Lifting up both individuals and teams and recognizing emotions builds stronger communities, more trust, and helps people feel cared for. With the environment continuing to feel uncertain, engaging employees in this way is more important than ever. While calls to reduce burnout, implement systemic fixes, and increase retention mount, managers in any industry can implement these strategies immediately to listen deeply for emotions, reflect that understanding, and provide appreciation, connection, and community. These tactics can be used in both in-person and virtual environments, on a regular basis or as needed, in whichever order works for your team.

Appreciation round. One person completes the following sentence about a colleague and then tags the next person: “What I appreciate about you, John, is…”

The more specific and detailed you can be about the behavior or attribute, the better.

Complete-me exercise. Have people complete one of these sentences, either verbally or written:

  • “Compassion is hardest when…”
  • “I made a difference yesterday when I…”
  • “I show up every day because…”

Step-in circles. Get everyone together in a circle and ask them to step in when they agree with a statement. After each statement, ask people to step back to the original circle. Like a funnel, you start superficial, then increase vulnerability. Examples might include:

  • Step in if you prefer the beach to the mountains.
  • Step in if you have not had a chance to exercise in a week … a month … a year.
  • Step in if you feel like you are not enough some days … most days.
  • Step in if you worry that you are a failure.

When doing this exercise in a remote environment, ask people to use the hand-raise feature instead of stepping into the circle.

Personal notes. Provide note cards for employees and leaders to recognize someone, express gratitude, or acknowledge an emotional event. There is magic in the feel of a card in your hands and the thoughtfulness of a penned note. Remote employees can mail their cards or use e-cards.

Check-ins. Try this one-word heart check: “Give me one word that describes how you’re showing up today emotionally.”
Then simply acknowledge the range of emotions people are experiencing.


Harvard Business Review (2023, February 10) Christine Porath and Adrienne Boissy: Practice Empathy as a Team