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Check-ins at meetings - a full and frank discussion

Following on from an Artful inquiry webinar we ran on check-ins at meetings, Tony, Claire and Zoë had an in depth discussion about them.
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Following on from a webinar we ran on Check-Ins as part of our Artful Inquiry series, Tony Nicholls, Claire Newell and Zoë Morrison had an in depth discussion about check-ins at meetings.

Check-ins are part of every day life at Mayvin and our processes around them and the ways that we check-in are constantly evolving as the company changes and the conversation reflects that.

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Claire Newell 0:01
Okay, so we recently hosted an artful ways webinar on check-ins. And in the lead up to that event we had a lot of conversations internally, obviously to plan out the structure of the session, and what points you wanted to highlight. And we found that those were really rich conversations with lots to say. And we found the same at the event yesterday that it just seemed like a really rich topic. And I think they could have talked for hours on it. So we're now kind of having our post event debrief, we thought we'd record it, we think there's a lot here. We thought it might be useful for podcast. So here we are

Tony Nicholls 0:46
Here we are indeed, shall we introduce ourselves, for those who don't know us

Claire Newell 0:50
Yeah, go for it

Zoe Morrison 0:52
I'm Zoe Morrison, and I hosted the session on check-ins along with Tony, I'm the Marketing Coordinator here at Mayvin. Thank you.

Claire Newell 1:02
And I'm Claire, the Marketing Manager at Mayvin.

Tony Nicholls 1:04
And I'm Tony, a Principal Consultant at Mayvin, I also head up the marketing function. So we're all marketing, The marketing triad here,

Claire Newell 1:13
Shall we start with what is a check-in

Tony Nicholls 1:16
An opportunity to hear everybody's voice at the beginning of a meeting? Before we get to actually before we, before we get to the agenda. It's a space for people to notice what's going on for them. And for others. The way I promote check ins is, you know, whenever you get whenever you find yourself in relationship with someone you should check in.

So you know, you're bumping into somebody in the corridor, or you're meeting or it's a one to one, it's, you know, I say, you know, they're an opportunity to just pause and reflect and check in with how you're showing up. They can be planned regular, or they can be ad hoc. What are they noticing that might be distracting them, you don't have to articulate it, just simply noticing, it can be enough for you individually, you don't have to state it out loud.

Zoe Morrison 2:02
People aren't always talkers, because you know that a lot of people don't. They don't say much. The people who do all the talking are the people who seem more important and get listened to more and the people who don't talk kind of end up getting ignored a bit.

So it's some it's, it's kind of doing something for equality about I think, making sure that everybody's voice gets heard. Yeah, it, it gives everybody an equal chance in the room to say something, doesn't it, it gives you makes everybody feel important. And everybody feel heard?

Unknown Speaker 2:35
It is what OD is all about inclusivity. Despite inclusivity, as we hear everyone's voice, you know, there's language in the corporate world around authenticity and bringing your whole self to work. And I talk to people about those phrases.

And when you dig a bit deeper, most people just don't know what they really mean. They don't know what to expect, what is expected of them, when people say bring your whole self to work, and to be authentic. And I think check ins are one of the ways in which you can create a safe space for people to be authentic, and to bring their whole selves to work.

That doesn't mean to say that we're expecting them to reveal everything about themselves and talk about everything. There's there's still choice points in that. But it is a place where they will not be judged. If they come in and say, you know what, I'm just not feeling great today. And I just need some support on something, or you know what, I'm feeling great today.

So throw some stuff at me because I'm feeling really creative, whatever way around it is, is that safe space to do that kind of thing. In summary, in the busyness of everyday working life, check ins allow you to just slow down and be more deliberate about how you're making decisions and how you're working with each other that that for me, says what they are and why we do them.

Yeah. Why are we talking to you about check-ins? We're not talking to you check ins just because we think it's an interesting subject is because this is how typically we do things that Mayvin. We reflect on our practice. And we go, that's interesting. I wonder if that would be worth sharing that with others. Yeah, so the story of Mayvin for me, is that we started out as an organisation with mainly consultants, chec-ins were there for quite OD in their approach.

Zoe Morrison 4:29
And what did that mean? What did that look like?

Tony Nicholls 4:31
What that means is that they were quite deep and personal. And there was an expectation that we share, that we offer vulnerability in that process. As Mayvin grew, the balance shifted to non consultant team members.

