goes a long way towards defining who and what he sees himself as.

The approach by his school gives students a solid, supportive platform on which to build themselves and of which they feel a very strong connection to.

Why does this need to stop when we start work?

Perhaps businesses could look towards schools, look at what they do to create a culture of inclusion, support and inspiration. Not insisting on buy-in, but promoting a strong sense of belonging, no matter what your position, your skill set, background, aspirations or ethnicity.

Start with developing a sense of belonging and no-one needs to buy-in.