Unlocking the Power of Belonging: The Blueprint to Transform Your Team

August 15, 2023

What’s the secret formula that turns a group of people into a cohesive team? The answer lies in one powerful word: Belonging. It’s the magic ingredient that wraps you in comfort, filling you with confidence and a sense of connection. It’s more than a warm, fuzzy feeling—it’s the rocket fuel that drives employee engagement, job satisfaction, productivity, and success.

Picture this: When I first joined The Hershey Company’s Sales Development team, I knew I was stepping into the big leagues—a dozen top performers and me, the new guy. I was warned to be humble and not “shine too brightly.” And whatever I did, I needed to keep an eye on a fellow named Chad.

Now, Chad was your classic overachiever, with just enough arrogance to make sure everyone knew it. He took an immediate dislike to me, bragging about his plans to become president of the company, and ominously warning that he’d “be watching me.” Not exactly a warm welcome.

But it was during a town hall meeting in the grand Hershey Theater that Chad’s one-upmanship took a bizarre twist. As I filed into my seat, who jumped ahead and parked himself next to me? You guessed it, Chad.

He glanced at my outfit and frowned, telling me, “You really should think more about how you dress. You’re wearing a blue dress shirt, and the rest of our team is wearing white.” I looked down the row and, sure enough, everyone was in white. I was the odd man out, feeling like I’d worn a party hat to a board meeting.

Embarrassment gnawed at me throughout the meeting, all thanks to a simple blue shirt. Chad’s smirk and warning felt like an overblown reaction, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d made a “career-limiting move.”

Later, I shared the incident with my team lead, John, who burst out laughing and reassured me, “Chad’s just trying to intimidate you. Don’t worry about it.”

The next day, I walked into a meeting to find a sea of blue shirts staring back at me. Chad was the only one in white. I couldn’t help but smile, and my teammates returned the gesture.

After the meeting, John explained, “We wanted to send a message. We’re a team, and we stick together. We also want you to know that you belong here.”

That day, a blue shirt became more than just a fashion faux pas; it was a symbol of acceptance and teamwork. I realized that strong leaders instill a sense of belonging and help others feel secure and valued. 

Here are 7 unconventional principles that will build a sense of belonging and transform your team:

  1. The Importance of Team Unity and Support. A collective approach can create a sense of belonging, emphasizing the value of unity within a team. This was epitomized by my teammates’ decision to wear blue shirts in solidarity. How can you foster unity and support in your own team? By celebrating the uniqueness of each member, and by acknowledging and supporting their individuality, you reinforce the idea that everyone has a place and a role.
  2. The Impact of Intimidation Tactics. Even seemingly insignificant actions or words can have a profound effect on others, like Chad’s comment about my blue shirt. It underscores the need to approach interactions with empathy and awareness. How will you ensure that your communication is supportive rather than intimidating?
  3. Leadership’s Role in Fostering Inclusivity. Leaders play a vital role in shaping an inclusive culture, showing empathy and encouragement, as John did for me. What steps can you take to build an inclusive culture? Recognize and address instances of exclusion, even if they seem trivial, and actively foster an environment of support.
  4. Personal Confidence and Self-Expression. Being true to oneself is essential. My blue shirt, although a departure from the norm, became a symbol of acceptance. How will you nurture personal confidence in your team? Encourage self-expression and applaud those who dare to be different.
  5. The Symbolism of Small Gestures. Small symbols can carry profound meanings, like the sea of blue shirts that welcomed me. What symbols or gestures could strengthen your team’s bond? Create shared symbols that reflect your team’s values and connection.
  6. Effective Communication and Open Dialogue. Open and honest communication fosters understanding, as seen when John reassured me. How can you promote open dialogue within your team? Encourage open communication, and make sure all team members know that their feelings and perceptions are valued.
  7. Collective Stand Against Negative Behavior. A collective, values-driven stand can counteract negativity. My team’s response to Chad’s intimidation set standards for acceptable behavior. How will you collectively set standards that promote positivity? Define and reinforce values and take a stand when those values are challenged.

