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How to Facilitate A Check-In Round

A check-in round brings attention to what’s keeping team member distracted or worried.

By Gustavo Razzetti

January 22, 2019

Self-Awareness Removes Distractions - Check-In Everyone's Emotions Before Kicking Off a Meeting

What’s Got Your Attention?

Emotions play a key role in the workplace–they can lubricate or harm collaboration. A check-in brings attention to what’s keep each team member busy, so they can put those emotions aside and focus on working together.

What is a Check-in Round?

Prior to a regular meeting, practice a check-in round. The facilitator asks “What’s got your attention?” Each participant, one-at-a-time, provides their answer. The facilitator goes last.

The purpose is to understand what keeps people worried, preoccupied or distracted. It can be too many projects on their plate, problems at home, something personal, or sports game. It’s personal; each person shares what matters to them. There’s no judging – the idea is to provide a safe space.

A check-in round is not an icebreaker – which are meant to warm up participants before jumping into action or help transition from one section of a meeting to another. Check-ins provide a moment for reflection and increased self-awareness. Unlike an icebreaker that are fun, checking is is a moment for focus, reflection, and paying attention.

Icebreaker tend to work with mostly extroverts. However, a check-in round works great for introverts, too.

How to Facilitate a Check-In Round

A facilitator guides the process providing everyone their turn to check-in.

One at a time, each participant answers the question. The rest listens, no one interrupts or asks follow-up questions. The purpose is not to create a dialogue. Each person has a moment to share and the rest pays full attention.

Check-ins are meant to provide a safe space where people are listened to. By understanding what’s keeping other people worried, or tense or excited, etc. we can better understand their reactions without making assumptions.

Some folks might seem disengaged because they are tired or how too many projects going on. Others might not be in a good mood or tense because they have personal issues. Understanding what’s going on, allows promotes understanding and patience.

Alternative Check-In Questions

What’s got your attention?

What keeps you awake at night?

What kind of a day have you had so far today?

What words would you use to describe where your head is? And where your heart is?

Share a one or two-word intention you hold for today’s meeting/conversation.

How has the last gathering impacted you and your work?

What does your face say about how you feel now?

What have you left behind to be here today?

What is one thing you are grateful for?

What are you noticing in your environment that relates to this project?

Note: experiment with different questions and see which one sticks. Some teams choose one question that becomes their particular way to kick-off meetings; others choose a different one each time they get together.

What Was the Weather Like for Your Work?

Starting a meeting with a check-in round helps participant connect with what’s keeping them worried, stressed, or anxious. During this activity, everyone pays attention when someone else is sharing – there’s no interruptions or comments.

Check-in rounds create a safe space for people to reconnect with their feelings, grounding the team before they jump into the work. However, some teams have difficulty addressing their emotions in public. That's when metaphors come handy. Try this one. Ask participants, “What was the weather like for your work this past week?”

weather check in round how was your work week weather like is a good way to start a meeting

When people are invited to check-in their emotions, they no longer feel the pressure to bottle them.

Coaching Tips for Check-In Rounds

Don’t push participants to share more than what they want.

Make sure people avoid interrupting or body language reactions that can make people feel judged or criticized.

Additionally, the facilitator can say “thank you” after each person shared their stuff.

Initially, it will take more time. People will feel intimidated or might share too many details. With practice, people will open up more and respond more to the point.

The Benefits of Checking In

It's a great way to get the team familiarized with the turn-taking method, allowing everyone to have their moment to be heard without interruptions.

Check-in rounds help build psychological safety encouraging people to bring their full selves to work.

To help get rid of distractions and gain focus.

To practice staying silent – and paying full attention – while other participants speak.

Check-in rounds increase self-awareness and mindfulness.

To set the right tone for the meeting.

Also, it increases awareness about issues affecting team members – from more mundane ("I have to leave the meeting earlier to pick up my kids") to more challenging ("My spouse lost their job and I'm worried how we'll make ends meet").

Additional Reading about Check-Ins at Meetings

How to Increase Focus at Your Meetings: Check-In Your Mindset

Your Emotional Culture Is Powerful — Just Listen

How Toxic Positivity Can Ruin Your Company Culture

What do you think?

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