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Guiding principles #2 - Connectedness

Updated: Sep 3, 2020

As I continue to write up my PhD research and further explore the themes that have been constructed through the analysis phase, I have found myself venturing into areas that are adding even more significance to my guiding principles. Areas such as attachment theory (Bowlby, 1950s and 1960s), self-determination theory (Deci and Ryan, 1980s) and psychological safety (Edmondson, 1999; 2019) are now helping me further shape and refine my work, my research and, I guess, my general way of being.

Today I write about the notion of 'connectedness' and what this means to me in a professional sense. However, I am also becoming ever more consciously aware of the importance of feeling connected on a daily basis. After all, us human beings 'have a pervasive drive to form and maintain at least a minimum quantity of lasting, positive, and significant interpersonal relationships’ (Baumeister and Leary, 1995, p.497).

In his work exploring an analytical framework for belonging (or connectedness as I call it), Antonsich (2010, p.644) proposes that there are two parallel dimensions to belonging that both need to be considered when critically examining belonging in a contextual sense. Antonsich argues that ‘to be able to feel at home in a place is not just a personal matter, but also a social one’ (p.649) and emphasises the link between individual feelings of belonging and the nature of the environment into which one is venturing (i.e. inclusive or exclusive). In other words, not everyone will necessarily feel at home in every environment, and your sense of connection depends on how your personal context matches with, or is embraced by, the social group around you.

It is interesting to think about this idea of belonging in relation to sport, something which has always been a big part of my life, and also a big part of the lives of the amazing people whom I interviewed for my research. Sport has the power to connect people and provide as sense of genuine belonging; as Allen (2006, p.388) explained, ‘belonging [is] viewed as a sense of psychological connection with others in the sport setting and characterised by a sense of caring and security where individuals feel that they are included and respected for who they are’.

However, from my experience and work within the wider sporting context, this is not something that we always get right. Often we hear of individuals and groups feeling excluded from a particular sport or club, and we also know that there are still huge challenges around gender balance within sport in terms of participation, coaching, leadership and governance. One of my lines of thinking stemming from my research is that in order to really address these inequalities, we need to spend much more time looking at, and working on, developing the environments within which sport is played and managed, for as Antonsich identified, belonging has to be considered from both the personal and social context. If we don't change the environment, how can we expect our participation or inclusion drives to really create the shift we desire?

Anyway, I digress somewhat. Back to the main focus of this blog, and my fifth guiding principle.

CONNECTEDNESS...for me it means that:

“I believe that connecting with other people is a fundamental part of being human and that we all need some form of social connection to thrive, be that personally, professionally or organisationally. I also believe that meaningful connections inspire action, and can give us all a feeling of motivation and sense of purpose. Meeting with, and talking with, other people opens our minds to different perspectives and possibilities that we may never have dreamed up on our own. These open, honest and sometimes brave conversation can really inspire us to dream bigger dreams and help us to believe that they are possible. I also know that having a sense of belonging, and feeling like you are part of something bigger than you is important for a sense of wellbeing and positivity. Being with other people can help us get through even the roughest of seas and perhaps even stop us drowning when we feel like we have lost touch with the shore.”

My commitment to bringing connectedness into all that I do is by:

  • Being proactive in making connections between myself and others

  • Bringing people together to connect, share and learn in engaging and motivating environments

  • Making time to meet with, and talk to people and really listening to what each other has to say

  • Creating inclusive environments where everyone feels like they have a voice

  • Helping people to find their voice and be willing to use it without fear of judgment

  • Being me. Being open. Being honest. Being vulnerable. Dreaming big.

Very simply, people matter; connections matter. An in our sometimes lonely world, the connections we have with others can help us feel more optimistic, even on the days when that mountain just seems to big to climb.


Allen, J.B. (2006) The perceived belonging in sport scale: Examining validity. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 7: 387-405

Antonsich, M. (2010) Searching for belonging – An analytical framework. Geography Compass, 4(6): 644-659

Baumeister, R.F. and Leary, M.R. (1995) The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117: 497–529

Bowlby, J. (1958) The nature of the childs tie to his mother. International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 39: 350-371

Bowlby J. (1969) Attachment. Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Loss. New York: Basic Books

Deci, E.L. and Ryan, R.M. (1985) Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behaviour. New York, NY: Plenum

Deci, E.L. and Ryan, R.M. (2000) The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behaviour. Psychological Inquiry. 11: 227-268

Edmondson, A. (1999) Psychological Safety and Learning in Work Teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44: 350-383

Edmondson, A.C. (2019) The Fearless Organisation: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation and Growth. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc

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