This simple technique can bring more focus to your meetings, create valuable insight into how your team are feeling in real-time, and build a strong trust dynamic
Like trees whose roots are closely interconnected to communicate for growth, all humans need connection to others to be at our best and flourish. Human check-ins are a quick and simple technique to allow you to start increasing the connection between your team and fostering a strong trust dynamic in your team meetings, but they also have considerable benefits for you as a leader and for your business.
A human check-in practice helps you as a leader:
bring more focus to your meetings
get valuable insight on how your team are feeling without having to wait for annual performance meetings or off-sites
reduce the energy you expend second-guessing what is going on for people in the room so you can add value where it really matters
increase trust, in turn enhancing your adaptability as a team to respond to whatever challenges present themselves
1. Bringing more connection and focus to your meetings
Businesses that are well-connected and aligned (internally and externally) can create a laser focus on achieving their goals. However, as any great leader will tell you, connection in your business starts with connection between your people. By running a human check-in at the beginning of a meeting, you can raise the level of presence in the room, so people are bringing their whole selves to bear on whatever goal the meeting is set to achieve.
Rather than showing up and playing the role related to a particular ‘hat’ or job title they may be sporting (see my related blog post on the power of losing your hat), it encourages each person to bring all of themselves to the session in the service of the meeting’s goal; meaning any ideas, knowledge, awareness or feelings they have which could add value are accessible to them and to everyone else in the room. By fostering a connected, focused environment, leaders can leverage the rich variety of insight their team brings, in turn creating better and more plentiful opportunities to grow.
2. Providing valuable insight
A meeting can have a variety of purposes; clarity on priorities, making a collective decision, creating consensus, uncovering information, generating a list of optional routes, to name a few. However, the way it's run is just (if not more) important than other factors in achieving your desired outcome. By starting your meeting with a human check-in you create an awareness of how everyone in the room is landing (including yourself) which can build powerful insight as to how you might best achieve your goal. By raising your awareness of where everyone is at, you give yourself more information to be able to decide on the best way of navigating from where you are (at the start) to where you want to be (at the end).
For example, if it turns out your team is concerned about the latest round of redundancies, frustrated by new technology, or confused by recent press coverage then it may make sense to address some of these concerns before running the main part of your meeting and provide whatever reassurance you can before talking about other things. As a leader, you aren't a group counsellor, but having said that it is still very much part of your role to reduce fears or concerns in whatever way you authentically can - so your people are set up to succeed. When people aren’t operating from a place of fear (typically a narrower and limiting mindset), they think more creatively, listen better, and feel braver, all of which lead to better contributions.
3. Focusing your energy so you can add more value
Leading a team is not an easy task, and in many organisations leaders do not receive much (if any) training on how to do it. Your role as a leader of humans is fundamentally to help other people be at their best, which requires understanding what they need to do their roles in the best way possible. Rather than spending a lot of energy second-guessing this (or worse still discovering it when it's already caused some serious problems), the human check-in allows you to get a regular understanding of where your people are at and what their needs are.
This insight then allows you to focus your energy on where you add the most value; clearing barriers, providing support with your expertise, setting parameters, interpreting targets or breaking them down into manageable chunks. A human check-in is one of the many ways in which you as a leader can increase the value that you and your team create, whilst also making your personal experience of leading feel less like you are trying to push water uphill.
4. Building trust
Trust is the foundation of agility and high performance. When your team members show up to a meeting feeling like what’s going on for them matters to you and others around the table, it transforms the dynamic. Think about how you feel when you are en-route to meet a friend who you know is interested in and cares about what is going on for you. How do you feel in comparison to someone who doesn't seem to? For most humans, day-to-day challenges are front-of-mind, particularly if we are managing teams themselves, and it can be easy for us to feel like our burdens are our own to bear.
The sharing dynamic that a human check-in ritual creates reminds everyone that they are not an island, and extends the sense of connectedness and support that each person feels not only when they are in the room but throughout the rest of their week when they are tackling their own leadership challenges. (For more on the importance of fostering a strong sense of collective focus that can support you and your team on your growth journey, see my article ‘How aligning your leaders can help you fend off attack’).
A human check-in doesn't have to take more than a few minutes, and yet it can set the tone for a fruitful, productive meeting that is easier to run, whilst also helping to build and maintain a high-trust, high-performance culture. So maybe try experimenting in your next team meeting and see what difference it makes. You might be surprised at the impact a bit of thought and a few minutes can make not just to the remainder of your meeting but also to yours and your teams' weeks.
What trees show us about connecting for growth
ARTICLE - 3 min
Recent science suggests trees aren't lone rangers, a flourishing forest connects and communicates to survive
TOOL - 2 min
Complimentary guide to running your first check-in including:
- how to introduce it
- what happens step-by-step
- important things to remember
- making it a regular practice
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