The purpose of this process is to bring concerns and issues into the open so there are no unspoken thoughts or distractions from the meeting. The check-in is an invitation to be fully present—not just present with the “official story,” but with whatever is on our minds. We are legitimately allowed into the meeting with our whole array of concerns and interests (see “The Check-in Process”). Empathic listening is an integral part of the check-in process.
Empathic listening implies adopting an open, non-judgmental stance toward the speaker and positioning ourselves in his/her situation. It means asking ourselves questions such as, “What is going on with me that encourages me to pay attention to some things and disregard others?” “How is my attitude filtering out thoughts and feelings?” “How is the speaker expressing his or her truth?” “What does this truth reveal about his or her mental models?” “What does my reaction reveal about my mental models?”
- Sit in a circle so everyone can see each other’s face. Agree on the time you’d like to devote to the activity.
- Take two or three minutes to “center.” Sit comfortably, in silence, breathing deeply and letting your eyes soften (or close if you prefer) while you become aware of the thoughts in your mind. You can play some music to create a common sound environment.
- Someone volunteers to start the process. The speaker may hold a talking stick, a stone, or some other object that physically symbolizes the “right to speak.”
- The speaker takes some time to say whatever he or she wants, with no constraints. If the speaker does not want to speak, he or she can just say “I pass,” reserving the right to speak at the end of the circle or to not speak at all.
- While the speaker is holding the talking object, no one interrupts or responds to his or her statements. Someone may, however, choose to say something related to what has already been said, when it is their turn.
- When the speaker is done, he or she says, “I’m in.”
- The speaker passes the talking object to the person on his or her left. The process is repeated until everyone has had a chance to speak.
The check-out follows the same process. The only difference is that each person finishes by saying, “I’m out.
Think about what stage the group is at. What would be a useful question for them to check-in with?
Think about the context and the general mood.
- How much time do you have for the check-in? Does the question invite a 3-5 minute story from each person, a word or two, or a sentence or two?
- How can the check-in connect and support the rest of the agenda and the overall purpose of the gathering?
- What kind of tone do you want to create? Playful? Serious? Connecting? Learning something new about each other?
- Consider: What has happened? What are they about to do? Has there been conflict? Is this a celebration?
Choose a reflection question that will support the kind of mood and atmosphere that you want to create. Adjust questions to fit your meeting criteria.
- What’s one thing I hope to get accomplished at today’s meeting?
- Share a word or two on the intention you hold for today’s meeting to be a success.
- What will you contribute to make our session a success?
- What value/guiding principle do you bring to the table with you today?
- What are you willing to set aside in order to be fully present with this conversation?
- What do I need to share to be present in this session?
- How do I feel right now related to this session?
- What am I excited or worried about related to today’s session?
Early in a project
- What am I bringing to this group?
- How do I feel working in this group?
- What is my vision for this group?
During a project
- How do I feel working in this team?
- What metaphor would I use to describe how I feel in this group?
- What’s making me heavy and what’s making me lighter right now in this group?
- What’s happened since we last met?
- What are you noticing in your environment that relates to this project?
When a team knows each other well, or simply when the mood fits, you can introduce play/fun into your questions
- What animal represents my mood today?
- What song / movie / story represents my mood today?
- What is my superhero power pose?
- What temperature am I today and a few words on why.
- What’s one thing that brings me energy and joy?
- What is a recent success you’ve experienced?
End of a project
- What’s my biggest learning or insight from today?
- What do I choose to do differently next time?
- What has been my highest high and lowest low from this project?