Meaningful Meetings Start with Check-in Questions

Written by Mark McElroy

We get more work done when we start by working on ourselves.

Starting meetings with check-in questions is one of the most powerful tools for changing how we relate to each other. So why are check-in questions also the first new way of working that many managers want to cancel?

The check-in process is deceptively simple.You ask a question. Meeting attendees answer it, round-robin style. But *why* do we do this?

A check-in question is a ritual — a friendly, repeatable action that says, “Hey, we’re getting started.” 

A check-in question democratizes our meeting space: “This is a place where everyone can speak and be heard.”

A check-in question sets expectations: “We expect everyone to speak up and take part.” 

A check-in question humanizes the moment. “We care about what’s on each other’s minds.”

A check-in question focuses attention. “Let’s model the power of everyone thinking about the same thing at the same time.”

Inevitably, though, someone will say, “This takes too much time! We should be working, not chatting! Enough with the check-in questions!”

People who want to cancel the check-in question forget: our work goes more smoothly when people feel present, acknowledged, and connected.

If time becomes an issue, we can ask questions prompting one-word answers (or, on Zoom, have people answer the question simultaneously in the chat).

But: do check-in. Once we feel more connected to each other, we’ll feel more connected to the work … and get more done.

Inspired by Dickie Bush’s atomic essay concept, I’ve committed to writing thirty short essays in thirty days. Cheer me on!

Photo by Mikel Parera on Unsplash

About the author

Mark McElroy

I'm a writer and professional facilitator. I'm the author of a dozen or so non-fiction books and hundreds of corporate video scripts. As a professional facilitator, I coach individuals, committees, and teams to change how they meet, make decisions, and plan, so they can get out of their own way and do work that really matters. I use this site to write about writing, adaptive strategy, travel, and spirituality ... and to "learn out loud" by sharing works (and what doesn't).