Zoomed Out: The Need for Human Connection

 Are you losing connection with your associates with too many virtual conference calls?

When the pandemic required lockdown in March, many leaders turned to Zoom (or similar digital platforms) to connect and communicate with their associates. This was an important and critical move as many associates were afraid and confused. Electronic meetings brought them together and attendance soared. Many leaders commented, “Zoom meetings may be the new abnormal going forward. We are getting a much higher attendance rate with virtual meetings. We may not return to live meetings.”  

Fast forward four months and some leaders report attendance dropping to as low as 25%—and that assumes their associates are really there. How do you know when their video is turned off? As one leader said, “Zoom worked
early on, but now I feel our people are Zoomed out. We are losing connection, communication and our culture.”

The Need for Human Connection

Psychologists report that over 40% of Americans are suffering from loneliness—a severe lack of human connection. Zoom is not a substitute. A Fortune magazine article (Humans Are Underrated) says that an increase in electronic communication results in a reduction of empathy, which is the ability to understand and appreciate the feelings of another human.  

Is there a need for a return to live meetings? Psychologists say, “Yes.” Will associates feel safe meeting in groups again? An indication is our live Ninja classes are selling out in 90 minutes compared to the usual two weeks. People are craving human connection, even if they have to wear a mask and stay six feet apart. As one student in a recent class said to me, “I may still be afraid of dying, but I’m no longer afraid to live!”

The Role of Leadership and Connection

A study in Forbes magazine asked 4,000 leaders what areas they were focusing on for personal improvement. A better understanding of finance and technology were the top two areas reported. The study then asked the associates working for those leaders, what areas did they feel their leaders needed to concentrate on for improvement. Here’s their response:  

  1. Leadership. “Where are you taking me?”
  2. Emotional Intelligence.“How are you treating me?

    Associates want to feel:
  3. Valued. “I notice you matter.”
  4. Inspired. “Here’s where we are going together.”
  5. Empowered. “I trust you to help us get there.”

For an excellent leadership video on this, watch Craig Groeschel’s keynote speech at the Global Leadership Summit, watch

Leadership is a live contact sport. Connection, communication and culture building happen best face-to-face. Zoom is a way to communicate information but a poor substitute for human connection and culture building. Leaders need to do more.

Recognizing the limits of his electronic meetings, a CEO told me how he started scheduling live breakfasts or lunches twice a week with seven associates. His commitment to meaningful, personal, face-to-face connection with 56 of his associates every month (over 600 each year) has yielded amazing results. “I saw a huge shift in our entire organization the very first month I started doing it. Word spread that I care and that I notice how much our people matter. Our culture supercharged immediately. This is the single best use of my time. I now have our managers doing it. It’s a process we will install forever. Live eats Zoom for lunch!”