Why You Should Start Every Meeting with a Check-in

Why You Should Start Every Meeting with a Check-in

We love to start our meetings with a check-in at TextExpander. They offer so many benefits on both an individual and team level, and they’ve been a staple in our agendas for years now. We think any workplace could benefit from a check-in session, so today we’re sharing what they are, how we do them at TextExpander, and why they are so important to us.

What Is A Check-In?

A check-in involves asking each team member to quickly summarize how they are feeling and highlight any challenges they might face currently.

How do we do check-ins at TextExpander?

We keep our check-ins very simple, and they start with just a Google Doc.

In the meeting’s Google Doc, team members write their name, followed by how they’re feeling out of 10. The list looks something like this:

  • Andrew – 7
  • Becca – 8
  • Joy – 9
  • Charlotte – 9.5
  • Henry – 5
  • Yousef – 7.5

Then the person leading the meeting starting from the top down, goes to each person and asks them to explain their number.

Each person takes it turns to explain why they’re feeling X out of 10 and the reasons can be a combination of work- and personal life-related. For example, someone might say, “I’m a 7 today. Usually, I sit around an 8 but I moved this weekend so I’m kinda wiped out today! That said, I did just wrap up a project I’ve been working on, so I’m feeling good about that.”

We go through each team member’s number until we’re finished, and only then can the rest of the meeting begin.

  • We like using a Google Doc to type our numbers. It can feel a little less vulnerable than being asked to say your number aloud!
  • Since we’ve been doing this at the start of every meeting for years, we crack through check-ins really effectively nowadays. It may take some practice, but with time you’ll breeze through them, too.
  • Sometimes, this might be the first time in our day we’ve actually asked ourselves how we’re doing and what’s on our minds.
  • Another option is to use the stoplight system. Each team member can include in the meeting notes whether they’re feeling green (great), yellow (medium), or red (in need of help). Again, present this in the same way you would your number. This also enables each person a minute or two to share why they feel how they feel.

TextExpander Tip:
If you don’t have a Snippet set up for your meeting agenda template, this is your cue to create one! If/when you do, why not add a check-in section to your Snippet ready for your next meeting?

What Happens When You Upgrade from Individual to Teams

Why Should You Start Every Meeting With A Check-In

Managers and colleagues can contextualize how their co-worker is feeling

The biggest win from our check-in sessions is that we all go into the rest of our day knowing where our colleagues are at emotionally. That can be huge in helping us align our goals and stay on top of supporting each other. If a co-worker is going through a rough time and we have the capacity to help, then we do. It can go a long way in creating ease as a team because we know who to be sensitive to and why, following just one simple exercise.

A check-in helps us to get present and quantify our emotional state

There are so many benefits to getting real with our emotions. When we ask ourselves to quantify our feelings, it can wake us up to the reality of how we feel at the perfect time to ask for help. A check-in is a great opportunity to get quiet with ourselves, be honest about what we feel and seek help from others in a safe environment.

There’s even science out there that indicates the act of simply writing down how you feel can play a role in overcoming your struggles, as articulated beautifully in this great podcast interview with Susan Cain by researcher Brené Brown. In this episode, the two writers highlight a number of studies that showed those who wrote about their current struggles were more likely to overcome them a few months later. Writing something down helps us recognize its validity and start the process of finding its solution.

It starts the conversation about what we might need to move forwards

We all know how vulnerable it can feel to send that, “Hey, I’m struggling with something right now” message. So often, we forget that our emotions and needs are every bit as important as our peers’.

What’s great about including a check-in before every meeting is that it negates some of the need to send those messages. Instead, it makes that very “active”-feeling process more passive, as you will always end up sharing how you feel no matter what. For someone going through a rough time, that can make the difference between speaking up and saying silent.

Rather than going for days or weeks without discussing an issue, concerns get tackled in the earlier stages. No great big snowballs, just whatever has surfaced since your last meeting’s check-in. Plus, with a team on the call, there’s a greater hive mind available to start troubleshooting a problem where necessary.

A check-in puts empathy into the forefront of how you work, rather than a quote on a values page

Empathy in business is so important. It leads to higher employee retention rates, scores highly with a younger candidate base, and looks to be the future of the working world. A check-in at the start of a meeting shows that empathy comes before all else in your business, a seriously powerful message to send.

At TextExpander, we literally won’t start work until we’ve all found out what’s going on for each other. That’s a huge win for team empathy and community feels. You might have heard us talk about our values before, with one of them being Teamwork. One of our web designers said it best: “I know at any given moment I can message a teammate and have a question answered or get help with a task, even if it doesn’t fully align with their job description.” We really think that a company’s values should live and breathe in their day-to-day processes, not just on their website.

Takeaways

  • A check-in is a pre-meeting exercise where TextExpander team members rate their state of mind out of 10 and explore any challenges they face.
  • These check-ins help us contextualize how our co-workers are feeling and reach out to them to give more support if we can.
  • Quantifying our emotional state can be so helpful in and of itself, with research indicating that just writing down a problem we face can equip us better to find a solution.
  • Check-ins make speaking up about an issue a passive part of the process, making it easier to find solutions.
  • In starting a meeting with a check-in, you show that empathy comes before all else in your work.

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