Stephanie Chung excited

Healthy Organizational Culture Requires A Sense of Belonging

Stephanie Chung, author of Ally Leadership and the featured speaker of the 2024 4word Gala, has built her career around transformative growth within companies and she shares her valuable insights into what determines a healthy organizational culture in today’s ever-changing workforce.

You can listen to this conversation with Stephanie on our podcast, Work, Love, Pray! Listen below or click here to find your preferred listening platform.

I love that question because I think everyone will probably have a different viewpoint, but for me, I want to keep it really simple. First, I think we all know a healthy organizational culture has to first start with trust. Trust has to be the foundation for any culture. I’s been my experience that healthy cultures involve two things: people able to work for something bigger than themselves, and the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing. Everybody has to be walking to the same beat of the same drummer. 

From the top of an organization all the way down to the entry level, everybody has to know the purpose and mission of the company. If your employees know that information, then they will have an understanding of how what they do impacts what the company does as a whole. Everyone needs to be working for a bigger cause because that actually gets employees incredibly engaged. 

One of the biggest challenges (which I actually believe is also the biggest opportunity) companies in the US today are facing is everything is changing in the workplace. If you’re a leader in the workplace, you should be pouring yourself into really understanding your team. Right now, in the current workforce, we’ve got five generations working, and that’s the first time in history that has ever happened. You have people working from age 16 to 75, and every age in between. Every different generation has a different perspective, different expectation, different desire, different wants, different needs…and that can be challenging for a leader. 

So the first challenge and opportunity for healthy organizational culture is that you have five generations working at once. The second challenge and opportunity is that workforce demographics are changing. Women are now a majority of the world’s population for the first time in history, as well. When you look at demographics as far as ethnicity is concerned, the Black, Hispanic, and Asian races are all growing and the white race is actually shrinking and has been shrinking for the past decade.

The biggest opportunity any company has today is that they have the biggest, most diversified workforce. So how a leader approaches this historic situation is going to be what’s really important. One of the reasons why I wrote my book, Ally Leadership, was to share success strategies for how to lead people who are not like you. Every single leader today will be leading people who are not like them. That is the greatest challenge healthy organizational culture faces today, because we don’t necessarily know how to lead people who are not like us. On the other hand, this is also the greatest opportunity for companies because the facts are clear: diverse teams outperform traditional teams. On traditional teams, everybody looks the same, thinks the same, acts the same, and comes from the same background. Those teams are now getting pushed out because the results that companies are producing with more diverse teams are far better. There’s more than enough research to prove that!

Most leaders will approach this situation by thinking, ‘How can I get them to adapt?’ I actually want leaders to think of it in a completely different way. As leaders, we think about diversity, equity, inclusion, and then also add in belonging. People will often interchange diversity, inclusivity, and belonging, but they’re actually all very specific things. Here’s an example: A company might think they’re diverse because they have women in the C-suite. Then, that company will say they’re inclusive because they have equal pay that is based on experience, not gender.

Belonging, though, is the point at which many companies fall short. Your company’s leadership should allow room for people to own (and potentially revise) their roles within your company. Leadership that tells their employees exactly how they should perform and not leave any room for personalization that will cater to the unique skills each employee brings to the table is doing a huge disservice to everyone in that organization.  

Realize that each generation, each gender, and each race all have a different perspective— and that’s what is actually the benefit and the blessing to the team. You don’t actually want employees to fall in line because ‘this is how we do things.’ You want them to challenge the status quo and ask the ‘what if’ questions. Now is a fantastic time to make sure that you look around the room and have the best players in the best position. If you do that, then you will, by default, have a diverse team. And when you allow that diversity to be in the room together and really think through different ways to approach things, it’s magical. The biggest way to lead people that are not like you is to accept them where they are versus trying to get them to be like you are.  

Stephanie Chung in a blue dress

With over 30 years of experience catalyzing transformative growth in the aviation sector, Stephanie Chung is widely recognized as a trailblazer, from her early career as a progressive sales leader with Bombardier Aerospace and US Airways (now American) to later being appointed the first African-American president of a major private aviation company when she took the helm at JetSuite.

In 2020, Chung joined Wheels Up, one of the largest private aviation companies in the world, as the first Chief Growth Officer, focusing on generating revenue through new client acquisition by building preference and loyalty among diverse customer segments, including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and women. In 2022, Chung transitioned roles and served as a Global Brand Ambassador for the company. 

Stephanie is an active member of c200, a community of the most successful women in business, and the Business Executives for National Security (BENS), a nonpartisan nonprofit comprised of business executives who apply best practices and cutting edge ideas to help solve some of the nations most complex security challenges. Chung also serves on the Advisory Council of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and is on the board of Make-A-Wish. 

Stephanie has received numerous accolades in hospitality, luxury travel and aviation. She was named to Adweek’s Women Trailblazers and to Robb Report’s  magazine featuring “23 Black Visionaries Who are Changing the Luxury World Right Now.” She was also named one of “Top Women in Travel & Hospitality” by Women Leading Travel & Hospitality. She was listed on the Ebony Power 100, in Savoy Magazine’s “Americas Most Influential Black Executives”, in D CEO Magazine’s Top 500 and in a feature article on “Women Who Built Dallas.” Stephanie has been a contributing columnist for Inc. and Black Enterprise Magazine, and is a highly sought after speaker whose work has been translated into 40 different languages.