Building a Sense of Belonging

What’s the foundation of a powerful team? The thing that makes the team members act as one organism in complete sync? What is the “glue” that holds them together, even though each member of the team is different and unique in their own way?




Belonging is a fundamental human need. It is the feeling that you are connected to others on your team, that others accept you and you accept them, that you value each other, and that you are ONE.


Building a sense of belonging is not a task of the leader solely. It’s a collective thinking and a cooperative effort.
Building a sense of belonging is a long-term game – it takes time and effort. But there are some key actions that each of us can take on.


In the TReE Team Model for powerful teams that Petya and Hari from our gang developed after 17+ years of experience in the software industry and after coaching 200+ tech teams – belonging is one of the 9 elements of a powerful team. And it’s part of the team’s hidden foundation.


What can you do to build a sense of belonging within your team?


1. Actively communicate the team’s vision and common goals to your teammates

In order to have synergy and full sync as a team, everyone on the team has to know what the team needs to achieve.

Regardless of whether you are a developer, a QA, or a PM in the team, you and the rest of the team members have one common goal: to deliver software that solves customer problems.


2. Show vulnerability

If you don’t understand something, if you need help, if you’ve made a mistake – say it!
Use any of the 4 phrases to express vulnerability and also encourage others to do the same. This way you make people feel comfortable expressing their opinion. Your teammates should feel psychologically safe to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them without any fear of judgment. This is vital for fostering belonging.


3. Be inclusive

Ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and valued during discussions or decision-making processes. Make sure to reach out to the voice of your quietest teammates.


By that, you show that everyone belongs to the team – that you are whole, that you are ONE.

If you want to read more about the signals that we send to others to inform them whether we think they are part of our tribe – check out the so-called Belonging cues: The hidden leadership signals.


4. Create and maintain team rituals

This includes any traditions or shared experiences you have with your team.
If you are interested in the topic of group rituals – you can check out the 4 features that are a must so that your rituals can improve your team’s performance.

And celebrate milestones – both big and small! This also contributes to a sense of belonging.


5. Create connections with your teammates

Make an effort to connect with the people on your team on a purely human level and talk about non-work topics as well.
Whether you are working remotely or see each other in the office every day – it doesn’t matter. In both, you have to take purposeful actions to bond outside of work-related tasks. Organize team-building activities: social gatherings, team outings, and virtual activities. We have a suggestion for remote team building like an MTV Star!


6. If your team doesn’t have a name – think about a common name to be referred to

In order to act as ONE and for each of the team members to easily identify themselves with your tribe – it must also have a name. This has a huge psychological effect on building a sense of belonging.


7. Personalized welcome gift for everybody joining the team

The topic that Hari joked about in a previous issue of his leadership comic A Leader’s Tale.


8. Don’t forget that most of all it should be… fun when you’re together!

One of the things that all powerful teams have in common is that the people on these teams have fun when they are together! Whether it’s when they’re talking about a difficult client they have a code name for or when they’re joking around using nicknames.

All kinds of things like using nicknames for each other, using internal slang and code names help your collective sense that you are all part of ONE THING! Because through humor we can build and strengthen the bonds between us.

In the Team Assessment that we do for tech teams as part of the team coaching process, we measure to what extent people have belonging to their team. The elements we measure give the most important indicators of belonging:


  • Do people on the team make sense of their work?
  • Do people show vulnerability?
  • Is the pain of one the pain of all?
  • If a person has “shut down” – do others notice?
  • Do they have a good team atmosphere (slang, fun, etc.)?

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