The Importance of Checking-In

By Eva Szekeres, MA, PCC

Are you struggling to create a strong and efficient team where people feel connected, thriving and looking forward to collaborating with each other? A few simple habits can make a big difference in the long run. One of my favorites is very simple, though it is often overlooked and its impact underestimated:

Checking-in — or how to to build safety and trust by creating intimacy

Working remotely can be exhausting. We talk about Zoom fatigue, which also means that we are reluctant to spend extra time on “just connecting.” We feel distant, a bit disconnected and we would rather just get done with it.

During the last two years, however, we have learned how important Checking-in is with your team members — before you start doing anything together. Sometimes there is an urge to “jump in,” get to the agenda, and start solving problems. During the pandemic we became more task oriented than relationship oriented.

But our recent, out-of-the-ordinary circumstances showed us that it is crucial to have a sense of where the other person is at the moment, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Checking-in with each other is key to get really connected to each other on a personal level. It creates stronger bonds, which lead to higher levels of psychological safety and trust.

Checking-in also creates a common awareness in the team of what each member brings to the common space — be it in-person or virtually. A proper check-in with each other also indicates what the different needs of the team members are at the moment, so you can start on the same page. It gets easier to motivate each other, or know when someone needs space and patience. We are also better equipped to skillfully handle disagreements or conflicts if we can tune into the other person’s mental and emotional space.

Sometimes people are afraid of showing up fully in a professional context even if they know what an enormous difference it makes when we bring our whole self into our activities. Understanding the other person and their context requires openness, honesty and vulnerability, and people often prefer to hide behind their professional identity. But if you can find a way to reduce this tendency, and create more intimacy between team members, you will create a space for conversations on a completely different level.

Checking-in builds bridges and intimacy among people, which makes them feel more comfortable about sharing things with each other. Not only their perfect and polished thoughts, but their uncertainties, concerns, and uncomfortable questions as well. Having the patience to listen to each other, and allow others to show up with their whole humanity makes a huge difference in how safe people feel with each other. They feel seen, heard, understood and valued for who they are, not only for what they do. To show who you are, sharing more of yourself creates authenticity, allows more spontaneous interactions, playfulness and more creative collaborations.

Of course, what people do and how is also important — but the foundation for that is human connection first, built on trust and safety. Performance can only come later. Otherwise we create purely transactional relationships, not a real team with a sense of belonging and cohesion.

Instead of focusing exclusively on the task, let’s try to bring relationships in the foreground. It doesn’t need too much time — just be fully present, pay attention to others so you can create an emotional connection before you start working on a task. 

You can start checking-in with yourself:

  • How am I really feeling today?
  • How am I showing up with my team?
  • What is going on in my life at the moment?

To learn more about deep, authentic communication, and to further develop your leadership skills, contact Eva for a consultation.