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Where do I belong?

Nicola Rylett Group collage at 2022 Henley Royal Begatta

Tuesday I was lucky enough to attend day 1 of the world-famous Henley Royal Regatta.

Rob Petersen (Petersens PR) invited me and a couple of girlfriends to enjoy a day by the river. After navigating the strict dress code choices (including whether to wear the hat or not on such a windy day) we were sat having coffee in the Leander Club.

I will admit to being a bit nervous about the event. I wasn’t sure whether I was ‘good enough’ to attend. Was I dressed correctly? Would I say the wrong thing? Would people be welcoming or stand off-ish? Would I make a fool of myself in some embarrassing way I didn’t truly understand?

Why was it so important to make a good impression? I didn’t know any of these people. Thinking about it I suppose I wanted to blend in, be a part of it all, feel like I belonged there.

Harvard Business Review says “Social belonging is a fundamental human need, hardwired into our DNA.”

Most of us want to belong to something, a group, a family, a movement, a company. This need is primal; it goes back to prehistoric days when belonging to the group meant you had a higher chance of survival. Maslow felt it was of such importance that he placed belongingness just above physiological and safety needs, in his hierarchy of needs.

The in this recent article about belonging The Mayo Clinic says “The social ties that accompany a sense of belonging are a protective factor helping manage stress and other behavioural issues. When we feel we have support and are not alone, we are more resilient, often coping more effectively with difficult times in our lives.”

The article goes onto give you 5 tips to boosting your sense of belonging.

  • Put yourself out there - Make an effort to engage with others

  • Think about others first - Be mindful of others

  • Think differently - Keep and teach an open mind

  • Focus on shared values – look at the areas you have in common to bind you together.

  • Do something – then celebrate the action

rowing team in yellow signifying belonging


(You know me this last top tip is right up my street. Inspiring Action is one of my values. )

During what turned out to be a glorious sunny day I saw countless examples of belonging. The rowing teams from around the world, their families, their universities, their clubs. Everything from what people wore (you should have seen some of the striped jacket and boater combos – fantastic, bold) to the way they talked, how polite & kind they were, to the areas they sat in. All demonstrated their belonging.

I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself."Maya Angelou

And what about me? Did I belong there?

You betcha! I have been to several similar type social events, but Henley was different in a few ways. I spent a lot of the time people watching and concluded that the people where genuinely passionate about the sport, the club, the team. Nobody was there to show off, to peacock.

Everyone was there in some way shape of form to support others.

People together. Everywhere you looked people were chatting, laughing, connecting. Proud parents with rowers, old friends remembering past times, staff with members of the club discussing the latest race.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.Mother Teresa

So, what about your business. Have you created the right feeling of belonging for you and your team? Are they all passionate about what you do? Are they there to support each other? Are they together? Would they wax lyrical about the feeling they get being in work?

If not, what do you need to do to foster more belonging in your workplace? This is fast becoming one of the most important elements of modern ED&I (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion) policies. More on this subject in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, why not think about belonging and what it means to you and your business. Type ‘how to improve belonging in the workplace’ into google and see what articles and resources it beings up.

There are some brilliant articles out there here are a few I liked.



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