We tend to underestimate it but this subject is a very effective motivation lever for Agile teams. I am talking about the feeling of belonging.
This week, I invite you to explore together why the sense of belonging is so important and how it can transform work dynamics to enable more creativity, enthusiasm and performance.
I will also offer you tips and tricks to strengthen it and propel your project to new heights.
Let’s go !
The sense of belonging, but what are we really talking about?
What is the feeling of belonging for you? What do you link it to?
Have you ever found yourself with other people, a team maybe, and felt like you belonged. Integrated into the group.
This is the feeling of belonging: this fundamental need to feel integrated, valued and supported within a group. It’s what makes us want to get up in the morning and work together to achieve great things.
Why is it important in teamwork?
If you also (or rather) experienced the opposite, how did you feel? What effect did that have on your motivation and ability to achieve your goals?
I imagine that you were not feeling very well and that it could demotivate you in your work.
Well, the sense of belonging is there to avoid that precisely, because it promotes team motivation, cohesion and performance, by creating an environment where everyone feels involved and supported.
Imagine a football team where each player feels supported and encouraged by his teammates. They will excel together, defend their line fiercely and share the joy of victory. It’s the same with work.
In your professional context, when there is a strong sense of belonging, it allows team members to feel comfortable sharing their ideas (even the wildest ones), without fear of being judged. And sometimes some of these wacky ideas can turn out to be genius solutions to problems!
What are the benefits of a sense of belonging, for teams in Agile mode
In an Agile context, the feeling of belonging takes on an even greater dimension. Indeed, the Agile manifesto values individuals and their interactions more than processes and tools. By implementing agility, we will therefore look for ways to strengthen these interactions. The feeling of belonging is one of the elements to be put in place.
Indeed, when the feeling of belonging is created in a team, its members will feel more confident. They will feel safe and more willing to share new ideas and solutions to test, to move forward.
As they feel integrated into the group, collective intelligence and collaboration can more easily emerge. This will make the team more efficient and persevering. And that’s what we’re looking for. The team will be less afraid of taking collective responsibility, because its members will know that they can count on the group. Everyone supports and helps each other to achieve a common goal.
If you practice or have already practiced a team sport, it’s the same: we seek to create links between the members to help them play collectively, together, against the opponent. We will choose names, mascots, we will create a universe and a common history. Why not do it also with the teams at work? Do you really risk losing by trying?
As a leader, you have an essential role to play in this implementation.
As an Agile leader, how do you support this sense of belonging?
By becoming an Agile leader, you will have to swap your superhero cape for that of coach and support! To accompany your team in this quest for success, you will have to become a model for them: stay humble (even if you think you already know), ask (open) questions to make them grow.
You will have to put yourself in a position to help them find this binder that will unite them and make them collaborate to achieve a vision: opt for collaborative workshops, be accompanied by a coach, a scrum master, encourage them to s ‘express. You are there to help them find their way to achieving their goals, not to explain to them – much less impose on them – how to do it (unless they ask you to).
An Agile leader must promote the autonomy and self-organization of the team. Everyone must be able to find their place, according to their knowledge and skills. Let your team organize themselves in their work and experiment to find how well they work, and hold them accountable for their results and watch the progress towards goals. Celebrate successes and be proud of their accomplishments.
You are also there to help your team develop and expand their skills. An Agile team must develop its expertise and the Agile leader has an essential role to help it move forward in this direction: identifying needs, offering training, workshops, mentoring or coaching, so that everyone can progress and feel valued.
Concretely, how to strengthen the sense of belonging within an Agile team?
Organize team activities and rituals
It may seem trivial, at first glance, but there’s nothing like fun and friendly activities to strengthen team spirit! Humans are a social species. We need the connection with others to live. Even the most shy and introverted among us.
Simple things like icebreakers at the start of each meeting (it can be just a question to get to know each other better, there are lots of sites that offer ideas). And it works very well in hybrid, remotely.
Structure your meetings in the form of workshops with activities to do in small groups or all together.
Organize team building moments, coffee breaks, lunches or breakfasts to get together in a more informal way. Even themed evenings to allow your employees to get to know each other better and to forge links.
You can also set up rituals, such as weekly team meetings or retrospective sessions, to create a reassuring and unifying routine. Or even a wall of stars, to highlight individual and collective results.
Establish a culture of openness and listening
To reinforce the sense of belonging in an Agile team, a culture of openness and listening must be established. Create a safe space where everyone feels confident with others.
Moments of discussion such as retrospectives are a good way to develop it, as are Lean Coffees, where everyone can speak openly and without judgment.
An interesting tool to develop is the teamwork agreement: the whole team meets to define the operating rules together. Listening without judgment, respect, can be listed on this teamwork agreement. As well as agreements on how to manage conflicts in the team and decision-making. The fact that the team thinks about these elements upstream makes it possible to make things clear from the start, and allows more confidence.
Find anchors for the team
Like collective sports teams, the feeling of belonging can develop by creating anchors: a team name for example, a mascot, an anthem. These are elements that the team can decide to put in place together and decline.
Beyond a common vision and goals, these anchors connect team members together. The strong moments, whether in difficulty or in success, are also strongly unifying elements, which create and reinforce the history of the team.
“We lived this project, which was really difficult. We stuck together, we got there together.”
The sense of belonging is a key element to put in place for Agile teams. Grouping its members under the same banner, the same purpose, improves the performance of the team, and strengthens its resilience and its ability to find solutions to their problems. A good, close-knit team will create value for users. It will be more committed and recognized for its effectiveness.
You are one small step away from getting started: what would you like to put in place tomorrow, following this reading?