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Standing up team check-in meetings

Align, unblock, and give everyone a voice — here’s how to get started

October 8, 2021

What is a check-in meeting?

A check-in meeting is a type of structured team meeting that covers important team metrics and progress, as well as an open agenda where anyone can bring topics for discussion. They're a highly effective and efficient way to use meeting time to keep a team aligned, remove blockers, resolve tactical issues, and boost team engagement.

Check-in meetings are a great way to give everyone on your team a chance to participate and make meeting time more engaging too, as the cornerstone of these meetings is a collaborative agenda that anyone can add items to. The check-in meeting format can work well for status updates and progress meetings too. Cadence will vary from team-to-team — they might happen on a daily or weekly basis.

In this post, we'll cover the five key parts of every check-in meeting, examples of questions to ask during it, and tips and a meeting agenda template to help you facilitate one on your own team.

5 key parts of a check-in meeting

While different teams may treat them a little differently, most check-in meetings follow a pretty standard formula. The larger meeting typically consists of 5 parts: the opening round, recurring topics, agenda-building, agenda items, and the closing round.

Assigning a meeting facilitator beforehand can be helpful, as they'll play a key role in each stage. We also recommend assigning someone to capture meeting notes.

Opening round

The meeting starts with an opening round a time to acknowledge how people are doing and give everyone a chance to answer a check-in question or fun icebreaker question before diving in. (Bonus: studies show that if folks speak at the beginning of a meeting, they're more likely to remain engaged throughout. A check-in question is a great way to get people talking.)

Opening round questions for meetings:

  • What was a highlight of your weekend? (for Monday morning meetings)
  • What are you looking forward to this week?
  • Try a quick team-building question (here are 7 of our favorites) — this can be about work, personal life, career goals, and more
  • Do a traffic light check-in — asking people to share if they're green, yellow, or red
Check out our eBook of team questions for more check-in questions for meetings.

How to facilitate it: Start the meeting and go “around the room” (for virtual meetings, use a randomized meeting spinner or the facilitator's video call order), calling on meeting participants to share their answer to the check-in question.

Recurring topics

This is the structured and recurring part of the meeting.

To determine what should be revisited each meeting (rather than as-needed), consider the purpose of the meeting and your desired meeting outcomes (alignment, unblocking, team bonding, etc.). