Belonging, it’s coming home.

“The players have had an incredible togetherness and brought so many parts of the country together. We should be proud. For some, to be abused is unforgivable. It is not what we stand for. We’ve been a beacon of light, bringing people together. The national team stands for everybody. We’ve shown the power our country has when it comes together. We should be proud of the players. I know 99 per cent of the public will be there for them.” Gareth Southgate

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How to foster team belonging from Gareth Southgate

In the wake of the Euro finals, we witnessed unforgivable racism towards key black players in the English team. However, my thoughts go to how England manager Gareth Southgate displayed exemplary leadership. The paradox is that England’s softly assured manager is fast becoming one of the most extraordinary leadership stories the UK has had in a long time.

“Gareth Southgate everything a leader should be. Respectful, humble, and genuine,” Gary Neville.

Watching the match reading the articles about the abhorrent racism the players received, I am reminded that racism is not a matter of the past, and sadly, we see examples of this every day. But then we saw condemnation from the top. Gareth Southgate, a celebration about the potential and the power of diversity. The deep care and support he demonstrated after the England team lost.

Observing Southgate, my mind turned to the leaders I serve and how can they display exemplary leadership?

Lean in! Call people in! Close the gaps because as you and your team learns and unlearns beliefs about people, contexts and concepts, there may be assumptions about true belonging and inclusion. They will look to you, and you are the role model; you have the power to show what belonging looks like. The purpose here is to make space for unrepresented groups. So how can you create this dynamic and make it a living, breathing part of your working life? This is not a thing we can do in isolation; it’s not static, and it’s never about one thing. Hence, no one solution will fix this. So look for allies and agents of change, belonging champions within your team, those who can help you carry forward meaningful work. 

“It is down to me.” Gareth Southgate England Football Club Manager

Belonging starts at the base camp, the nucleus, the heart of the house. How we make each other feel welcome and truly belong impacts how we talk about race and privilege. As a leader who cultivates belonging, you want to create the right amount of psychological safety so people in your team can have this conversation and unpack these multiple layered subjects.

Consequently, as a leader who wanted to create more belonging, you have to look at the person in the mirror and challenge yourself regularly when you’re leading a team. There is no one solution I have to offer but rather a question. What would it cost you if you let things remain the same?

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