We therefore found ourselves adapting our check-in process to allow for a learning process as non consultants. Yeah, there's something about you might be better to think about, you know, what? What did you initially experience through the check- in process? And why do you think it shifted?

Zoe Morrison 5:13
Back when I first started, I was a bit overwhelmed by it. Yeah. And I'm the one is going to let us do a presentation on check-ins.

Tony Nicholls 5:20

Zoe Morrison 5:21
It was because when you don't know people, and you're suddenly thrown into this, let's all share everything. But I haven't met you yet. I don't know you. I don't know if I trust you. I need time to build a relationship, and it felt like too much too soon. After a while, you're like, Well, I know you now this is fine.

Tony Nicholls 5:36
Yeah, yeah. And this is this is a challenge for us as consultants in that we've got a habit around this. And we're having to adapt our our habits and change our habits in order to allow to meet the non consultants somewhere in the middle.

Where we, where we have a process that works for everybody. And as we all work with that, we then move towards something that's probably more useful to us.

Zoe Morrison 5:59
Yeah. When I started Mayvin, this is one of those sort of things that really stood out for me and got really interested in them. I used to go home and asked my family the same questions that we do in the check ins. And I was like, oh, maybe we should ask these on social media.

And I was like, Maybe we should write a blog post. Maybe we should host the event. And it was kind of spiralled. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I think people, you know, I think the thing is, with check ins, you react differently to them, depending on how well you know the person. Yeah. And when you know, what's going on for you at the time.

Tony Nicholls 6:32
Yeah, that's the whole point of them. So you start, you start, you pause and notice what's going on for you, and whether or not you feel like you're in relationship with this person. Because if you're not, then it's telling you something about how effective the work might be that you're going to do together.

Therefore, you might want to choose to slow down and get into a relationship with him and say, tell you what, let's, let's just get to know each other a bit. And, you know, how are we going to do that.

Zoe Morrison 6:54
But then also, I think there's such different personality types, you know, someone who doesn't like sharing their feelings, doesn't like public speaking, they're gonna hate that.

Tony Nicholls 7:03
Yeah. And so therefore, you've got to find this, for me is the whole point of this is that check ins can be, can be incredibly inclusive, but it can also be very excluding, which is what we found, when we invited you all into check in. You find it overwhelming.

So we found that there can be a barrier to relationships. So therefore, we've had to adapt. And that's the whole point of what we're trying to do here is we're trying to find our way forward with check-ins that is useful and inclusive. So we're welcoming their feedback.

Zoe Morrison 7:33
Yeah. I think I think the thing that the check-ins ignore is that you relationship can't be built, and you can't just suddenly be vulnerable with someone. No, you've got to build, you've got to, I think the fun check-ins and the metaphor, check-ins help you sort of dip your toe in the water and get to know each other better.

It's easier, but I suppose maybe every time someone new starts in a company, maybe you need to back off a bit with the deep and meaningful check-in.

Tony Nicholls 8:00
Right. That's your story. And I think that's a really valid challenge to all those OD folk who sometimes forget that everybody else hasn't been doing this for 10 years.

Zoe Morrison 8:10

Tony Nicholls 8:10
And it's really exposing to be somebody asked to share your feelings.

Zoe Morrison 8:16
Especially thing is that most workplaces and sort of the antithesis of that, and yeah, and and you do you sort of put your mask on to come to work don't you? To be asked to not have that mask on feels a bit much with someone you don't know that? Well.

Tony Nicholls 8:31
Yeah, I guess is into this whole idea of, you know, authenticity and bring yourself to work. And the vast majority of people I speak to in organisations where that's one of their values, have no clue what it means. Because they don't quite know what the phrases mean.

And also, it's quite exposing and this culture is such that, that, you know, it doesn't support authenticity in the culture, because vulnerability is often taken advantage of.

Zoe Morrison 8:54
Yeah, yeah. And so yeah, and you can't do that in an environment where you don't feel safe. We shouldn't do that. It's not a good idea.

Tony Nicholls 9:02
No, it's not, it's not,

Zoe Morrison 9:04
You've got to get to know each other and build up trust. And yeah, we've got to do it. So you can't, you can't sort of bypass that.

