Maybe you know that all is well with your team. People are satisfied that progress is good or better than good. You've had some bumps between some team members, but nothing serious. Or maybe you know of some kind of trouble, or that the team is blocked somehow from making further progress. Whatever you think you know, are you certain that everyone has a clear view — and the same clear view — of what's working and what isn't?
Check-ins can surface differences among team or group members about what's happening. A minute per person is probably enough. Check-ins won't catch everything, but they return a lot of value for the time expended.
The goal of check-ins is to gather contributions from everyone, to create a sound basis for moving forward, or to enable the team to later address whatever comes up. Here are five suggestions for conducting effective check-ins.
- Introduce check-ins when things are going well
- Introducing Check-ins won't catch everything,
but they return a lot of value
for the time expendedcheck-ins when people feel troubled about the team's progress can create difficulties for adopting the practice. When the team is pressed and facing obstacles, the check-in might feel to some like an unnecessary distraction from more urgent work.
- Learning how to conduct check-ins does take some effort. When things are going well, the few minutes spent in checking in are not a cause for worry. Develop the practice in advance of trouble, not during trouble.
- Allow a random order of voluntary contributions
- Don't go "around the table" (or around the virtual table), requiring everyone to contribute something when called on. Let people choose when and whether to contribute. If someone wants to add something later, after already having contributed, that's fine too.
- A loose, relaxed contribution protocol welcomes all contributions, and no contribution is required.
- Create a parallel anonymous contribution channel
- In face-to-face meetings, collect unsigned, written contributions on slips of paper. Have abstainers submit blanks. For virtual meetings, use technology to create an anonymity channel.
- Anonymity enables some people to comment even when commenting feels unsafe, which helps the team surface truth about risky topics.
- Use both open and themed check-ins
- Vary the format. An open check-in enables people to comment on anything at all. A themed check-in welcomes all comments, but it especially encourages comments related to a theme or question.
- Both formats have strengths and weaknesses. An open format is unbiased, but might overlook an important issue. A themed format can focus on a known issue, but might give too little attention to issues not yet surfaced.
One last suggestion enhances psychological safety: ban comments about other people's contributions. A check-in is not a debate. A contribution is the contributor's view. The goal of the check-in is to express our views about the team's progress, and all of us are entitled to our own views. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Effective Meetings:
- An Agenda for Agendas
- Most of us believe that the foundation of a well-run meeting is a well-formed agenda. What makes a "well-formed"
agenda? How can we write and manage agendas to make meetings successful?
- What, Why, and How
- When solving problems, groups frequently get stuck in circular debate. Positions harden even before
the issue is clear. Here's a framework for exploration that can sharpen thinking and focus the group.
- Problem Not-Solving
- Group problem solving is a common purpose of meetings. Although much group problem solving is constructive,
some patterns are useless or worse. Here are some of the more popular ways to engage in problem not-solving.
- On Facilitation Suggestions from Meeting Participants
- Team leaders often facilitate their own meetings, and although there are problems associated with that
dual role, it's so familiar that it works well enough, most of the time. Less widely understood are
the problems that arise when other meeting participants make facilitation suggestions.
- Meta-Debate at Work
- Workplace discussions sometimes take the form of informal debate, in which parties who initially have
different perspectives try to arrive at a shared perspective. Meta-debate is one way things can go wrong.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 29: Newtonian Blind Alleys: II
- Some of our decisions don't turn out well. The nature of our errors does vary, but a common class of errors is due to applying concepts from physics originated by Isaac Newton. One of these is the concept of spectrum. Available here and by RSS on May 29.
- And on June 5: I Could Be Wrong About That
- Before we make joint decisions at work, we usually debate the options. We come together to share views, and then a debate ensues. Some of these debates turn out well, but too many do not. Allowing for the fact that "I could be wrong" improves outcomes. Available here and by RSS on June 5.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.