Checking In Often and With Purpose: A Practical Guide
Updated: Jul 20, 2020
It should be one of the most enjoyable aspects of leading and managing others – checking in, that is. Employees place a premium on maintaining durable lines of communication with those for whom they work. Anything less is likely to result in feelings of apathy or disconnection. Avoiding as much is as simple as talking with your team members, both formally and informally. But let’s look at this topic more broadly for a moment.
Personal interaction is an inescapable requirement of virtually any career in the so-called “knowledge economy,” which sees ideas exchanged in increasingly high volume. We communicate our thoughts, open ourselves up to input, and necessarily partner with colleagues of differing skills/backgrounds to produce work of complex nature and viable quality. Put succinctly, every enterprise in the modern business world is, to some degree, a result of team effort; collaboration is vital.
Impediments to solid interaction appear when the lines of communication shift from lateral to vertical – it’s often a bit more difficult to speak openly with the boss than with a peer. Not always, but it is something to consider. There are several practical steps every leader can take to create open and forthcoming relationships with their employees, and they all have to do with simply checking in.
Create a Recurring Schedule
This one’s seemingly obvious, but it is worth expanding upon. Building an official check-in schedule might well lead to a sense of stability, as your team members will know that time spent with them is being formally prioritized. Commitment resonates in the workplace, just as it does in strictly personal relationships.
Outlines + Action Items
It is always wise to outline what you plan to discuss and make sure something actionable results from your 1:1 conversations. The simple creation and sharing of meeting agendas with your employees will allow all parties to come prepared to discuss a specific set of action items, keeping your meeting on track and focused on the growth of a team or individual. Keeping track of what’s been discussed is equally important. Enable leaders to generate action items and consolidate notes based on what’s been discussed, while employees can themselves take the initiative to request meetings to discuss a specific skill or goal.
Performance reviews, peer feedback, and development of new skills all belong on the 1:1 meeting agenda. Build these into your regular format with the help of renaizant to make sure check-ins are leading directly to individual employee growth. As the individuals grow and acquire new capabilities, the team’s performance will follow suit. From there, it’s a matter of aligning that performance with the organization’s goals.
Develop a Culture of Trust
Research studies support the fundamental role of trust in any professional environment. Even placing such studies aside, your check-in sessions should always be guided by a desire to foster a trusting atmosphere. Honesty is essential here – speak openly and make sure your employees know they should do so as well. The thinnest layer of artificial “corporate-speak” is more than enough to negate feelings of trust.
Checking in with employees is the best option available to you in terms of staying up to speed with their feelings, struggles, and professional development. Schedule the meetings, structure them around well thought out agenda items, and let the conversation proceed organically. Depth of conversation matters just as much as frequency of conversation, though neither should be overlooked.