4 greatest human needs

Is Your Company Addressing Them?

In the post-pandemic era and the great resignation, address these needs and 


  1. The Need to be Loved and Accepted As We Are

The greatest desire of the human heart is to be loved and accepted. The greatest need of human existence is to belong, connect with another, and know that we are of inestimable value. This is why our greatest joys and most bitter disappointments involve relationships. We’ll get to belonging in a minute.

Why is there so much posing, pretending, and politicking in organizations? Why do we work so hard to match up to people’s expectations, often trying to be someone we aren’t? Often, we try to match up out of fear. We are afraid to put our real selves “out there” for fear of rejection. That is, “If this team knew the real me, warts, insecurities, and all, they wouldn’t hire me, embrace me, give me an opportunity, or promote me.” You get the point.

our greatest joys and most bitter disappointments involve


Yet it remains, we have a deep-seated longing to be known and then, to be loved and accepted as we are. We want to know that the people we work with are for us. That they see worth in who we are and value in what we do. We want to know that we are worthy of belonging to the team.

Closely tied to this longing is the freedom to be yourself without inhibitions. When you know that you are loved and accepted for who you are, you’re free to do your best work. You are braver, more creative, relaxed, and have more fun. You think bigger and act bolder. You trust yourself to take the initiative versus being an order taker and a “yes” person. You make things happen versus making excuses because you know you will be forgiven if you make a mistake, and you will still be accepted.

What CEO doesn’t want more of that in her people?

Our friend, Herb Kelleher, the late founder of Southwest Airlines, said, “I’d rather have a company bound by love than driven by fear.” Herb nailed it. People act differently when they feel loved, don’t they? Power forces us to change, but only love can move and inspire us to change.

“I’d rather have a company bound by love than driven by fear.

Herb Kelleher, late founder,

Southwest Airlines

If you’re uncomfortable with this discussion about love maybe you need to rethink how love is expressed in a business environment. Isn’t it loving to:

  • tell people the truth in a performance review vs. hinting and hoping?
  • track down a colleague and get them a piece of information they need, so they don’t have egg on their face in front of an important customer?
  • create systems that are simple and enabling vs. complex and disabling?
  • build confidence through training so people can succeed?
  • stand up for someone in front of their boss when they need your support?


Think about your leadership, then ask yourself, “Has love been the driving force in all my activities? Can it be heard in my conversations with a colleague? Did it inform the feedback I gave someone yesterday? Are the programs and policies I advocate motivated by love? Do the people in my organization genuinely feel loved and accepted?”

Has Love

been the driving force of all your activities?

  1. The Need to Change

Most of us want to be loved and accepted as we are–we don’t want to be judged and rejected–but we don’t want to stay where we are. We want to change and grow. We want to improve. We want to be better spouses/partners, better parents, better friends, better workers, and better leaders. While being accepted as we are, most of us want to become something more worthy.

So, for all the talk about resistance to change, we still desire it because growth demands it. Whether it’s moving to a new place, changing jobs, learning to ski, golf, or playing the piano, we are more capable of change than we think. Most of the time, resistance wells up within us when change is imposed upon us. We’ve never been to the unknown, so we feel the uncertainty, risk, and exposure of going there. Resistance isn’t nearly the same when change is self-initiated. That’s because the desire to be something more is greater than the discomfort of the unknown.

Most of us want to be loved and accepted as we are,

but we don’t want to stay where we are.

Either way, change in business and life is inevitable. What you do with it and whether or not you grow from it is up to you, right? Change is not an option in this world. You will change. Your organization will change. Your life will change.

The question is: “Will the changes be opportunity-led or crisis-driven? Especially when it comes to creating an environment where people want to work and choose to stay? This is a critical question given that we are in The Great Resignation.

As we emerge from the pandemic, there is a mass exodus from the workplace. Record numbers of people are voluntarily leaving their jobs. According to USA Today, in November 2021, job quitting leaped to:

  • 920,000 in restaurants and hotels,
  • 660,000 in education and health services,
  • 996,000 in trade, transportation, and utilities,
  • 154,000 in financial activities, and,
  • 798,000 in professional and business services.

People want their organizations to be a force for good in three ways.

