People engaged in group videocall, laptop screen webcam application view

Virtual Engagement: 3 Strategies for Leaders to Maintain Engagement

Monday, October 5, 2020

We all know a fully engaged employee is willing to go over and above the call of duty. They are problem solvers, innovators, and great colleagues. What's more, leaders love having these self-starters on their teams.

But it can be hard for employees to stay focused and feel fully engaged in the current working environment. We’re all feeling the fatigue of Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams. Sometimes we're “on” all day long. What's more, consider the very unique landscape that is adding to our day-to-day normal stressors:

  • Reduced opportunities for our normal leisure outlets like the gym, shopping, or movies.
  • Virtual schooling or keeping kids safe at school.
  • The unknown of the economy and a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The July 2020 unemployment rate was 10.2 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Indeed, it can be hard to stay focused when other things are weighing on our minds. It doesn’t have to completely drain our productivity, though.

Here are three things leaders can do to make the virtual environment a better place to work for their teams.

1) Be engaged yourself

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” —Aristotle

We all bring an energy to each and every interaction. Sometimes we need to check ourselves prior to meetings. If your employees see you as unprepared or scattered in a meeting, you will appear confident and they may make assumptions about you and the company. Your team sees this as unsettling.

Take three deep breaths before you go into a meeting. This helps you catch your breath, relax, and appear confident. When you see people on the screen, look into the camera and be enthusiastic, greet everyone with a warm hello and “I’m glad to see you.” This type of opening can set the tone for a great meeting right off the bat.

When your team members see confidence, peace, and understanding, they will respond to that in a similar manner, or at least, feel better.


What you do, how you appear, what you say is important all of the time, but especially now when people are very anxious about the future. Ultimately, be the energy you want to see in others.

2) Show empathy and vulnerability with the unknown

We all know that people come to work with their own issues and obstacles in their lives. You, your leaders, your co-workers—everyone you encounter has ups and downs and seasons of our lives that influence how they engage with others. When you can empathize with people you will create an environment that people feel good about being a part of and will go over and above the call of duty. Here is how you can demonstrate empathy:

“Empathy has no script," says Brenè Brown. "There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It's simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of 'You're not alone. '”

When you know what your team members are dealing with and you listen, empathize, and demonstrate vulnerability by sharing your own stories, this will create the best kind of work relationships and atmosphere. You all can support and help each other, and no one feels alone.

Ask questions of each other to find out how everyone is doing and how you may be able to help. When you do, you will notice an atmosphere filled with collaboration, great teamwork, and improved communication.


3) Know when to recognize, reward, learn, and have fun as a team

A little levity can go a long way when you are having meeting after meeting so mix it up with some fun activities in your online meetings.

Send a small gift or a funny postcard to your team members. A nice snail mail surprise is always fun and can really brighten someone’s day!

Recognize an individual when they have good performance. People are unique in how they want to be recognized so be sure to know what they like. It is in person one on one or front of the team? While you are virtual, take every opportunity no matter how small. Hearing your boss say “good job” or “thank you” feels good.

Ask the team or colleagues for ideas to keep mixing up the meetings and avoid monotony in a standard team agenda. Ask someone else to lead a portion of the agenda or lead an entire meeting. Hearing different voices in the meeting helps make it easier to listen and is much more engaging.

Be sure to include time to learn and grow. Consider these stats from Gallup:

The leader sets the tone for the team. If you yourself are feeling drained, it can be difficult to be the positive, engaged leader that the team needs. Find the right boost or outlet you need to keep yourself energized and ready to lead. It may be a positive podcast, a walk, exercise, or talking with a friend. Staying engaged and optimistic will help you and those around you maintain engagement, high morale, and high productivity.

About the Author

Dana is a Leadership Consultant certified as a Workplace Culture Specialist and an Executive Director of the John Maxwell Team. (Maxwell is an Amazon Hall of Fame Author and Speaker on Leadership and Dana has been mentored by him and his team.) She specializes in facilitating leadership development training with a focus on creating workplaces people love. High performing workplaces will improve morale, productivity, and profitability so it is a win-win for all.

She has over 20 years of leadership experience in a Fortune 50 company as a first line leader, a second line leader, and a third line leader. She coached and led several hundred people over the years and believed that if you created a great work environment, you will get great results. In one department, Dana was asked to positively influence the employee opinion survey which measures how employees feel and the morale of the organization. She was able to move it 30 percentage points in a positive direction.

Dana has a master’s degree in Leadership and is a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) from The Association of Talent Development (where she is also a part-time instructor).

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