Why Belonging is Critical to Your Organization (Commentary by Tamika S. Edwards) | Arkansas Business News


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Growing up, I always wanted to get to the root of things. With the perpetual why always swirling around in my head, I often joke that this is why I’m drawn to reality TV. Instead of focusing on what people do, I focus on understanding the conditions that triggered the behavior. Essentially, I find myself continually thinking about why people do what they do.

Several years ago I took the CliftonStrengths Assessment. The assessment ranks your strengths and serves as your “talent DNA”. According to the CliftonStrengths website, the assessment “explains[s] the ways you think, feel and behave most naturally. Given this information, it’s no surprise that my top five highlights, in order, are:

  1. Learner
  2. Connectivity
  3. Individualization
  4. Context and
  5. Relator.

Recognizing my strengths, I found my career path to be meaningful. I value learning, I recognize that almost everything makes sense, I want to understand how different people can work together productively, understand the present by researching history, and find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal. Based on CliftonStrengths definitions, I thrive when my environment allows these things to happen. I work at my optimal level. I feel a sense of belonging and a strong psychological security. I know that I am a valued member of the team.

I have had the privilege of working with different leaders, which has allowed me to witness many different leadership styles. While each style has helped me understand and shape my own, my experiences have also taught me how leadership styles enable or hinder an organization’s progress.

In most cases, this progress is the responsibility of their employees. In an age when employees expect more from their workplace, leaders are well positioned to cultivate and nurture their organization’s greatest asset: their workforce.

Nurturing and cultivating employees means a variety of things. At Southwest Power Pool, our leaders recognize that our work is more than energy; it’s about the power of relationships. Our core value is “doing the right thing, for the right reason, in the right way”. In Aspire 2026, SPP’s strategic plan, our leaders outlined six enabling capabilities intended to guide them on how to make decisions, treat employees, and act as an industry leader. The leadership of SPP set the tone to unleash the power of the organization.

This power enables employees to lead from their strengths, allowing the organization to build on its core value and ensure that its employees see themselves in that value.

In general, an enabling capacity is a necessary element that helps an organization to initiate action. Enabling capacity is not the only source of progress, but it is essential to it. At SPP, a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion is an enabling capability and goes hand in hand with organizational readiness. Our management recognized that our employees are our foundation and that nothing could move forward without an engaged and supported workforce.

Research shows that employees who have a sense of belonging are more connected and contribute at higher levels. They have the psychological safety to be creative and innovative. They understand they are part of a larger cause and see themselves in the work. Additionally, employees have a greater sense of satisfaction because they know they are seen and valued.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (belonging) are not buzzwords. This set of jobs provides endless possibilities for an organization and encourages employees to leverage their strengths. They allow every employee to be celebrated and valued for what they bring to the table. In other words, it’s the right thing to do, for the right reason.

So what are you willing to do to activate capabilities within your organization? How can you work with your employees to instill a sense of belonging to propel your organization to the next level?

Tamika S. Edwards is the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Southwest Power Pool in Little Rock. She has over 20 years of experience in social justice, public policy, government and community outreach.

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