During the average week, check-ins with employees are one of the few constants on my calendar. Projects progress, client needs vary, and problems get solved, but check-ins with the team are ever-present.
While it’s an easy target when looking at how to eliminate “calendar clutter,” (“it’s there all the time, it’s not that big of a deal, my team runs smoothly without interference,” we’ve all said these things to ourselves before) check-ins with each member of your team can add so much value when used correctly.
First, let’s talk about different types of check-ins: full team check-ins and one-on-ones.
They get everyone on the same page. You can solve problems together that multiple people may be facing. The team has an opportunity to get a pulse on how everyone is doing (mentally and work-wise).
Not everyone understands why they are there and they don’t contribute meaningfully. People repeat the same things week after week, without any real change or progress reported on. The team isn’t honest with how they’re doing and people go back to their work, still frustrated with whatever was bothering them before.
Individual team members have the opportunity to ask questions about their specific work. Managers can understand a specific team member’s goals and how to help them accomplish those goals. Feedback can be exchanged more freely on a specific person’s work progress.
A lack of authenticity leads to perfunctory answers. The time isn’t spent meaningfully, and either party walks away feeling like the time was wasted.
To improve both team check-ins and one-on-ones, implementing these strategies can make a huge difference and help you stop wasting time.
Understanding the purpose of the meeting is crucial and even at times, feels cliche. However redundant it may be, saying out loud the purpose of gathering with everyone present can be helpful in getting the team aligned on vision. Start the meeting off with a statement like, “We are here today to learn more about the progress of everyone’s work, help solve problems each person may be facing, and share things we’ve learned that can help others with their work.”
The prompt may spark inspiration in how the team shares information so that it is actually presented in a way that can truly help others with their work.
In a one-on-one, the purpose can vary from a problem-solving session to project updates and heads up on potential issues down the road. Talk with your team members to help understand what they may be needing from a check-in and establish a clear purpose together.
Sometimes, the purpose of the check-in can be for your employee to have face-to-face time with you to ask questions. Even if you don’t have as much to bring, make sure that your employee’s needs are met before determining that the meeting isn’t needed.
In a one-on-one, open conversation is crucial to building trust with your team. The opportunity for reciprocal feedback is invaluable and can even make end-of-year evaluations pleasantly boring when nothing is a surprise or feels out of left field.
To start the conversation, take time to emphasize that you want to find ways to best support your team member, whether that be through helping them solve a problem, keeping an eye on potential future issues, advocating for their needs with a different department, or whatever they may need. Ask intentional questions such as:
- How can I best support you this week/month?
- What is the biggest challenge you’re facing right now? (Follow up: how can I assist you with this challenge?)
- How has this past week/month gone for you and what can be done to make improvements going forward?
In team check-ins, providing a safe space for questions and problem-solving can help the productivity and general morale of the team. “Safe space” means that team members won’t be punished, criticized, or teased for asking questions, even if they may seem obvious. Most of the time, the “obvious” question is something that several people may have on their minds but feel nervous about asking out loud. Encourage a spirit of learning and humility within your team to support open feedback.
As much as we may try to act like robots, your team is made up of people. Human capital is at a premium these days and finding ways to help people feel connected to work can do a lot for the general feelings about work. Even when a check-in may not feel like it has the same “productive” value as other items on your calendar, building your relationship with your team members both individually and as a whole adds social and human value.
According to Gallup’s 2021 State of the Work Report, engaged and thriving employees experience significantly less stress, anger, and health problems. However, only 9% of employees ranked in the “thriving” and “engaged” categories. Spending time investing in human capital is not a waste of time and reframing your approach to check-ins can make a huge difference for yourself and your team.
In general, for both of these types of check-ins, you’ll have to work with your team to determine the right cadence, whether it makes sense to meet weekly, every other week, or once a month. The part that matters is regular connection with your team.
Building connections with your team and managing people well is crucial in today’s world. For more tips on building a healthy and authentic team culture, sign up to receive the Be Freaking Awesome weekly work tips.short url: