It was Day One of my new job with the global team. It was 15 minutes into the first staff meeting. I had just learned more about the team and their work than I had during the weeks-long research and interview process.
This is how the meeting started: Personal and Professional Check-ins. We were all on the phone. Each person took no more than 2 minutes to share what was on in their mind about work and home. “I am excited about tomorrow’s leadership program kickoff and my basement flooded over the weekend.” “I am almost done analyzing the data for the survey. My daughter is sick and I think I am getting it too.”
No one talked about anything too personal but shared enough so I could get a glimpse into their lives. I soon had empathy for these people as humans and as colleagues. And also knew who might need some help, who might be able to help me and who might need to be left alone to finish their projects.
The man with the sick child was immediately asked if he wanted to work from home for a day or two by our boss. The woman with the wet basement was later asked by a peer if she needed some help on her work and also given some advice on how to get the insurance company to replace her carpets vs. chemically dry them.
Small things? Maybe. But life and work are made up of small things. And we are each whole people who work and have lives. Our complete minds and bodies go to work, not just a section of ourselves that can be surgically separated for 10 hours a day. And when we can take 2 minutes to acknowledge this, amazing things can happen.
Since that first day on the job, I have used and seen dozens of leaders use personal and professional check-ins. Teams start to understand each other better and build relationships where none existed previously. They deliver more collaboration, innovation and SPEED.
Try it: Personal and Professional Check-ins
- Tell the team that you’d like to try something new to help the team be in sync
- Ask someone to be a timer. After the agreed time (start with 1 or 2 minutes each) the gentle alarm sounds, they take a few more seconds to wrap up or just stop.
- As the leader, you go first. Start with personal or professional, whichever you like better. For each one, say something real that is not too personal and that you think will help others understand you. What is truly active on your mind right now? What is distracting you? Don’t share anything confidential, but give a little view into your thinking — what you are delighted about? what you are struggling with? Maybe someone will have a nugget for you. Or not. Or not this time.
- Move to your left or right if you are face-to-face and go around the room one by one. If virtual or partially virtual, use alphabetical order or geography or any way that enables people to know who is next. No one comments, everyone listens to the person who is talking. No one interrupts. No one types, IM’s or otherwise plays with their devices. When you are done, move on to the next part of your agenda. The seeds will grow over time.
- Play with it for 4 meetings. If you still don’t like it, you may be taking too long for each person, not being equal with time or folks are just not saying what is truly real for them yet. Or, maybe it’s just not for your team.