1 min read
Mon 26 Oct 2020 Writing

Starting Meetings Well With A Check In

Starting meetings with a check in can be really helpful. Here's how.

Before every meeting we do, we like to check in. This means going from person to person (talking in rounds ), saying out loud how we are feeling, if there is anything on our mind and how things are going. We have done this in more or less every meeting we have done since our founding in 2018.

For example, a standard check in might run something like:

  • Person A: Feeling great, looking forward to the meeting
  • Person B: A bit anxious at the moment, worried about the contracts coming in
  • Person C: Feel pretty great, excited for the meeting
  • Person D: Feeling quite tired, been a long week, bit worried because my partner is sick.

Why we do this

This ritual has two effects:

  1. It lets other people in the meeting know what is going on outside of the meeting.
  2. It allows space for these things to be said, when they might have otherwise not been.

Check ins allow us to adjust our behaviour according to what's been shared by others in the group, and act in solidarity towards them. For example, there might be something that we can do to alleviate someone's anxiety. The fact that one member is tired might mean you are especially tight on meeting timings so you can end the meeting early.

It also allows people to get something that is worrying off their chest. A problem shared is a problem halved. It tries to make sharing difficult things less awkward by always allowing dedicated time for them.

Someone saying they are worried about a difficult meeting immediately changes the dynamics of that meeting. If everyone admits it is likely going to be a difficult meeting, it makes it a lot easier to deal with.

Speaking aloud outside worries allows you perhaps address them and, at least temporarily, put them aside. This will also mean that the meeting itself remains focused, as you've addressed any things that might be distracting at the outset.

How we do this

As well as at the start of meetings, we do this at the start of every day, as part of our scrum style meeting . We do two rounds:

  1. Check in.
  2. Standard scrum style questions: what each person worked on yesterday, what they are working on today and if there are any blockers.

Sometimes, if the check in warrants it and it feels right, we will actually discuss the content of the check in. For example, once a member was particularly worried about an aspect of a project, to the extent it had kept them up the night before. On hearing this, we worked as a team to collectively fix what they were worried about after the daily scrum, which resolved the issue and made them feel a lot better.

We've discovered that sometimes sharing the full extent of what you are feeling, in a group setting, feels quite hard. Or that following a series of positive check ins with something more negative is quite difficult. However, over time it becomes easier and less awkward to do so. Having learnt this, we try and make sure people can talk about how they are feeling in a more private setting through a buddying system.

Checking in with others

Sometimes, we try and do this in meetings with collaborators we are working with outside of the co-op. We explain the idea, talk it through and explain that if people don't feel comfortable then they can say "pass". Often we start, to give an example for others to follow.

This works incredibly well. During a particular campaign, we were working on a project with an extremely tight deadline. Having introduced the practice, we began with checking in ourselves. Our collaborator's check in was something like: "I'm incredibly anxious because I'm worried that I'm the only person responsible for such a high profile project, so I am basically quite afraid". We were able to reassure them that we were also responsible and wouldn't let it fail. The whole atmosphere of the room palpably shifted! In other situations, people have really taken to it.

Checking in in sociocracy

Checking in is one part of the sociocratic decision making process we use in our meetings that tries to make meetings more human, egalitarian and effective.

Why not give it a try?

Checking in one of the easiest sociocratic techniques to start doing.

If you've read this and decided to try it out, drop us a line to say how it is going. Or share this blog post on social media or over email.

If you'd like training on these techniques, our friends at Outlandish offer it and it is really worthwhile .