On Monday, I was invited by the Canadian Mental Health Association to facilitate a working meeting for The Spot – an evolving food community center in Kentville.
With a mix of conversations with the entire group and conversations in smaller groups, participants worked on getting different parts of the project rolling.
With a diverse group of people who have different ways of working and many of us coming in from other meetings or jobs, we needed to all get focused on the meeting and the work at hand.
As is common with the Art of Hosting practice, we started and ended the meeting in a circle with a check-in and a check-out. The value of this practice became strongly apparent once again:
Often we start meetings right away with the first topic on the agenda. Our agendas are packed tight and meeting time is limited, leading us to believe that we do not have time for such things as check-ins and check-outs. In my experience, taking a few minutes at the beginning and end of the meeting will result in more focused work and better results; it is well worth it.
By planning in a quick check-in, we allow space to transition from previous meetings or tasks to this meeting and the tasks at hand. Depending on the question we chose to ask during a check-in, we get an idea of where people are at and what kind of day they had so far; or we hear which expectations they have for the meeting. This helps everyone become more focused, understand why some of us are (re)acting the way we are, and interact with each other more kindly:
Say, for example, someone keeps pushing the group to work more quickly – if we know from the check-in that they have had a hectic day, we are better able to understand and intervene.
When ending the meeting, closing it with a check-out in a circle is equally helpful. A check-out provides a clear ending point to the meeting, helping everyone to stay focused throughout. It also gives people space to reflect on the meeting, think about the future work at hand, and transition to the next item on their agenda.
Check-ins can be as short as 5 minutes and as long as 30 minutes, depending on the group size and the activity you chose. I encourage you to plan in time for a check-in and a check-out, even if it is ever so short.
You will find a growing collection of check-in and check-out activities and questions here.
More about why to start end end a meeting in a circle here.