Activating the Value of #Belonging at Work Through #Listening with Sarah Judd Welch

What does listening have to do with belonging? There is currently a lot of buzz around the cost to organizations when employees do not feel belonging. Yet it’s not just buzz. There is more and more research showing that when employees feel like they belong, organizations can reap bottom-line benefits. 

In this episode, Sarah describes how listening is the practice of showing people that they belong, and is a key capacity needed to activate the value-creating all the buzz.

She talks about the importance of recognizing that while it is the employers’ responsibility to shape belonging experiences, work cannot be the only focus. A leader can also foster a sense of belonging when they support individuals in their team discover belonging and identity outside of work. For example, having time and resources to spend time with friends, taking a class, joining a club or volunteering. 

Sarah Judd Welch is the Principal & CEO of Sharehold, an innovation consultancy that designs and fosters belonging with teams and communities navigating change. As a community and organizational designer, Sarah believes that it is our collective responsibility to create environments and cultures in which everyone is seen, heard, and valued. Sarah is Dare to Lead trained and most recently led the research report Redesigning Belonging: How Uncertainty Magnifies Belonging at Work which resulted in a group assessment tool for visualizing and improving belonging experiences. Her clients range from Google and Anheuser Busch to The Skoll Foundation and Meetup.

“Listening is…a process for showing people that they belong. It’s not enough to simply listen, you need to also take action. And you also need to show up and act in a way on an ongoing basis that shows people they are seen, heard and valued, and that they fit within the group in a system.” – Sarah Judd Welch 

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Valuable Resource:

A group assessment tool for visualizing and improving belonging experiences — Redesigning Belonging: How Uncertainty Magnifies Belonging at Work:

Listen IN Notes:

00:38 – The time she began to notice just how powerful listening could be as an organizational capacity and as a lever for change.

02:10 – What is a innovation consultancy?

04:14 – The natural output of her company’s growth and evolution over time — If you want to see change externalized in the world, you must start with yourself, then start with the organization then go out into the community.

07:02 – Describing how organizations that were more successful were the ones that listen better. 

10:10How did one company who listened better become more successful: becoming a more digital and content-oriented company as opposed to more of a traditional marketing company

16:10 – What happens when insights are rejected by decision-makers: It’s oftentimes foreboding of a really challenging future where an organization is unable to meet the needs of a specific set of stakeholders. 

17:04 –  What one company learned when they become responsive towards insights: Reframing their value proposition

18:31 – Sometimes there is hesitancy and fear to listen to customers: A story about a client who was surprised to be able to leverage their learnings to reposition their membership to be much more about being in community with people and supporting the global movement

20:15 – Two different research approaches used to get insights for companies: Conduct survey and direct interviews 

22:21 – How listening gave Tokeativity valuable insight:  they learned how to directly engage their community 

24:36 – The holistic shift that happens in companies after listening: It’s really about reorienting the organization to serving your primary stakeholder, which is oftentimes the customer.

25:32 – The core outcome of a report called Redesigning Belonging — How Uncertainty Magnifies Belonging at Work: a group assessment tool for visualizing and improving belonging experiences inside of both teams and groups at large.

30:21 – Insights from the research on belonging: Uncertainty magnifies belonging experiences both negatively and positively.

33:45 – The responsibility that a leader takes to shape belonging experiences in the organization according to insights from the belonging research

34:12: – What do belonging experiences look like?

38:09 – How does listening impact belonging?

40:44 – Listening as a way of demonstrating belonging: Participating in the listening research and sharing insights from the result of the research to their community in a transparent manner

41:37 – How did Sarah’s listening research and experience affect her as a person?

43:16 – Acknowledging the struggle to do listening for ourselves

43:44 Tool to help visualize and act on the team’s experience of belongingness. Click here:

45:44 – One interesting fact about design research as opposed to market research

46:00 – Her wish for the future: Suspend the pressure to think short-term and really think long-term.

48:10 – Encouraging words from Sarah: An internal listening practice for your team has real results for your customers.

Key Takeaways:

“Listening is the practice of showing people they belong.” – Sarah Judd Welch

“Listening is the capability and practice that allows you to be seen, heard, and valued in the creation and design process. You are designing specific solutions that are meeting their needs. That is how belonging and listening connect to each other.”– Sarah Judd Welch

“What we saw over time is that we really needed to broaden our focus to a much more holistic level of change, that for a community to move forward, you need to start from within the organization.” – Sarah Judd Welch

“Organizations that are listening well are in a relationship in various pathways with all of those stakeholders and have ways for them to solicit feedback, gather feedback, insight, and co-develop solutions together. They also know which other stakeholders are most important for them to listen to. And that’s not necessarily dependent upon who has the most financial leverage.” – Sarah Judd Welch

“As a leader, it is your responsibility to shape belonging experiences at work, this is something that is within your capacity and your control and it is your job as a leader.”  – Sarah Judd Welch

“While it is an employer’s and a leader’s responsibility to shape belonging experiences, work cannot be the only place where we feel that we belong.” – Sarah Judd Welch

“When you listen, you are able to understand what it is that people need, you hear them and by the very mere fact of listening to them, you are showing that you value their perspective, their inputs, and their opinions and that you respect their needs.”  – Sarah Judd Welch

Notes / Mentions:

Connect with Sarah Judd Welch: 

Connect with Raquel Ark:

Raquel Ark
Raquel Ark
I am a communicator, coach, facilitator devoted to sharing ideas, tools and resources that help you master the art of listening. Listening is the doorway to understanding, the bridge to connections and the foundation of trust.