Belonging looks like having someone’s back. This may mean, in some circumstances, speaking up for someone who may not feel comfortable speaking up for themselves, like a junior colleague who has just started and is still finding their way. It may mean, in other circumstances, to step back and facilitate someone else speaking up for themselves and not speaking for them. The challenge we can sometimes feel in these situations is to know which we should be doing when and for whom! But that can be easily addressed by actually speaking to that person and asking them, “Hey, how can I have your back in this situation?” Let them tell you what is helpful at any given time. Often, just asking or checking in itself IS having someone’s back.
Sometimes having someone’s back (or a group’s back) is advocating for them in places where they may not have access – management meetings where you can speak about the need for support for a particular team. OR it may mean advocating for someone or some group to gain access to those meetings – “Hey, can we invite a few team members to the next meeting where we are going to discuss team support, so they can share with you themselves what kinds of support they need to be successful?” Again, the best way to know how to have someone’s back is to ask them. That way, there’s no guessing involved, and lots of well-intentioned missteps can be avoided. And people appreciate being asked what they need!