Tony Nicholls 9:14
And that's, I think that's where we found ourselves as we grew, we found ourselves trying to rush the check-in process. And we were ignoring the natural human processes that required that we need to just like, you know, animals sniffing each other out, you know, and just check each other out. And are you safe? Am I safe? You know, what's going on? You know,

Zoe Morrison 9:33
You got to allow people time for that. Yeah.

Claire Newell 9:36
But I think that's what we've talked about, isn't it? I think someone that's new to OD or new to Mayvin. We talked about it's countercultural, isn't it, the check in and bringing your genuine self to work? That a lot of us I mean, particularly, I know that in previous roles and previous jobs that, you did the opposite.

You try and hide, you know, if you'd had an emotional experience at home or a phone call, just before you walk in the office, you'd kind of put your game face on, put your poker face on when you walk into the office to hide that. And so I think for many of us, when we came in as new people to Mayvin, it was uncomfortable. It was weird.

It was what are these people doing? And how much of myself? Can I show? what's expected of me? And what will they think of me? If I, if I am honest? I think it's been we've I think Mayvin's noticed that it, it's different experience, I think there's that for the non non practitioners to do, we've been experimenting with check ins to try and reflect that a little bit and doing them a little bit differently and playing with them and seeing what works.

Tony Nicholls 10:48
Yeah, it was it was it was, I guess, it's consultants, we're used to using check-in as part of our interventions with clients. And you have an opportunity to position those to, they are part of the experience that perhaps the participants might expect to feature to produce something different.

But in the normal work environment, which is what Mayvin is, maybe we haven't thought that through. And you know, we got some feedback from the non consultants, if that's the phrase that I can use for you guys. So why is this? And it feels a bit uncomfortable? And, you know, it's, it's difficult to get into and how much like you say, how much should I reveal of myself?

Zoe Morrison 11:31
Each Check-in is different in that it feels different. If there's a different amount of people, it feels different if you're with your peers or with your with people in a different structure to you. And it feels different. If there's new people in there that you don't know that, well. It's constantly changing, and it's constantly evolving, who you're checking-in with.

Tony Nicholls 11:47
Yeah. And I think that's a really good thing. I think, check-ins in their ideal form, will feel different every time. So if we three checked in every day, for the next 12 months, I would hope that they would feel quite different every day. Because if we're being authentic, if we're bringing our whole selves to work, then we will bring in what's going on for us that day.

And we will also I think we mentioned this in the in the session yesterday, didn't we? We will also keep asking ourselves the question every now and again, what is the purpose of our check in? So we keep it fresh, and we remind ourselves what it's about. And then we can get to the space where we want to get to or need to get to on any particular day.

Zoe Morrison 12:28
But I suppose what I'm getting at is that we're like what you've said, with us three checking in we would build relationships, wouldn't we? Yeah, it was. It doesn't feel as easy to build a relationship. In a team meeting. Well, there's lots of people who are coming and going different numbers, different people, different teams, that that's harder.

Tony Nicholls 12:46
Yes, it is. It is. Yeah. Yeah, sorry, Claire, I think I think you're hitting the nail on the head for me, in terms of this is about relationships. And ultimately, this is about developing trust, such that people can do their best work together. And I think a check-in is a is a way of helping that process along.

Even if you know each other well. But especially if you don't know each other, to allow some space for people to just feel a little bit more comfortable in each other's company and therefore you can do better work together.

Claire Newell 13:18
Yeah, on a very sort of basic level in terms of its in terms of purpose of the check in for me, it was just revolutionary in terms of recognising each other as human beings before you get to the work stuff. And I like the phrase, I think Martin used - a sense of arriving, and that kind of taking a moment taking a breath to go okay, who's here?

How are we today? What's going on? How are you as a human being today? Okay, and then maybe we'll talk about some work stuff afterwards. which I found really just really refreshing. And I guess that's kind of the whole point of OD, right? That's the whole the whole message of OD. But yeah, in terms of purpose, it's that yeah, connecting and humanising. And the person comes before the work.

Tony Nicholls 14:08
Is it worth talking about how we started to experiment with them, though? You know, because, as consultants, we would just start with a, how are we today? Or what's going on for us today? Or, you know, quite or perhaps we wouldn't even start with a question we would just sit.