In industry after industry, employers can’t find enough workers to fill the demand. The Great Resignation has turned into an unplanned uprising against  questionable leadership, organizations that treat people like commodities, and businesses that ignore our greatest human needs. The pandemic created an opportunity for this frustration to surface. People are looking in the mirror and asking, “Why am I still putting up with this? What’s keeping me from leaving? What if I start my own business?” The result? Priorities are shifting. Millions of workers are voting with their feet and walking off their jobs.

It’s not about the money.

Workers who are gaining a deeper appreciation for life outside their organizations need a good reason to stay on the job. So, what compels people to stay? Leadership’s recognition that being employed is no longer just a job; it’s part of a person’s value system. Mining their ideas and contributions, being flexible, and working harder to create a sense of community in a pandemic world are all part of what workers value. Mostly, people want opportunities to change and grow. A killer culture gives people unconditional acceptance and ways to flourish at work…and in that order.

Unpack this further, and you will learn what THE B TEAM, Beyond Blue, Future Workplace, and others have discovered: people want their organizations to be a force for good in three ways:

Good for me. Traditional jobs are morphing into something different or disappearing altogether. Upskill me, prepare me for the new positions in a new world. Invest in my well-being beyond the job (body, mind, and soul) and see me as more than one of your most valued assets.

Good for us. Hire, train, and elevate the kind of leaders people love to follow—leaders who know how to communicate and are passionate about developing the potential in others. Create a culture that is as human as the human beings in it. I want to work in an environment free from drama and toxicity, where trust and transparency are high, goals are clear, people can be creative, and everyone “owns” their job.

Good for the world. Help me lock arms with people I like, respect, and admire, and give us an opportunity to fight for a cause that makes the world better. I want our leaders to speak out on societal issues shaping our collective future. I want to work on things that matter.

Remember, we want to be loved and accepted as we are, but we don’t want to stay that way. Ignore these forces for good, and you dismiss your peoples’ deep-seated desire to change and grow. If you dismiss this desire, your ability to attract the best people, who create the best place, where everyone can do their best work, will decline.

Workers who are gaining a deeper appreciation for life outside their organizations need a good reason to stay on the job.

Do you have a compelling answer?

  1. The Need to Belong

Glint, a company that creates employee engagement platforms, found that the top two drivers of employees who are happy, satisfied, and engaged are (1) an opportunity to learn and grow and (2) a sense of belonging. Researchers reached these conclusions after analyzing millions of responses from 629 companies on Glint’s platforms and studying more than 275,000 job postings from 375 organizations on LinkedIn.

Why are we members of families, companies, movements, sororities and fraternities, athletic teams, bands, spiritual groups, the military, charities, political parties, cities, countries, and nationalities? Well, imagine life without them. The pandemic enabled us to do just that, and what did we find? Our mental health took a hit. We struggled, primarily due to missing our family, friends, and colleagues. Being disconnected is a strong predictor of depression.

A sense of belonging is fundamental to our way of life. When we belong, we know that we are not alone; we feel safe. We feel that we are part of something meaningful, something bigger than ourselves. We have a sense of identity and security. When we belong, we’re more resilient because we have the support of a community that shares our interests and values.

When we belong, we feel safe, we have a sense of identity, we’re more resilient, and we feel part of something bigger than ourselves.

Think about it. The need to belong is instinctual. It begins with the most crucial connection of all— attachment to a caregiver. We have a 100-pound Great Bernese Mountain Dog named King. When King was nine weeks old, we brought him home. You can imagine how elated we were to have a new puppy in the family. Taken away from his mom and siblings, King wasn’t so thrilled. He howled like a coyote all night. We disrupted his sense of belonging, and he felt alone. King was over it in several days with a new sense of belonging.

As human beings, we are no different than King. Children who lack a healthy bond with someone who cares for them struggle with the same feelings of rejection. Often, this shows up in low self-esteem, negativity, and mistrust. This is not surprising given that we are hard-wired for communion. Many of us believe we are created in the image of a triune God. If this is true, it means we were created out of community (Father, Son, and Spirit) for community, out of relationship for relationship. We are relational to the core. Relationships nourish us physically and emotionally and improve the quality of our lives.

