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Just Checking In

“What was your favorite part of today?” Lindsay asked me.

I was taken aback. It was a simple enough question, but I hadn’t really thought about it. Actually, I didn’t know the last time someone had asked me a question like it. Until that moment, the toughest question I had to answer that day was if I wanted to sign up for a rewards program (yes, always). And that made me kind of sad.

I realized in that moment that we often get so caught up in the process of everything that we forget to check in on the people around us – whether that’s our friends, family, or team. And we miss out on so many opportunities because of it.

Check ins and check outs are one of the simplest and most underrated tools in our leadership toolbox. A check in is an activity that poses a question and asks someone to answer it in a way that provides insight on their current thoughts or emotions. Check outs are similar to check ins, but they are usually used to close out or wrap up an experience. In general, they help to gauge people’s attitudes, moods, emotions, or understanding. If used correctly, they can completely change our group dynamics or the climate of our organizations by fostering:

Awareness: At their core, check ins and check outs help us to gather and share information or feedback. This awareness can help us to better gauge and make decisions for our group.

Engagement: The questions that we ask in check ins and check outs naturally invite meaningful conversation. This engages people with each other in authentic, communicative, and impactful ways.

Teambuilding: Check ins and check outs ask people to be vulnerable with each other through sharing. They foster trust and understanding that ultimately helps to bond your group and bring them closer together.

Reflection: This process asks us to take pause and to reflect on our own personal experience. In this way, we become more self-aware and are able to learn, grow, and develop as a result.

The power of check ins and check outs lies in their intentionality. When we build these practices into the fabric of what we do, then we actually create a culture of community, care and growth. Here are some best practices to help you make the most of these opportunities:

  • Make time – Build time into your day to lead a check in or check out. Use check ins to start your day or to regroup and use check ins to reflect and adjourn.
  • Create a safe space – These tools only work if people feel like they can share. Set the tone and establish groundrules that will help to create a positive and inclusive space.
  • Choose your question carefully – The difference between “How was your day?” and “What was your favorite part of today?” is subtle but will illicit wildly different responses. Critically think about what you actually want to know from your group. You also need to consider what might they be willing or unwilling to share.
  • Participate – Model the way by checking in yourself. This step is important for you to feel connected to your group through the process.
  • Follow up – We should be using these conversations to better connect with and serve our groups, if there are check ins or check outs that stand out to you, for whatever reason, make sure to follow up individually.
  • Apply – Make the most of the information shared with you to frame your day or to make adjustments that help to meet your group’s needs. It’s this step that shows others that you truly value their experiences and perspectives.

“What was your favorite part of today?” That simple question continues to surprise people. Which tells me that we really need to check in with each other more. These are the questions that we should be asking and the conversations that we should be having.

My favorite part of today was catching up with good friends. What was yours?

*Leadership Lesson*

Here are some of my favorite activities, give one a try with your family, friends, or team this week:

One Word Check In: Share one word that describes best how you are feeling right now.

Roses and Thorns: What is one great thing from your day (rose) and one not so great thing (thorn)?

Rate My Day: Rate your day on a scale from 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high) and tell us why.

Learn more about how to facilitate check ins and check outs with this helpful article.

*Meet the Author*

Caelan Cooney is another Millennial who wants ‘to make an impact’, a self-proclaimed movie critic, avid explorer, lifelong learner, and Chapman University graduate.