And there's an expectation that somebody would start talking and checking in, that is often the way when we come together as consultants. But we've had to sort of, well, we haven't had to, we've wanted to start experimenting, so maybe you can discuss that a bit.

Claire Newell 14:38
Yeah, so I think we were sort of saying that as a as a non consultant. Just that it's a very open question, isn't it and it's how deep do you go and how much do you share of yourself? And I think just the very open question of how are you today? What's going on for you? Can be quite confronting uncomfortable for someone who doesn't not used to doing check-in's.

And also in a very practical level, we found that it was taking up a lot of time, because as the company is growing, and there's more bodies in the room, if you give everyone that kind of air time, it was just taking a long time as well. So we've been playing around with things like metaphors or so you know, if you were a plant or a tree, what would you be today or those kinds of things?

And, and I think, my sense is that for people that aren't used to them, but who are new to the company, or new to OD, it gives you a bridge into it, it's, you know, using a metaphor, and I think it yeah, it gives you an easy step into it. And then you can share more, or you can.

And what's been what the nice thing that's come out of it, I think, is the anecdotes, which I think it might not be a typical check in. But it does give you a sense of the person, it gives you a little bit more texture or colour to the person.

So if you've got a director sharing a childhood memory, because we were talking about ice creams, and they suddenly remembered to an ice cream they had on a holiday with their dad or something. It might not tell you how they are today, but it does tell you a little bit more about the person.

Zoe Morrison 16:21
Yeah we've had some really good examples of like, the metaphors, you know, he kind of It sounds a bit strange to start off with, like, what sort of film might you be, but you know, like, one way is like, trains, planes, and automobiles, and I thought that was really good.

It's like, everything's going wrong, but those are the best bits, or, or the plant one where someone said about, and I feel like a new tree from the garden centre that hasn't got out of its pot yet and spread it's roots. And they were a new person and it's just really clever. The way you can relate back to these things.

Claire Newell 16:55
They can be very illustrative can't they, very vivid actually when they work.

Tony Nicholls 16:59
Yeah. And I was, I have to say, I was quite hesitant at first thought, oh, gosh, where are we going with this? Is this what check-ins are all about? But as I've got into it, I have found them really useful. If we remind ourselves, for me, the three levels of check in which is the, the first primary purpose of checking is to check in with self, how am I today?

Such that I can think about doing my best work today? How am I showing up because how I show up who I am and how I show up really matters. So it's check-in with self is a primary one. And the metaphor is really good, because it really makes you think. So if I were a cake, what sort of cake would I be?

And and sometimes you can, it doesn't really matter what cake you choose, because it just forces you into that self reflective space that says, What does that mean for how I'm feeling? How do I how do I tell the story here, and it's really useful to do that.

Zoe Morrison 17:50
I think what I've also noticed is some people who said they prefer to know those metaphors in advance, like the day before, so you've got a bit of time to think about it, because they can be a bit tricky right off the bat can't they.

Claire Newell 18:02
You can get a little bit yeah, rabbit in headlights? I don't know, I don't know what cake I am.

Zoe Morrison 18:06
Yeah. Yeah. Just finally, another comment about concentrating because in a team meeting on Zoom it's really easy to go off and do other things, isn't it or put things in the chat and sort of been noticed that people want you to concentrate while you're doing this. And that can be a bit of an issue.

Tony Nicholls 18:24
Quite interesting that we got that came up in the call didn't it, you know, when you're face to face to in check ins, there's no chat room. So we sit and listen, and everybody's air time is listened to and you know, as James would say James Traeger would say they get a jolly good listening to.

Whereas online, it's easy for people to start putting stuff in chat, which means you're responding to and there's a risk of judgement, you know, in that response, so for some it might get in the way. So that's something we might want to talk about as a Mayvin team to say, do we want to not do chat when we're checking in?

Zoe Morrison 18:58
So that's another point, isn't it? Because it's partly not concentrating, partly responding. And that's when we have these sort of guidelines don't we about listening, not responding, because that creates safety doesn't it.

Claire Newell 19:11
I also think it's interesting. I think it's also those kind of because we work remotely. It might be those little, little sort of tiny little social interactions that you might not get otherwise, the meeting we're thinking of, it's once a week, everyone in the company sits on Zoom together, what I'm trying to think of the things that happened in the chat, and it might be, oh, I really like your dress today.

