Help Your Team Focus With A Check-in

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We are in unprecedented times. Most of us are experiencing some combination of fear, concern, worry, uncertainty, and information overload. Not to mention the challenges of working from home. Some of us are also suddenly responsible for home schooling. It’s no wonder we are distracted and having a hard time focusing.

As a manager, you can help your team focus on the work-at-hand by simply acknowledging how they are feeling. Not trying to fix it. Not trying to solve any problems. Just simply witnessing and acknowledging what is present for people in the moment. But how do you do this without spending your entire 30 minute Zoom meeting swapping fears and further distracting everyone?

A beloved colleague of mine, Richard Cohen, has refined a process called the check-in. It is a simple, powerful and short method to enable your team to focus when distraction and high emotions are vying for their attention. Here are the basics: 

Step One: Decide on your purpose

Knowing why you are doing a check-in can help you to be more confident in leading it and clear about what to do. During the coronavirus lockdown, some purposes that may be helpful include: 

  • Become more present for the meeting
  • Allow time for everyone to voice concerns
  • Acknowledge the team’s experiences
  • Get everyone’s voice in the room

Step Two: Decide how much time

How much time can you devote to the check-in?  That will differ depending upon your purpose, the length of your meeting, and the number of participants.  A check-in can be as short as a single word. For example, you could ask “What do you need to leave behind in order to focus?” A one word response might be “parents.”  Or you can allot 30 seconds or even a few minutes to each person, giving them a chance to elaborate. 

Step Three: Choose a question

Once you know your purpose and your time constraints you choose a question to support it. Suppose your purpose is to enable your team to be more present for the task at hand. Some questions that facilitate this purpose are: 

  • What do you need leave behind in order to focus?
  • How are you doing today?
  • What is one word that describes where your heart is at?
  • Is there anything that might affect your participation here today?

Step Four: Model the process

If this is your first time doing a check-in, it’s best if you go first and model it. Be sure that what you share fits the time frame you choose, so that the check in does not wind up taking more time that you expected. Then ask someone else to share.

The check in process is a good way for you to model emotional intelligence and support your team through these unique times. So take 30 seconds right now and ask yourself: Is there anything that might affect you from checking in with your teams today?