• Anish Hindocha

Belonging by Owen Eastwood

"Belonging is never a state that is permanently achieved. It is something we continually monitor and evaluate"

Belonging by Owen Eastwood was bought for me as a gift by a good friend. The book stresses the importance of belonging as a foundational cornerstone for creating trust. Drawing heavily upon the author’s personal Maori roots, it implores us to look at our history to guide and shape what we stand for.

The “All-Blacks” culture dates back around 110 years. Stories are aplenty. When describing the famous New Zealand Rugby Team, Eastwood asserts that despite no real economic or skill advantage, it was their sense of belonging that led them to achieve such a bewildering level of success.

“Every year people who wear that shirt create history and leave a benchmark for the next generation to aspire to”

All well and good. But if you work in a corporate, you can’t manufacture a sense of tradition can you? Indeed you at best might see your current position as transitory and your boss themselves may have only been in place for a matter of months.

How then, can we contrive to build a culture from a history that no one either recognises or has been a part of?

In places the book unapologetically borders on the spiritual nature of team building.

There’s even a chapter called ‘the campfire’ and it was all feeling a little too ‘Kum ba yah’ for my liking. I can’t imagine execs and middle managers romanticising about this year’s strategic plan amidst a sense of making a binding commitment to working together better.

Where the book comes into its own is when describing how to create an identity within a team and then working out the clarity of the behavioural norms that guide members’ interactions with one another. It emphasises my own view that nobody wants their leader’s personal beliefs forced upon them. And that co-designing culture has far more lasting potential on a team's levels of performance.

I also agree with his view that too often organisations ask external suppliers to define a vision for them, before they have deeply captured it for themselves. What comes back is something that isn’t hugely authentic.

For readers looking to take something practical away to implement with their organisation, it’s just not that sort of a book. Instead it has an arc that begins with belonging, meanders through rituals and in the 2nd half ends strongly emphasising the need for humble leadership, solid facilitation, weeding out alphas and emphasising over and over again, the need to involve team members to define what is expected of each other.

Belonging has a refreshingly different take on Culture. Part story telling, part philosophical, it guides us back to that fundamental aspect of what makes us unique as a species. Our capacity to work together to benefit the collective.

It’s something we need to remind ourselves of more often.

About Anish

A self confessed Change obsessive and founder of Jigsaw Change Consulting. A London based consultancy providing an improvement lens on to workplace culture.

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