Or are your cats being funny in the background, aren't they? And I'm just thinking out loud that I think those are quite nice little interactions. And thinking about how they read is checking. If you worked in an office, you'd have those little interactions.

And so I think it's quite nice that we interact on the chat and have those sort of natural normal kind of little interactions, but it's being respectful of the check-ins. So working out what the boundaries are there. Yeah.

Because we don't say, Oh, don't don't use the chat, you know, don't chat to each other during this meeting, because actually, that's quite nice because I don't know, when someone's mentioned it, what cake they are, and then someone shared the recipe or something.

That's, that's nice. That's, so maybe it's just making sure the air time is, that we hold the boundary of an uninterrupted airtime. Yeah, yeah, the thing that it's going to be the chat is held until everyone's had their turn. Because otherwise, because someone might say something, but it's really sparked something in their check-in.

And then that might spark chat. But then you're right it's disrespectful to someone who is checking in later, that, you know, the chats pinging off.

Zoe Morrison 20:39
But then how does that fit with our guidelines of not responding at all? To check ins?

Tony Nicholls 20:44
I think that's what we're experimenting with, isn't it? I mean, their guidelines, they're not rules.

Zoe Morrison 20:49

Tony Nicholls 20:50
But yeah. If there's no doubt about it, if we were face to face, I would usually intervene and say, If it's okay, can we hear everybody before we start to chat? So you know, that's something maybe we need to take back to the team and talk about,

Zoe Morrison 21:05
When we do respond when we go around again, and have a response, after check-in,I find that quite valuable. Because it does sometimes feel a bit like, oh, I'd like to have a chat about this.

Claire Newell 21:15
Yeah. So this goes back. This goes back to kind of the guidelines and the boundaries. And someone mentioned in the event yesterday, how important they are. And it's funny, because it almost seems counterintuitive to be like, it's really important to stick to the rules.

Because the process of checking in feels quite sort of, I don't know, loosey goosey kind of, you know, hippy dippy, without you know, it feels kind of like, hey, man, that's all check in with each other. But actually having guidelines and everyone being aware of the reasoning we came up with as well, isn't it that new people might not be aware that they can pass and go later.

Or they might not be aware that if they don't like the metaphor, they could do a classic check in or having permission, and actually re emphasising the guidelines is really important.

Tony Nicholls 22:01
I'm feeling slightly uncomfortable, because I'm sharing stuff that feels uncomfortable to share. But I know it's useful to share, because it's going to be good to share, as it were. So yeah, it's not necessary about comfort.

Claire Newell 22:12
Yeah, I find it really interesting that someone challenged about comfortable, should we should be making people comfortable. Yeah. But yeah,

Zoe Morrison 22:19
I suppose if you go into it thinking no one's going to respond to me, and then a bunch of people do and you aren't asking for that that could be upsetting couldn't it. Yeah.

Claire Newell 22:26
And that was a good challenge. That's a good question. Is it because we, you know, typically the rules are uninterrupted time, and that you don't respond. But we've talked about that, before that there is a question mark there of when should you and how should you if you feel like there's something that if someone shares something, you think that that needs acknowledging that needs?

Tony Nicholls 22:47
Yeah. So occasionally, very occasionally, I found myself as a facilitator of a group responding to someone's check in because they said something that I felt needed, acknowledging at least, and a question around, you know, do you want to chat afterwards, that kind of stuff.

So if I feel that there's something that they really need some support with? I think Zoe you were to a different place just before. Which is what I think is very useful for the whole group is that once everybody's checked in, you then have a second round you have space for, so given everybody's checked in now, is there anything anybody else wants to talk about?

Has anything come up for anybody now, in this first round that they think is useful for us to check in about? Yeah. And the other thing that happens in groups in particular, is you start to spot patterns. And you can start to work on what might be under underneath the surface of things to spot productive patterns. You know, this seems to be a productive pattern for us, let's do more of it.

But also unproductive patterns in terms of we all seem to be feeling a certain way at the moment. And that seems to be getting in the way with us doing our great work. So let's talk about it. And I think there's a there's a sense that we that as facilitators, for example, or as consultants, we should be spotting those patterns, we should have the capability to spot those patterns.

And I don't think it's like that. I don't think it is, I think yes, with experience you, you start to see patterns to a degree. But I think it's more about as an individual, whether you're a facilitator or not, whether you're a skilled OD practitioner or not. As I heard everybody check-in what came up for me?

Did it shift my perspective? Am I curious, have I become curious about something, have I become anxious about something? Have I started to become excited about something? I don't necessarily know there's a pattern going on, but it might be worth sharing, because that might be something other people are feeling as well. And then we start to spot a pattern between us. Yeah, so sometimes just sharing what's come up for you, as the round first round happened, can be really useful.

Zoe Morrison 24:47
Yeah. And that comes back to someone's point about outcomes. So like, what's the outcome of this? What's the point of it? Yeah, you know, why are we doing this? Yeah, if it just

Claire Newell 24:58
That kind of shared experience. We talked, we were talking as well about, you know, someone might, you might arrive in the room. And I know I've experienced this at Mayvin when we were still in the pandemic, we're still in the pandemic now, we were in more more of the pandemic, that that we were all checking in.

And after everyone gone round, there was a shared sense in the room, there's a shared feeling there was a shared, there was something there, that it seemed like a lot of people, it might not be everyone, but a lot of people were checking in, in a certain way or referencing something or, and so that's when they've said, Okay, right, I think we need to, you know, pause the rest of the agenda, and spend some time looking at this shared feeling.

We talked about when George Floyd died, or didn't do something in the kind of outer world macro environment, has affected people. And I suppose it also would work if it was within the company as well. But it's like, yes, that line about what's responding and what's, but that feel that feels very useful to say, to rather than just move on and go,

Okay, everyone's checked in, and let's move on to the tasks to actually say, hey, there's something here that we need to look at. And let's talk about that. Especially if it is a shared feeling.

Because that's the ultimate connection. Isn't it? Really, like kind of feeling like, oh, you feel like that too. Oh, okay. And you Oh, okay. It's not just me. And that's the ultimate connection is realising you've got you're experiencing something together right,

Zoe Morrison 26:26
But then? Because I do feel like you've talked about looking at patterns, what's emerging, but it kind of feels like the individuals ignored a bit. Because what if somebody is, like you said, there's somebody really bad that does need talking to. But what if someone's just like, I'm not that great. And that just gets ignored? Because everyone else is fine? I don't know.

Tony Nicholls 26:45
So I think somebody talks about not making, we don't do it, are we there to make them feel comfortable? Are we there to make feel safe? I think safety yes, always safe. But also treating people like adults, it's an opportunity, we're creating a space for individuals to check in or not.

And if they're feeling okay, then that's good. If they're not feeling okay. We're not necessarily jumping to the rescue all the time. That isn't what we're there for. I think there's a, there's another one of the ground rules for me, that maybe we don't articulate it often enough, is, you're an adult, and you know, you can look after yourself, we're here if you need us.

So, so please ask. But otherwise, it's an opportunity for you to check in with yourself. If you're noticing that you're not feeling great, then at least you can adjust how you are in that meeting and work with that. And if you want help, please ask for it.

As I say, every now and again, I would intervene if I sensed that somebody needed that support. And I felt that their their welfare was at risk if I didn't. But that's quite rare. That's quite rare. I think I think if a couple of other phrases to me, you know, this connection before content, is one of the goals of this is to allow people to really connect before you move to the content of the meeting.

Because I sense that that you know, that gives you a richer, more trusting relationships, which allows you to do better work. So that that's, you know, primary purpose for me. The other one for me is is if we think of Ready's model, Ready talks about, excuse me, most of them, if you go into most organisations, they spent 100% of their time on content, they just chat, but just task oriented, delivery focused, they spend very little time reviewing how they do their work.

And they spend practically no time at all, reviewing how they are with each other. So Ready suggests that you you spend 70% of your time on the task of doing the work. But you split the remaining 30% half between reviewing the task process, how are we doing this job? But also the group process? How are we with each other.

And to find organisations doing that is very rare. I think Mayvin does move towards that I've done some for the book I'm writing, I've done some back of the envelope calculations and reckon we do get quite close to sort of 30% of our time is spent talking about how we're doing the work and talking about how we are with each other.

