Caring Leadership: Start your meetings with a different check-in
This blog is part of a series on Caring Leadership, touching upon the four qualities – awareness, vulnerability, empathy, and compassion – that are critical for leaders to master during a time of crisis.
According to a recent study by researchers at Harvard Business School, compared to pre-pandemic levels, employees have been attending more meetings, sending more emails, and working significantly longer days. All of this against the backdrop of the disorienting effects of COVID-19 on their daily lives.
In an environment characterized by a lost sense of security, heightened sensitivity, and distress, caring leadership is becoming critically important.
Every interaction offers an opportunity for leaders to stay in connection with their team members. One way to make this happen is to carve out a few minutes at the start of each meeting (and before diving into the content) to do a check-in.
If done well, a check-in helps people to be present, makes them feel included, heard, and seen, and eases them into the right frame of mind for the meeting. Verbal sharing, especially through telling short personal stories, offers a great way to weave the interpersonal net.
A check-in usually starts with someone volunteering to answer the check-in question. Ask your team members to “pass the baton” to the next person, simply because it makes the process faster in an online meeting where it is harder to know who is willing to go next.
Check-ins work best if you “just” give people the space to talk, without questions or comments. It’s not about solving things. It’s simply to be with each other.
Crafting the check-in question is important. It helps to think through the following aspects in advance:
- How much time do you have for the check-in? Think about how “big” your question is – does it invite a longer, heartfelt story from each person, or just a sentence or two?
- How can the check-in offer a moment of vulnerability and connection and at the same time support the purpose of the meeting?
- What kind of tone do you want to create through the check-in? Serious? Playful? Reflective? Explorative? Supportive?
A check-in question such as “Tell us the story of how you have lived through last year” will likely really open the story space and take more time than a check-in prompt such as “Share briefly with us how you are arriving today.”
To get you started, these are some check-in questions, specifically designed to connect, that may work for you:
- What words would you use to describe where your head is? And where your heart is?
- How are you taking care of yourself today?
- What is something you came across recently that gave you hope?
- If you could invite someone to sit beside you and support you today, whom would that be?
- What difficult conversation do you need to have today?
- What has been taking up most of your emotional energy lately?
- What habit have you started, or broken, during the lock-down?
- Which place are you most looking forward to visiting once this is all over?
- What made you smile today?
- What is something that you miss that surprises you? What’s something that you don’t miss that surprises you?
- What times of the day or the week are the hardest?
- What is the best thing that happened to you today?
By being more intentional about how you lead your team’s check-in, you can make these minutes into genuine moments of connection.
To master caring leadership in times of crisis, join the THNK THRIVE: Lead With the World in Mind program.