I heard a great phrase last week: “create an insider.” A leader at an organization was addressing a group of up-and-comers, and he exhorted them to “create insiders.” As he explained it, when you find yourself in a place where you already know people, where you have friends, it’s worth it to take time to look around and see who may not feel as comfortable as you do. What can you do you include them and make them feel welcome, but more than that, to create an insider?
There’s something really evocative about this phrase, and I have found myself thinking of it often. Our tendency when we’re in a place where we are an insider may be to simply enjoy catching up with friends and sitting in the old familiar place at lunch. That’s the beauty of having a comfort zone, after all, of being in the place where everybody knows your name.
But all of us also know the discomfort of being in a new place where it’s hard to figure out the norms, where your outsider status is underscored with every question you ask. Insiders are so familiar with the terrain that they don’t always realize how forbidding it can be to a new person. “Everyone here is so nice,” we think. “It’s not scary to be here!” Well, no, not for the insiders.
“Creating an insider” goes further than saying hi. It means being truly welcoming, thinking through what a new person may need or want to know (where are the bathrooms? are there good lunch places? is there coffee on every floor? why is everyone teasing that guy about his yellow sweater?) It means actively including them in conversations, explaining what they may not already know. Go beyond logistics to explain the culture. Ask them questions, and make sure they’re getting connected to other people. And if the place you’re in is virtual or hybrid, this is even more important.
When we take the time and effort to create more insiders, we’re a) making a more inclusive place, b) helping our culture thrive, and c) modeling what this welcoming behavior looks like to others around us. In a time when it’s easier than ever to keep our heads down and let others fend for themselves, helping to create insiders is a gift to them, you, and your organization.