Nov, 2015

Toppling the Pyramid

“Connection is a prerequisite for survival, physically and emotionally.” – Dr. Pamela Rutledge

Belonging image

Back in high school, your science teacher likely introduced you to Abraham Maslow’s famous diagram of basic human needs. Developed in 1948, Maslow’s pyramid reasonably proposed that our biological and physiological needs were the foundation for our survival, more vital than love and self–esteem. He put our need for things like food and safety on the larger, bottom rungs of the pyramid, and assigned belonging and self-actualization to the smaller rungs at the top.

Sounds logical: After all, if we don’t eat, we’re not going to get very far.

But modern researchers have dismantled Maslow’s theories. In an article in Psychology Today, Dr. Pamela Rutledge asserts that as humans, our most basic need is to belong. As social creatures, humans cannot survive without that sense of connection found in relationships with other people.

How about that? Inclusion is a basic human need, essential to our engagement in the mission of the team, the work unit and the larger organization.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to consider if our day-to-day behaviors toward our team members truly convey an appreciation and respect for the human being who is delivering the work output. It’s one thing to value the results our colleagues produce, but another to take the time to understand what makes a person tick, what motivates them, and our role in helping them feel a greater sense of belonging. Only then will our colleagues really flourish and fully contribute.

Try these Small Acts of Inclusion

  1. Think about the teams you’ve been a part of in the past where you felt a strong connection to the leader and your colleagues. What difference did that make in your energy, optimism and productivity?
  1. How can you create higher levels of belonging for your team members?
  1. Consider disrupting your patterns in terms of your “go-to” people . . . turn to different folks for advice, work assignments and lunch.
  1. Read more about the business impacts of Rutledge’s research in this Forbes article.

These “small acts of inclusion” might have a huge influence on that bottom rung on a team member’s pyramid of needs: a sense of true belonging. And when that happens across your team, expect improved morale, higher energy and better results.