Gregg Popovich has coached the San Antonio Spurs to five national championships. With 1,336 career victories, he is widely considered one of the greatest coaches in NBA history and one of only five coaches to win five national titles.

The San Antonio Spurs are known for their unselfish style of play. It shows up in an unwavering commitment to make each other better, tireless hustle, the extra pass, and focused defense. It’s never about the individual. It’s always team-first.

What’s Popovich’s secret? To begin with, “Pop,” as he is known to his players and coaching staff, is a hard-core, old-school, command-and-control kind of guy who has little tolerance for the undisciplined. Watch his sideline eruptions and cantankerous interviews with the press, and you quickly see that he is demanding and impatient. But under that gruff exterior is a guy with a penchant for hospitality and an incredible knack for making his players feel like they belong.

The Popovich mantra: Hug’em and hold’em.

During practices and especially after tough losses, Popovich works the gym like a politician with genuine sincerity, throwing his arms over players’ shoulders, asking about their families or hobbies, and essentially, filling their cups emotionally. His mantra when it comes to players? “Hug ’em and hold ’em.”

Game films after a devastating defeat are no walk in the park for any club. Players approach the dreaded Monday mornings with trepidation, assuming they are about to get “hammered” for mistakes made during the game. Instead, Popovich has been known to turn on the video and play a documentary about something historical: a war in some part of the world or a contemporary issue like racism or terrorism. Then, he’ll engage players in a “meaty” discussion about world events with questions such as, “What are your impressions? What do you think about what happened? How would you handle it if you were in the same situation?”

These video sessions are Popovich’s way of showing players there are events that connect them bigger than basketball. It’s as if Pop is saying, “We’re paid to play and win, but at the end of the day, it’s just a game. Let’s get some perspective.”

Under that gruff exterior is a guy with a penchant for hospitality and an incredible knack for making his players feel like they belong.

Gregg Popovich is also a foodie and wine connoisseur. He uses his passion for both to build relationships with his players. Whether it is team dinners, coaches’ dinners, or small groups of players dining together, the Spurs frequently break bread together at Popovich’s favorite restaurants. Before the team gathers, Pop arrives at the restaurant early, orders wine, arranges tables, and then stands at the door and greets every player and coach when they walk in. These dinners make players feel anticipated and welcomed. The spirit of hospitality that pours so effortlessly out of Popovich breaks down barriers and conveys a sense of family.

“You are part of this extraordinary group. The group has very high standards. We value you and believe you can rise to those standards. You belong here.”

Popovich is genuinely interested in his players as people, so it’s not uncommon for Pop to find out about a player’s wife’s favorite food, recommend a restaurant, make a reservation for the couple, and order the wine. When they return, he wants to know all about what they ordered, how the wine was, what the service was like, and if they want to try another place like it.

Popovich understands that there is something unifying and sacred about breaking bread together. That concept has only been around for 2000 years. The message behind all of this hospitality is, “You are part of this extraordinary group. The group has very high standards. We value you and believe you can rise to those standards. You belong here.”

Imagine what this does to the no-bullshit, eye-to-eye conversations about a player’s performance. Players are open to it because they know that inside and outside the gym, Pop sees them as a person first, and though he might rant and yell, he is for them.

4. The Need to be Engaged

Another consequence of being created in the image of God, whose nature it is to create, is that we are creative beings. God expresses himself through his creativity. The artistry reveals the artist. And so it is with us. We are hard-wired for creative expression. We’ve been given gifts and talents to fulfill this need. Work then, becomes one of our primary outlets for creative expression.

Our work is a statement about us.

The work we do is a statement about who we are, what we think, and how we feel. Engaging work makes us feel alive and well. Work that squanders our gifts and talents makes us feel bored and distressed. When we don’t use our gifts and talents to cultivate work that matters, we struggle. Meaningless work leaves us weighed down with feelings of emptiness, disappointment, and frustration. Often, the result is resignation and resentment.

So, we have a strong need to be vitally engaged. “Vital” because making a contribution and feeling productive is good for the soul. “Vital” because engagement is crucial to our well-being and our well-being is essential to bringing our best selves to work. “Vital” because organizations where impassioned people come to work fully alive, fully engaged, and firing on all cylinders are more creative, innovative, and achieve more profitable growth.