And that I think helps make make Mayvin a great place to work and helps us do great work. And that's something I help my clients move towards is spending more time talking about how we are with each other and how we're doing the work. And check-ins help with that. I think

Zoe Morrison 29:19
I was feeling a bit like, I don't know when you said like, Okay, you're an adult is your problem. You're sort of asking someone to come to a room to be vulnerable to tell other people, they're not feeling great. And then you're like, Well, I don't actually it kind of is coming across like I don't care. It's your problem.

Tony Nicholls 29:32
No, that is what I'm what I'm suggesting is the case. So as an example, if I'm checking in and I'm not feeling great, and I expressed that, what I'm saying is, I appreciate this space for me to articulate in a safe space with colleagues. I trust that I'm not feeling great and that and that is a useful process in and of itself for me to articulate that out loud.

Problem shared is a problem halved. I'm not then expecting a response and I don't need a response? I'm taking accountability for my own feelings, and for my own articulation of those. And that helps me then get on with the rest of the day because I've acknowledged how I'm feeling rather than ignoring it and try and push it away.

Zoe Morrison 30:14
Yeah. And I think you know that you're going into it with that attitude, but it's someone who's non OD who hasn't come to it from that background, who's sharing in a group was going, Why does nobody care? I don't maybe they don't want to be rescued. That is just it's just a different, maybe that needs to be part of the guidelines and understanding about check-ins

Tony Nicholls 30:30
I think that's what we're touching on here isn't, we are learning how to move towards this?

Claire Newell 30:35
And I think that's where power comes into it. Yeah. Because I feel like is there not a sense of responsibility? Perhaps, if someone was new to the company, or, or, you know, a more junior member of staff, and they really shared, they really poured their heart out and said, I'm having a really bad time. And no one picked up the phones to them and no one called them afterwards and said, are you okay?

Tony Nicholls 30:55
And I think that's one of those situations. So if one of you two for example, did that, I would absolutely reach out and figure it out, you know, and say, how are you? Absolutely. So I think it's, it's, it's a judgement call for what am I hearing? And do I therefore feel like I need to respond to that?

Not necessarily in the moment in the check in, but afterwards, but sometimes yes, in the check in because you know, what, they've just said something that there's worried me that I need to practically do needs to respond to. So I think there's no right or wrong answer.

I think it's a judgement call. And what I'm not saying at all is, it's an unfeeling, you know, you're on you're on your own, it's, it's basically to check yes, it's, I think, for me, the very fact that I'm, I, I know, I'm not going to be judged.

And I know, it's not going to go outside the room is is a really good place for me to feel comfortable to say, How am I feeling today? And I'm gonna say I'm feeling today. And that's probably enough for me to get on with a better working day, because I've got it out, you know,

Zoe Morrison 31:59
This has reminded me of a time when someone was having a bad time. And I reached out to them, I think a lot of people reached out to them. Yeah. And I think everybody realised that it was a good thing, that it was something that needed responding to. So I suppose it's just something you do play by ear, isn't it?

Claire Newell 32:12
I think, it's not a practical level, but you know, if someone is dealing with something right now, then that's where you might go, do you need to be at this meeting? Do you want to just go. Whereas if you didn't have the check-in, they wouldn't have had that opportunity to share.

If you just went, walked into that meeting, and you're straight on to tasks, then you wouldn't have that chance to say and then. So that's where you might say, actually, I'm really dealing with something right now. And then that's hopefully where someone would say, and again, that might be where power and responsibility comes in? Because it might take someone else to say to them, do you need to be here? Do you want to go not be in this meeting and go and not be here? So yeah, I think I think power does come into it.

And I think it's, we talked about this before, don't with it. And that's where it's safety comes into it and the vulnerability, I think, I think more so depending on where you sit in the company structure. And I think, you know, if you own the company, you might feel very comfortable, come walking in and saying, I really can't be bothered, today, I'm having one of those days can't be bothered, I might, I might, I might leave early and sack it off. Whereas other people will not feel as comfortable saying that because of their level of power in the company. And I think that's obviously the aim is to make everyone feel safe and equal. But I think you have to acknowledge that people aren't arriving, equally.

Zoe Morrison 33:43
Thinking about the metaphors and icebreakers that we're doing at the moment, and whether they're the right thing to carry on with indefinitely or, yeah, what do we want to achieve with them? And are we achieving it? Because I felt that they are good in lots of ways, but in some ways, because you could sort of hide behind the metaphor in some ways. I'm not getting to know people as well, because they're describing what sort of cake they are. But I don't actually know, what happened behind that. Do you know what I mean? I don't know. The detail of what that means in real life. Yeah.

