The meeting check-in ritual is a simple but effective way to start any meeting. Instead of going straight into the agenda, taking some time at the beginning for a few casual questions can set you up for a more productive meeting.
For example, you can start by asking everyone to take a minute to check in with each other or by having everyone write down their thoughts on a piece of paper. This helps people feel more connected and allows for better communication overall. It also sets the tone for the meeting, letting people know that this is a safe space where they can share their thoughts and ideas freely.
Why are check-in questions not a waste of time?
In a complex environment, a lot of factors influence the motivation, productivity and success of a team. Aside from the core work topics, it's important to consider people's well-being, how they feel about their recent workload, how satisfied or dissatisfied they feel about work, etc.
The quality of collaboration is another key factor of success. And the key to effective collaboration is trust between team members. In a 2022 Harvard Business Review article, Why Your Team Members Need Daily Check-Ins, Stacia Garr talks about the importance of genuine connections between people in an organization:
Our research found that employees crave genuine connections not just with their colleagues, but also across hierarchies within their organization. More specifically, when someone feels that their relationship with their manager is authentic, and that their manager wants to give them the tools they need to successfully do their job, that person is less stressed, more satisfied, and more likely to stay at the company.
Check-in questions are a simple and effective step toward this goal. Often a simple question such as "What is one remarkable thing you did today?" can help people feel included and heard.
In a bigger meeting, the check in questions easily bring everyone's focus into the room.
They're also an effective tool for building rapport in a 1-1 setting. A simple "What are you thinking about today?" is a very powerful way to start a conversation.
Examples of check-in questions
There are many ways to kick off a check-in ritual. Generally, it comes down to asking a light personal question, unrelated to the specific agenda of the meeting.
For a small meeting it can be done informally, as a casual chat. In a larger meeting you may want to make it more structured - have everyone write their answers on a sticky note, have people check-in in pairs, or even use a polling software such as Upvote for Slack.
Of course, you want to avoid being repetitive - don't be that person that opens every meeting with "All right, how was everyone's weekend?". Here we list a dozen examples of awesome check-in questions.
Typically, you can start either with an icebreaker question completely unrelated to work or with a more targeted easy question that helps you sense the pulse of the team or the person.
Fun ice breakers
- What book have you read that was life-changing?
- If you could have any pet, what would it be?
- Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible?
- What is something you never thought you'd be able to do, until you actually did it?
- What's your go-to karaoke song?
- Have you tried any new restaurants or activities recently?
- Have you seen any good movies or TV shows lately?
- Or check out our list of 50+ fun ice breaker poll questions.
Pulse questions about work and motivation
- How is your workload this week?
- How are you feeling today?
- What is currently your main concern?
- How do you feel about yesterday's planning session?
- What excites the most about the job?
- What frustrated you the most in the past month?
- What is your biggest obstacle?
- What are you thinking about today?
- What was the most enjoyable/fun task you've had in the past few weeks?
- What was the most draining thing for you in the past week?
- Describe your current mood with a single word (use sticky notes or word clouds)
- What are you feeling the most positive about today?
- What do you wish people were taking more/less seriously?
- What word best describes work lately?
- Give one example of excellent teamwork we did last week