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What is the purpose of check-ins at meetings?

When meet up face to face or on a online business call at Mayvin we do a check-in to start, but what is the purpose of check-ins?
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When we meet up face to face or online at Mayvin we start with a check-in. But what are they, what types of check-in questions can you ask and what is the purpose of check-ins?

What is a check-in?

A check-in, is when everyone in the room each has a chance to speak for a few minutes about what's going on for them before a meeting starts. There are lots of different types of check-ins that you can do and ways to approach it.

What is the purpose of doing check-ins?

There are many great reasons to do check-ins. For people who are new to them, they might feel a bit unusual at first, but they can really help people feel heard before the meeting starts. Here are some more reasons:

  • To connect with each other, rather than jumping straight into business.
  • So that the individual can check in with themselves, in the moment, to notice how they are showing up.
  • To let others know how we are. So others can see if we are ok or if we are not having a great day.
  • To update each other with what’s going on. This could alert others to what someone may need help on or if they just need some space.
  • To be fully present. If for example someone is expecting the doorbell to go, they can highlight it and then that means they will be fully present rather than distracted thinking about how to manage it when the doorbell goes.
  • To name and put to one side any other distractions or things that may interfere with being present. This helps people take the time to put all other work/personal things down.

Ways to approach check-ins:

  • You could go round a room in order (probably easier to do at a face to face meeting).
  • Wait for people to speak when they are ready.
  • Use the pass the baton approach i.e. after someone has checked-in they choose the next person to go.

Each has their own advantages and disadvantages. It may be worth experimenting to see what feels comfortable for your team.

What to say in a check-in/ which check-in questions to ask?

There are straightforward check-ins where everyone gives a brief update of how they are feeling that day. Or they can answer a couple of questions. Questions might include things like what is going on for you:

  • At work at the moment?
  • Outside of work at the moment?

Different types of check-in questions

As Mayvin has grown as a company the check-in process started to get quite lengthy. We decided to try checking-in via the medium of a metaphor. At our weekly Business Meetings we pick a theme at random to share what's going on for us.

Examples include what:

  • Sort of children's programme do you feel like today?
  • Character in a book best describes you today?
  • Tree or plant are you today?

They might seem light-hearted, but these check-in's via the medium of a metaphor really cut to the bone. They are surprisingly insightful, retaining purpose but taking up less time.

One great example of this, was when a new staff member said that she felt like a new plant that had been brought home from the garden centre but was still in its pot waiting to be planted out and spread its roots.

Take a look at our list of Ice breaker questions to get a meeting off to a good start for some more examples of questions.

Should people respond to each others check-ins?

Usually we tend not to respond to each others check-ins, or get into a discussion about them during the checking-in process. This helps to make it a safe space and is also due to time constraints.

Sometimes however we do discuss the check-ins in general after the process depending on how much time we have available. It can also open an opportunity to have a second round based on what patterns people have noticed in the first round. Or to see what else has come up for them following the first round. It is often in this second round that useful insights arise into how the team is feeling, productive or unproductive working patterns are surfaced. Or sometimes decisions are made on how best to run the rest of the meeting or what follow up might be needed if there is a deeper cultural pattern that needs attention.

Another purpose for check-ins: learning new skills:

There is a skill set that can be learnt through the check-in process. This could also be one of the reasons to do check-ins and could include:

  • Self Awareness in the moment. Asking yourself questions like - "What am I aware of?" and "What am I thinking and feeling".
  • Choosing what to share. For example, what I do/don’t want to say, reading the room from other’s check-ins and deciding on the level of openness.
  • Adapting to different situations e.g. shorter/longer meetings and relationships in the room and learning to improvise in the moment.

Rules to keep check-ins a safe space

If you do introduce check-ins, it's really helpful to let everyone know the following, so that they feel comfortable with the process:

  • You can say as little or as much as you feel like at the time.
  • No one is judging you.
  • Be yourself. 

When everyone feels comfortable doing them, the check-in process can be a really valuable way to start a meeting, with people feeling that what is going on for them matters to everyone there.

How we could work with you

In our work with clients we use a variety of tools and processes including check-ins. A core value at Mayvin is to support our clients in becoming more self-sufficient. Meaning that we give you the process and the tools, we share our knowledge to develop your internal capabilities and we leave our clients stronger. Find out more about our approach here: working with you

Listen to our podcast on the subject

Tony Nicholls, Zoë Morrison and Claire Newell got together have a full and frank conversation about check-ins at meetings. Have a listen to the podcast here: Check-ins at meetings Podcast discussion.

If you want even more information about check-ins our Principal Consultant Tony Nicholls has a chapter on them in his book Managing Change in Organizations.

Feedback from our Artful Inquiry into check-ins:

We hosted a lively and engaged session on check-ins and these were some of the comments made during the session.

check-in questions

You can also find out about our future Artful events here: Mayvin Events Calendar

This was written by Coral Huggins and Zoë Morrison

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