Since we collectively joined virtual teams last week, we better make the most of working in them. This is the first in a series of to-the-point, tried and tested tips to do just that.
Now more than ever, our minds are pre-occupied with lots of stuff, and that isn’t always the virtual meeting we just joined. Our faces appear neatly in rows on the screen, but our emotional states could be less aligned. A check-in at the very beginning contributes a great deal to the level of focus and openness during the meeting as a whole.
Checking-in means we allow everyone in the meeting to (briefly) share with the rest what’s on their mind and/or how they feel. The following three ways to check-in are useful for any virtual meeting and especially appropriate in our current situation.
- Landing – Ask participants to answer a landing question, like: ‘what do you need or want to share in order to be mentally present in this meeting’. Participants might briefly share a concern that is on their mind, an exciting new insight they just gained or a brief story of what just happened before they joined the meeting. Everyone can share, not everyone has to. Keep it brief. Just allowing the space, invites participants to check for possible distractions they may or may not be aware of. This way, landing reduces the level of noise from inside ourselves, adding to our focus. A follow-up question might be: ‘is there anything you need to take care of briefly in order to get this off your mind for the duration of the meeting?’. Often, a quick e-mail or message is enough to do that.
- Sharing our current emotional state – Invite participants to say something about how they feel, right now, in a few sentences. The simple way is to ask just that: ‘say a few sentences about how you feel, this very moment’. Other ways are: ‘what is your current weather report?’, ‘if your mood had a flag, what would be on it right now?’, ‘what color is your emotional state right now?’. Keep participants focused on the current moment, this is not a prompt to start telling about how everyone has been doing all week. The purpose of sharing our emotional state is to raise the level of intimacy and openness during the meeting. And to foster mutual understanding. Awareness of people’s emotional state helps us strike the right tone when we talk to each other.
- Storytelling – Check-ins are a perfect opportunity to get to know each other better by means of a brief story-telling question. Examples are: ‘what has brought you joy in the past few days?’, ‘what have you learned about yourself since we started working from home?’. ‘who would you love to high-five, shake hands with, or hug, right now, and why?’, ‘what have you discovered recently that we can all benefit from?’. Team members will set the tone by taking these questions into a lighter or a more serious direction. The tone might shift when people take turns. You may want to ask participants to comment on what they observed. That way, the round of storytelling becomes a check-in for the emotional state of the team as well.
If you want, let me know how this worked for you and for your team. And don’t hesitate to add ideas below, so we can all learn from each other.
Wishing you good health and spirits!