Claire Newell 34:15
And we talked about but then that might that could be perhaps because you've been with us six months now. And you're feeling more comfortable with the process where someone just started, like, oh, no, don't take the metaphors away from me, that's my safety net. So maybe it's about the guidelines and the boundaries, and maybe it's maybe it is opening up that the metaphors there if you want it and making people aware that they can choose a classic check-in or they can choose to do something else.

That that's there as a as a sort of safety net for people that want to use it or as a suggestion or as a starting point. But you could do other check-ins as well. And again, that's making sure that people know that what the rules and guidelines are. Yeah, That's sort of refers back to someone said yesterday about how they can become stale. How if you keep just if you don't question it, if it's just something that you do every time, they can become stale.

And that's where it's been great that Mayvin is exploring and experimenting and playing, it's been quite playful as well, which I think we've enjoyed as well. It's felt lighter and playful, which isn't always appropriate. And if they become stale, and I guess they're losing that, again, it's that revisiting purpose. What is the purpose of this? Why are we doing it? And is this is this still working for us? Is this still achieving what we want it to?

Zoe Morrison 35:37
Yeah. And yeah, we had an interesting point about when shouldn't you do a check-in as well? And that was, yeah, like, because it's sometimes not easy to know, what's going on in the room is it, that you kind of don't know that it's not a good time to do a check in.

Tony Nicholls 35:54
Yeah, very occasionally that's happened. So on a Monday morning, when we have our consultant meeting on a Monday morning, it's, you know, I find myself asking the question, do we want to check in, rather than let's check in? So it's more of a question rather than a command. And occasionally, it's like, it's Monday morning, I can't be bothered. let's just get on with it.

So sometimes the group will say, nah, let's move on. And that's okay. We know each other, we have been together a long time. So it is, it is a difficult one, because I find I'm in that moment, when as I'm holding that space, I'm thinking to myself, should I should I move towards a check-in and make sure they do a check in because maybe that's what's going to be good for us. But if I get this sense that it's just going to get into the content? Yeah, it's just get on to it.

Zoe Morrison 36:42
And I think that's a point someone else raised about. It's a bit deep and meaningful. It's a bit hard work, and I just want to get on with it. It's taking up loads of time. I just.

Claire Newell 36:49
Yeah. Yeah. If you've got five meetings in the diary that day, you might not want to check in?

Tony Nicholls 36:54
No, we don't check it every meeting. We, you know, we didn't check in on this meeting. When we started this one.

Zoe Morrison 36:59
I was thinking about that. We were quite short on time.

Tony Nicholls 37:04
Yeah. So I think this is a really important point, is when you're working with people a lot in different groups and different meetings all the time. It doesn't just become one of those things you do every time you get in a room with people, it's do we want to check in?

And would that be useful? What kind of work are we about to do? And would it be? Would it help us if we would just pause for a moment? Because for me, one of the key things about checking in is, is just slowing down. Just slow down. And just work out who's in the room? Why you're here? And how might you do your best work together for the next 20 minutes, two hours, whatever it is.

And that's that's a if nothing else is a productivity sort of thing for me. But the bigger thing for me, the bigger prize for me is that you enjoy work more. You really start to, it is more fulfilling because you're more engaged in it, you're more engaged with people that you're in the room with, it humanises, we've used that phrase it humanises the workplace. So I think it's a judgement call.

And for me, the more everybody knows what they're about, the more choice for you can be in when you do them. And when you don't do them, why you do them, how you do them. It's a tool that you have at your disposal to use as you see fit.

Claire Newell 38:20
Yeah, seems like a nice summary.

Zoe Morrison 38:22
Yeah, that's good place to stop.

Claire Newell 38:27
As you said, we could talk for hours on the subject, but

Tony Nicholls 38:29
Also we haven't touched on checkouts, you know.

Zoe Morrison 38:33
Or like the different types of check ins like doing them online or in a meeting, but yeah, it's been great hasn't it. And really rich discussions.

Claire Newell 38:42
Ok great thanks, guys.

Zoe Morrison 38:46
Thank you.

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