These seven principles, learned from a simple blue shirt, offer a blueprint for building a workplace where belonging is at the core. They teach us that everyone has a role to play, that each voice matters, and that true belonging is not about blending in but standing out.

Are you ready to find your “blue shirt”? Embrace these lessons, weave them into your leadership, and watch as belonging transforms your team from ordinary to extraordinary. Now’s the time to make everyone feel at home in your workplace. It’s not just about the shirts; it’s about the hearts that wear them.

Want to learn more about leveling up your leadership skills? Visit my website,, today!



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The One About The Bullies

October 10, 2022

Seven Ways to Prevent Bullying

First, an update to my original 2020 article…

People and events shape who we are.

I was bullied during my adolescent years and have shared my story several times in support of National Bullying Prevention Week.

The last time I shared my story, I received stinging criticism that I bullied others, and my attitudes, words, and actions toward them were hurtful. Just as I was shaped by my bullying experience, I now understand that those I bullied were impacted by my behavior toward them. I am so sorry.

The psychological term for my behavior is “Displacement – a defense mechanism in which a person redirects a negative emotion from its original source to a less threatening recipient.”[1] In my anger, frustration, fear, and anxiety, I’m confident that I took my negative emotions out on others.

Unfortunately, my regretful behavior continued into my college and early career. I became the intimidator for fear of anyone intimidating me. 

I accept responsibility for my conduct, and if you were at any point the brunt of my regretful behavior, please forgive me. It wasn’t until the Lord got a hold of me that I put down my defenses. I discovered what it meant to love people…

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, English Standard Version)

I surrendered my desire to rise and fight back no matter the situation to him. He transformed my mind, will, and emotions, ended my need to intimidate, and empowered me to love others. Admittedly, I’m still a work in process and have a long, long way to go.

How about you?

If you’re a bully or intimidate others, maybe you’re displacing your emotions on others. Do as I did, examine your ways, and surrender them to the Lord. He alone can change hearts, and changed hearts change behavior.

If you’ve been bullied or know someone who has, I encourage you to read my story and the seven ways to prevent it.

Lastly, UNITY DAY is October 19, 2022. Will you “wear and share orange for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion and to send a visible message that no child should ever experience bullying” with me? Visit to learn more.


Now, here’s my original article. I hope you are inspired to help prevent bullying! Good reading…

After becoming a Christian in the eighth grade, I shared my newfound faith with everyone. I hoped my relationship with Jesus would be contagious. After a few months of sharing, multiple friends called and asked to come to church with me. I was so excited! Some came and responded to the gospel as I had. But others decided that the Christian faith wasn’t for them. These “friends” who’d rejected the message began to reject me as well.

Being bullied became a constant pattern in my life. I was ridiculed and ostracized by my “friends.” I was physically or verbally threatened on several occasions because of my beliefs. 

One semester, a group of tough guys began intimidating me. They’d sneak up on me and whisper, “Do you want to fight? You’d better watch yourself after school. We’re gonna kick your butt!” They were relentless. The bullies stared and laughed at me in class, followed me down the halls every day, and prevented me from getting into my locker. I was scared to death and felt like no one could help me. 

I didn’t know how to fight back. I was a scrawny, five-foot-two kid who weighed eighty pounds soaking wet. The bullies seemed like they were ten feet tall. Their intimidation became overbearing, so I went to see the school counselor. After hearing my story, he began escorting me to the bike rack after school for the next month. I’d unlock my bike, hop on, and ride like the wind, hoping to get home before the bullies caught me.

One time, I was home alone, and the doorbell rang. Two bullies were at the door. They tried to pull me outside and beat me up—in a nice, middle-class neighborhood, no less! I forced the door shut. They looked for another way into the house, calling me names as I hid inside. I tried to call my neighbors for help. No one was home. I was so scared that the bullies would find a way into my house that I called the police. The bullies left. 

