A Cheesehead’s Search for Belonging

The sense of belonging we strive for every team member to have here at HORNE is the same need that it is recognized as the third level in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The bottom four tiers of Maslow’s pyramid (including belonging) are considered deficiency needs. Maslow’s theory suggests that only once the lower four levels have been sufficiently satisfied can an individual reach their full potential. Thus it's not surprising that we want to feel a sense of belonging in our lives, both personally and professionally.


My story begins in Green Bay, Wisconsin where I was born and raised. I then moved to Mississippi when I was 24 to attend graduate school. I did this because I believed (and still do, as much as ever) that we grow the most when we step out of our comfort zone. Albeit it's an often-lonely journey, moving across the country alone was a humbling experience for me and the greatest learning opportunity I might ever be blessed with. But, as you can imagine, this was a huge cultural shock for me. As a bit of a cultural transplant, during my first year at HORNE, I spent a lot of time assessing and acclimating. During that time, my performance advisor helped me realize that maybe I wasn’t being vulnerable enough to build a sense of connection or fully experience the present. 

In order to change that, I decided I needed to build better relationships with my team members. I have found that many of the conversations that have developed my sense of belonging have not been about work. For example, when our firm held an event at the Dallas Cowboy Stadium, I wore my Green Bay Packers cheesehead and met a team member who had also lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin for a period. Every year at HORNE’s annual Summer of Service, I’ve been able build a deeper and more meaningful connection with someone on my project team as we volunteer with an organization in our community. Each year someone has taken the opportunity to share why the specific organization we are serving holds such a meaningful place in their heart. The more I saw others be vulnerable, the more comfortable I felt with being vulnerable. The first time I attended a State of the Firm event, I built a unique sense of pride in our firm after our Executive Partner, Joey Havens, opened with the video “The Wise Firm Way” that shares our firm’s mission and vision. Joey spoke openly about the challenges he saw in our firm’s future and how we would face them. 

At HORNE, I feel like my team is uniquely invested in me. When I bought my first home, one of the partners on our team told me how important it was to him that I had time off to move in and get settled while my family visited from out-of-state (even if I was a day or two short on PTO). Months later, another partner shared that he had expressed at a partnership meeting that watching multiple team members settle in their first home had been a measure of success for him this year. I know these same leaders are invested in me enough to challenge me with tough feedback. I appreciate that we have an open and honest dialogue about my strengths and weaknesses. I know that I am ultimately in control of my own success, but I feel confident my team has given me the foundation and structured feedback that I need to reach my full potential.

By having the courage to be vulnerable, I learned that belonging isn’t about being like everyone else — it's about being myself. My sense of belonging at HORNE is what gives me the confidence to bring my strengths, weaknesses, and ideas to the table to serve our firm and our clients. It is my personal goal to help others achieve that same sense of belonging. With that, I challenge you to ask yourself, are you trying to be like everyone else OR do you have the courage to be yourself by bringing your true strengths, weaknesses and ideas to the table?

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Amanda.GundersonAbout the Author

Amanda Nadas is a healthcare senior associate who is passionate about creating a sense of belonging for others and encouraging everyone to bring their true selves to the workplace.

Topics: Sense of Belonging

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