People and Organization

Boost your meeting: start at the beginning!

We always forget that social skills, in addition to the positive long-term effect on the mutual trust, also positively influence the subsequent meeting. But what can you do about it?
Kim Oostvogels

Boost your consultation: start at the beginning!

A sad phenomenon

Have you seen Simon Sinek’s viral movie about Millenials? Somewhere halfway, he describes how things are going on at meetings today. We sit down and, awaiting the start of the meeting, we relent to our digital addiction, opening the tap of our digital infusion: we read our mail on our smartphone, check if there is any news, exchange some messages via Whatsapp and post another tweet. The meeting starts and, at best, the electronics are put aside. Simon talked about Millenials, but I think we all recognize this phenomenon, maybe unfortunately by ourselves too.

Slowly but surely, we lose our social skills to build lasting and real relationships with each other on the job. How different would it be when you’d ask at your arrival about the health of your colleague’s mother, how that one project is going, where you can possibly help, etc.

The impact

We always forget that these social skills, in addition to the positive long-term effect on the mutual trust, also positively influence the subsequent meeting. But what can you do about it?

The solution

Our behavior is strongly driven by our beliefs. If you want other behaviors, we tend to convince people. And then we often come back from a bad trip. Another option is to introduce a best practice that prescribes other behavior and, through experience, eventually adjusts the attitude of mind. The best practice for meetings is the so-called check-in, more and more promoted in the literature on effective meetings and a constant value in different frameworks to make our organizations more mature and self-supporting.

How does it work?

At check-in, you will do a “tour de table”. Each participant in the meeting will have a moment to share briefly how he or she is. What are you doing right now? What gets your attention? There are no incorrect answers. It’s not intended to respond or to dialogue. Some examples of what I’ve heard during check-in rounds:

  • I have had a stressful weekend. The contractor who constructed our driveway made a lot of mistakes. We hope to fix it again.
  • I was really looking forward to this meeting. It’s been too long! I have some interesting suggestions and I am very curious about what you think of them!
  • My daughter turned out to be sick this morning. I just got back from the doctor and was lucky to arrange some child care. I have to come to rest for a moment now.
  • I had a very satisfying meeting this morning. I’m still bursting with energy.
  • My father has been hospitalized. I’ll leave for the hospital after this meeting.
  • I have a lot of work and some deadlines to catch today. I have doubted to come to this meeting, but I think it is important.
  • We were just told that our colleague was fired. I’m frustrated that I was not consulted in this dossier.

Ok, simple. But why is it so important?

A check-in round has a lot of positive effects:

  • Starting the meeting together listening to each other is a first common action, stimulating the group cohesion.
  • If someone has a bad day, it helps the others to place and understand unexpected reactions.
  • If you just come out of a different meeting, a check-in provides insight to your colleagues in what is going on and what touches you.
  • If you have your mind elsewhere, it helps to express it to let it go for the duration of the meeting and to focus.
  • We are all faced with “life events“, such as a relative’s decease or illness. It is invaluable that there is a time to share this with each other, without everyone feeling obligated to respond. It also offers the opportunity to show your human side and to support.
  • In the long run, check-ins build trust between members of a group.
  • In the long term, you develop your empathetic skills. Imagine how your empathetic skills are influenced when each of your meeting hours start with a check-in?

In practice, we often see that it is not easy for groups to get started with this simple practice. If you want to make a real team of a group of people, a check-in is a very good way to start the transition. In case you’d face critical colleagues, then know that they might need some additional support and background (this blog can help). Or know that self-disclosure is a good tactic. Live up the code yourself!

A check-in is a practice that strives for a fundamentally different view of how we work together. Do you want to grow an ego-centric, “I-bang-my-fist-on-the-table-to-get-my-thing-done”-way of working? Do you want to evolve into a collective engagement to realize organizational goals?

Check in!

Thanks for reading

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Kim Oostvogels