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Is there anything more annoying than a meeting that’s not focused on actions? One that makes you wonder, “Can’t we just get the agenda as a to-do list?” Yes, there is a worse kind of meeting. That’s one so focused on actions that you forget this is a room with humans in it. A great check-in can help you avoid that trap, and make every meeting better.
Jane Ruffino, content designer at Daresay.
Nobody wants their workday to be an endless dirge of meetings that don’t go anywhere. Endless, agenda-less hours in stuffy rooms make people hate meetings. You can even buy mugs, award ribbons, pens, and t-shirts that say, “I survived another meeting that should have been an email.” But, while we hate to #notallmeetings you, cancelling too many meetings can be a mistake. It can leave us focused so much on efficiency that we leave feeling like we’re little more than automatons just biding our time until we’re phased out by robots that don’t cry in the bathroom sometimes. Even when we’re efficient, positive, and working at our best, and even when it’s clear we’re at a very necessary meeting, we can still show up and struggle to really be there. One way to combat this is by starting every meeting with a quick check-in, to create space to reflect and invite everyone to take a few minutes to fully arrive in the room.
We use check-ins as a way to make a little bit of space to remind ourselves we’re human, to set a tone, and start off on the same page. They take anything from two to ten minutes. Any longer and you really will eat into the meeting agenda. A check-in helps us create a rhythm together as a group, and those few minutes at the start of every meeting can save a lot of stress in the long run. We all bring our whole selves to work, for better or worse. Sometimes it’s easy to be in a room with our favourite colleagues and open up about how we’re feeling. “If I seem a bit detached today it’s because I haven’t slept,” or even the reverse, “I’m feeling really on top of things right now, so if you need extra support or have a challenge you need help with, I’m all ears!” That’s a great scenario, but it’s not always the norm, and it’s not the only way to stop and take a breath before we dive into an agenda.
We try to do this whether we’re sitting with another colleague, or we’re in a room of colleagues, clients, and partners. But not all meetings are equal. If we’re in a room where we’re not sure how ‘fun’ we can be, we can ask things like:
But if we want to create a little fun in an unknown room, we can ask safe-but-light questions like:
When we’re with people we feel really comfortable around, we’ll ramp it up:
We have a long list of them that we like to tap into, but we found that most of us were going back to the same one or two examples because we couldn’t think of any others in the moment. So we built a tool to help us use more of those examples when we need them most.
We took our top check-ins, added some filters, and built them into a simple tool. Say hej to hej.today, your meeting check-in generator. You can filter for creative check-ins, when you need to shake off cobwebs and create an imaginative atmosphere. Or you can be more reflective, as a way to connect with the fact that we’re all human in the room. And since sometimes we need to be – how do we put it? — ‘all business,’ we’ve added some practical check-ins, which are especially useful when meeting with people who are more used to meetings that should have been emails.
We agree it’s important to minimise unnecessary meetings, but it’s also valuable to take every meeting as a chance to make the most of the time we’re in a room, real or virtual, with our colleagues. Because then, at worst, you’re at least a little closer to your colleagues – and that’s a pretty good failure scenario. It’s a lot easier to shrug off an email that seems a bit abrupt when it comes from someone you’ve made animal noises with. We’re more likely to respond by remembering their humanity – they’ve been stressed lately; they sent it from a phone and must have been on the move – than to react by feeling ours has been forgotten. Every meeting should have a purpose, one that everyone understands. Every meeting should be only as long as it needs to be. We should leave knowing what’s expected of us. But check-ins are one piece of a bigger goal: to make every meeting a heck of a lot better than an email. Try hej.today and let us know what you think. If you have a check-in you love, and want to share it with us, just drop us an email and we’ll add it!
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