• Toby Sinclair

Belonging by Owen Eastwood | Book Summary

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Toby's Rating: 9/10 | Recommended For: HR Leads | Category: Culture

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Belonging by Owen Eastwood

3 Big Ideas from Belonging by Owen Eastwood 💡


Belonging by Owen Eastwood helps you create a culture where everyone belongs:


  1. The most important question every leader must answer: What is the optimal environment for this group to perform to their best? The answer always contains a component of belonging. The challenge. To create an environment where everyone feels like they belong, regardless of who they are and what they believe.

  2. Wellbeing is directly tied to group belonging. Studies reaffirm the correlation between chronic loneliness, poor health and early mortality. When we experience a sense of belonging our body produces a hormone soup that enables oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine and endorphins to work their collective magic. Our need to belong is, therefore, not just in the mind, but a physical state.

  3. People perform at their best when they feel a sense of belonging. They feel safe and secure. In contrast, when social relationships feel under threat we respond both emotionally and physically as though our survival is threatened. The same area in our brain is engaged as if we were suffering physical pain.


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2 Best Quotes from Belonging by Owen Eastwood 💬


Belonging is a wildly undervalued condition required for human performance.
Success is dependent on the strength of the group under pressure.

Belonging by Owen Eastwood Quote

Tobys Top Takeaway


Do I belong here?


Everyone asks this question at some point in their career. Especially when joining a new team.


Sadly, the answer is often conditional.


Prove yourself and then you can belong here.

In western individualistic cultures the needs and rights of individuals prevail; an ethos of ‘looking out for number one’.


This creates many problems in the workplace.


When we feel under threat we respond both emotionally and physically as though our survival is threatened. The same area in our brain is engaged as if we were suffering physical pain.


Belonging by Owen Eastwood explores how to build a sense of belonging. What I found most inspiring was the use of storytelling.


We look to our leaders to be the storyteller-in-chief and expect them to personify our tribal identity.

Leaders play an important role in telling the "Us Story": the past, present and future of this team.


I regard this work as a sacred task. It involves immersing yourself in three dimensions of an Us story: the past, the present and the future. I reconnect to the past. This requires fully immersing myself in the heritage of a team and the tribe they represent. It is typical for me to spend months researching this and most impactfully meeting ‘ancestors’ to hear the Us story through them. I then connect to the future. What is the team’s vision for the next chapter of its Us story? This informs us what we are working towards and what the environment needs to enable and drive. Finally, we focus on the present. Do we have a sense of identity that flows into everything we do? Do we see ourselves as part of an unbroken chain from our ancestors to those that follow us? More often than not, this needs mending.

Great leaders craft the Us story so that every person in their group feels a genuine sense of belonging. Nobody feels like an outsider or that their personal identity is devalued. This is especially important for diverse teams.


In Belonging, Owen Eastwood shares an example of working with the South African Cricket Team:

The Proteas may be the most diverse team in international sport. On any given game day, the team of eleven players can include indigenous Africans, Afrikaners, ethnic English and Indians; as well as Christians, Muslims and Hindus. This reflects the rich diversity of the ‘Rainbow Nation’, as well as the fact that selection policies are in place that prescribe a race-based quota.

The challenge and consequences are high. To create a sense of belonging for everyone within the team.


Owen Eastwood shares that visual storytelling is the most powerful. He worked with Ford to tell their "Us Story" and their vision for winning Le Mans.


Watching the video, imagine telling the story of your team in this way. Powerful stuff!



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