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February 16, 2021

Inclusion and Belonging with BRAVE Cultures™

This blog is the first of a series of articles on inclusion and belonging and our BRAVE Cultures(™) model. You can read the second post in this series here.

Maslow was wrong: physical safety isn’t at the base of the needs pyramid: belonging is. Without belonging, the animal body knows there is no hope for safety.

An existential fear arises when we try to differentiate. We betray ourselves to belong. We abandon our own selves to belong.

Too much…too loud…too emotional…all the things.

We listen to the voices of authority, denying our own inner authority. We may even question our sanity. We tamp it down, lock that precious part of ourselves away in a dark room of the psyche.

But it will not be bound forever. It escapes at times. Wreaks havoc.

We double down on its prison. And abandon ourselves further.

How are we to create a sense of belonging on our teams if we don’t first belong to ourselves?

It’s time to return home to yourself.

Without belonging, our early ancestors simply would not have survived. Back in the day, if a person didn’t belong to a tribe, they were food for wild animals or hostage to other tribes. The imperative to belong is hardwired into the limbic system. We will abandon our own beliefs and values in order to belong to our “tribe.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We believe that when a person has a solid sense of belonging to themselves first, they are able to unwind the generational, racial, sexual and gender identity trauma that exists in all bodies and attempts to prevent us from truly belonging to and with each other.

We have developed a unique model for inclusion and belonging that addresses our deeply ingrained need to belong. It is a trauma-informed model that helps leaders organically–yet intentionally–develop themselves, other leaders, teams, and systems that fully support a new way of doing business. This new way of doing business is much more sustainable than the extractive, zero-sum game model we’ve been working with. It focuses on the triple bottom line of people, profits, and the planet. It is a critical piece of BRAVE Cultures, which are the wave of the future.

This model outlines and explains in detail how to shift into a new paradigm of being–a paradigm of belonging. It’s a place where all people are safe to express the fullness of themselves, without fear of censure or abandonment. It’s a place where teams take care of each other, and in doing so they take care of business. And it’s a place where the systems that are in place support the humanity of the people inside and around the systems, instead of continuing to perpetuate harm and impede forward progress.

1. The first aspect of the model is directed at the individual, with an internal reference. This requires self-awareness, self-reflection, and a desire to operate with a positive mindset.

We believe that the reason companies haven’t moved the needle more when it comes to inclusion and diversity is that they skip over this part. It’s not possible to create a diverse and inclusive culture if the leaders aren’t comfortable in their own skin and emotionally intelligent. We all need to learn how to belong to our own selves.

2. The second aspect of the model stays with the individual but looks at how they relate to others on the team. This is where most DEI training and initiatives start and stop. It’s an important piece of the puzzle but doesn’t work on its own. Mental awareness and understanding alone have never permanently changed behavior.

3. The third aspect of the model moves the organization from Me to We. It takes an all-stakeholder orientation, and it looks at the policies, rules, and unspoken ways things are done with an equity lens.

Based on the “rule of threes” commonly found in arts, science, and maths, this model takes what may be the most complex dynamic leaders struggle with and breaks it down into manageable pieces. We’ll unpack them further in future blog posts, digging into what leaders need to do and know, and importantly who they need to BE, in order to create these BRAVE Cultures.

It takes time to move through the entire model, and there’s a cyclical nature to it as well. We constantly come back to the first aspect: “What do I need to do and know to belong to myself?” Human nature being what it is, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to personal and interpersonal dynamics.

We hope this model supports you as you work toward inclusion and belonging in your life.

inclusion and belonging