My dad came home, and I told him what had happened. Trying to help me, he called the bullies’ parents and had stern conversations with them. Well, you can imagine how the bullies reacted. Their threats, intimidation, and pressure grew worse. During P. E. the next day, the bullies told me I’d pay for my dad’s calls. 

Somehow, I kept my faith and prayed for God’s protection through all that. I trusted God’s promise in Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (ESV). I surrounded myself with other believers and found support. I was never physically harmed, but I was emotionally scarred. 

Being bullied was humiliating and embarrassing. Admittedly, I’ve struggled with resentment toward those bullies and wanted to get revenge over the years. It took a long time for me to forgive them and overcome my fear and anger. These traumatic episodes molded me at a very early age and had a lasting impact. On one side, they taught me to trust God and persevere. On the other side, I learned how to hide my faith from others as a form of self-protection.

Eventually, I grew out of the five-foot-two frame into a six-foot-one frame. I matured physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My confidence grew more potent, and bullies no longer intimidated me. I stick up for myself. But when I sense someone is trying to threaten me or someone else, I have a visceral reaction (i.e., hair standing up on the back of my neck) that motivates me to fight back – stand up for myself and others. This isn’t always good. At times, I can become the aggressor. I’m still a work in progress. God continues shaping me – healing the wounds from long ago, building my faith in him, and moderating my reaction to bullies. He’s not done with me yet, but I know that he’ll finish what he started.

Statistics show that 20% of children ages 12 to 18 years old experience some type of bullying – unwanted aggressive behavior meant to hurt. Bullying comes in several forms (verbal, social, and physical) and typically occurs in a few locations (school or online). 

How do you prevent bullying? It can be complex. But based on my experience, I recommend the following seven ways:

  1. Keep the faith – I ran to God and sought his help in my time of need. He heard my cries and protected me. My faith in him grew more profound because of my experience, and he continues to mend me today. 
  2. Speak up – If you’re the one being bullied, tell a trusted adult or authority. Don’t be embarrassed. Ask for help. It took me a long time to muster the courage to admit I was being bullied. Ultimately, I told my parents and teachers. My experience may not have lasted as long or been as acute if I’d confided in someone earlier.
  3. Surround yourself – seek support, safety, and solace with your friends and family. I leaned into my church youth group and will never forget their encouragement.
  4. Stick up for yourself – Sometimes, you need to dig deep inside and find the courage to overcome your fear. Let the bully know you’re not going to take it anymore. I’m not condoning violence. I am condoning a deep resolve that prevents anyone from unwanted aggressive behavior. Tell the bully to stop.
  5. Be someone’s hero – Don’t stand on the sidelines if you see someone being bullied. Intervene, stick up for the bullied person; if you see something, say something. I wished I had more heroes willing to stand up for me. Now, I try to be that hero in someone’s life that I didn’t have.
  6. Build awareness and a culture of safety – Teachers, administrators, parents, and students can all play a role in bully prevention. Educate everyone on what bullying is and what it isn’t. Teach respect, dignity, and what to do if bullying is occurring. Learn to listen. Be empathetic. Protect others.
  7. Forgive and forget – It took a long time for me to resolve my feelings of anger and resentment. I learned that it’s not good to hang on to grudges. If you do, you’ll become bitter. The path to becoming better is through forgiveness and forgetting the circumstances – move on.

To learn more about bullying, its effects, and how to prevent it, visit:

Have you ever been bullied? What was your experience? Please send me a note to and continue the conversation. 



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Preston Poore

I’m a disciple of Christ and an executive at a Fortune 500 Company. In my blog, The Discipled Leader, I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work.

As a certified coach, speaker, and trainer with the John Maxwell Team, I help others grow their relationship with Christ, develop their leadership skills, and understand how they can make a positive difference in today’s chaotic world.

Let me help you reach your potential.

I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work. I invite you to subscribe to my blog and learn how to develop Christlike character, influence your culture and change your world.

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