What if you could simplify how you think about developing the people in your company in ways that foster growth, innovation, and healthy workplace culture? What if you had a lens through which you could look at conflict and assess what to say or do as a leader to bring about a resolution with more ease? What if you had a robust understanding of how to more confidently approach fostering better diversity, equity, and inclusion practices within your organization? 


Right now, in our homes, we struggle with the needs of children, demands of our workplaces, and for many, financial insecurity in a coming economic downturn. We worry about our health and wellbeing and that of our loved ones, and during this pandemic, people are socially, racially, and politically divided. Business leaders face challenging and complex decisions about taking their organizations through transitions that they could never have foreseen. Each of us is navigating change using all that we have as smart, well-meaning human beings.


In the face of unrest, we need to stand in integrity. Who we are and how we choose to show up for ourselves and each other determines the shape of the world. What human beings need most right now is to hold and anchor into our values, and do what we believe is right for humanity, our communities, families, businesses, and ourselves in this extraordinary time. What humans need most now is dignity, belonging, and safety.


Dignity is a felt sense within our bodies. If we straighten up our posture and connect to what matters to us, we can feel dignity come alive within us. With dignity comes self-respect. What are you doing or not doing that fosters dignity within you? What are the things that affect you and bring you in or out of alignment with this important sensation? How do you create space for other people’s own dignity? Do you listen closely to what they say in ways that help you better connect to them and hear their truth from what’s said? Can you imagine your family, your community, or your work as places where each person’s dignity is given full expression? Where you have the skills to work things out amongst yourselves in ways that not only preserve but elevate the dignity in each other?


The formal definition of dignity is the “state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.” If we can fundamentally believe that each person is born inherently enough — that they are worthy of honor or respect regardless of their degree, upbringing, competence, network, or expertise — we can create transformation. The rest builds upon this foundation. What we choose to see in others reflects what we allow to see in ourselves. Choosing to see dignity and choosing to feel our own dignity as an inner, quiet strength as opposed to fierce, burning energy, is all it takes to begin a cycle of hope, connection, and belonging. 


Belonging is also a felt sense. It’s the calm within our nervous systems that tells us that there is no danger. It’s a feeling of connection, of being welcome, and of being accepted. You’ll see belonging on lists of fundamental human needs, along with basic necessities including food and shelter. Yet, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review, despite companies spending 8 billion dollars in diversity, equity, and inclusion training last year, most training does not address the core need for people to feel like they belong. 


Belonging is directly tied to business outcomes. From a BetterUp study conducted in 2019, “High belonging was linked to a whopping 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days. For a 10,000-person company, this would result in annual savings of more than $52M.” When people don’t feel welcome or accepted, they hold back, creating opportunities for self-sabotage. Fostering inclusion that leads to belonging counters these results.


Finally, safety seems basic to understand, yet there are nuances important to discern. Beyond physical safety comes psychological and emotional safety. You inherently know what it means to feel this quality of safety, and when you don’t have it, you consciously and unconsciously fight for it because it’s directly related to your brain’s concept of survival. From Claude Steele’s work on identity safety and performance, we know that when people feel safe in their own skins—in their chosen and self-determined social identity and how it’s fully accepted by others OR where there is a healthy and conscious dialogue that fosters deeper empathy and compassion for differences—they thrive. Organizations can enliven their workforce by practicing ways that create safe learning and working environments: allowing for personal agency in matters important to them; trusting a higher concept of self in others, and having difficult conversations better.


At heart, dignity, belonging, and safety allow us to give and receive that which we need most now. If you think about a time where you felt excluded, unsafe, or disrespected, and connected to your feelings and response to the situation, you’ll understand the power of these values. The hurt created likely still touches you in some way today. By elevating the concepts of dignity, belonging, and safety, we can create openings for people to engage more richly, to feel more motivated, to want to create and add value. It takes a fundamental belief in the right of each person to strive to have these in their lives. How does this lens that every person ultimately wants the same thing to improve your leadership and relationships? How do we go forth with each other in ways that allow the greatest expression of these values to emerge?