Making a contribution and feeling productive

is good for the soul.

Firms all over the globe have been doing engagement surveys for 25 years, and the results are still pretty much the same, which means we still haven’t cracked the code on engagement. What’s missing? Perhaps we need to go back and revisit these four fundamental questions on behalf of our people:

  • Do they feel loved and accepted?
  • Do they have opportunities to change and grow?
  • Do they feel like they really belong here?
  • Do they feel like they have an open door for creative expression?

Addressing our Greatest Needs

As a leader who wants to create a culture that counts—a culture where people are made to feel extraordinary and rise to something special, what can you do? How do you address the four greatest needs people bring to your business? This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here’s a start:

Give Presence. When someone listens and gives the gift of presence, you feel safe. Physically, they lean toward you with intent, affirming that they hear you, encouraging you to dig deeper and say more. They are undistracted (by phones, other people, future meetings, etc.), and they don’t interrupt; they are here now, in the moment.

Be Disarming. People who make you feel safe are disarming. They don’t pose and pretend. They don’t armor up. They don’t hide their weaknesses to appear competent and confident. They are vulnerable: “I might be missing the boat here, but…, I could be wrong, but…, You know, ___, ___, and ___ scare me to death…, That’s my view, but what am I missing?” And this vulnerability is an invitation to a deeper, more transparent, and authentic connection.

People who make you feel safe are


Connect the Future to the Present. You sense a shared future when someone connects the dots between where you are now and where you want to be. For example, you’re on a kick-ass project team working on something that really matters—a game-changing kind of project. The team lead is waxing eloquent about something that inspires everyone in the room. Then, your manager leans over and whispers, “Three years ago, she was sitting right where you are now.” The message: ” We believe in you. You can do this too.”

Value Their Voices. We remember being in a doctoral seminar with Joe Rost, one of the foremost scholars in the field of Leadership Science. Joe would never conclude a three-hour seminar without seeking out connections and ensuring everyone had a voice. He treated you as an equal and wanted to hear what you were thinking. In doing so, he made you feel valued like you belonged.

This also reminds us of our friend Mike Abrashoff who commanded the USS Benfold, a one billion dollar guided-missile destroyer that became the Navy’s most combat-ready ship. When Mike took command, he invited all 310 sailors into his stateroom, one by one, and asked three simple questions:

  • What do you like most about working on the Benfold?
  • What do you hate about working on the Benfold?
  • If you were the captain of the Benfold, what would you change?

Abrashoff wasted no time. When a sailor came up with an actionable idea to improve the ship, Abrashoff got on the ship-wide intercom announcing that the change would go into effect immediately. And then, he thanked the person, by name, who came up with the solution. Moral on the ship catapulted, and the Benfold went from being the worst to the best ship in the Navy.

He treated you as an equal and wanted to hear what you were thinking.

He made you feel valued like you belonged.

Capitalize on Teachable Moments. Our good friend, Bruce Bochy, managed the San Francisco Giants to three World Championships between 2010 and 2014. Bruce is the 10th all-time winningest coach in the history of major league baseball.

Every year, during Spring Training, Bruce would bring minor leaguers into the major league clubhouse to listen to talks and attend clinics. It was his way of getting the young guys to rub shoulders with the veterans who, in a hundred different ways, said, “You belong here. You are part of this organization. We do things together.”

Teachable moments like this change attitudes and build confidence. When sailors are told, “It’s your ship. Make it better.” they find the courage to take ownership. When guys from the farm teams walk into a major league clubhouse and are treated like “equals,” they catch a vision of where they can be in the future and start to act as equals.

The Greatest of Human Needs…

to be loved and accepted,

to change and grow,

to belong, and,

to be engaged.

are a timeless grid for building a branded culture—a culture as famous as the products and services your company sells. Most people believe that the world of work will never be the same in a post-pandemic era and the aftermath of the great resignation. The war for talent has never been more consequential.

Wouldn’t it be game-changing, for people’s lives and for our organizations, if we figured out what it would look like when these four great human needs were operationalized in our businesses?

Done well, our answers could have

eternal significance.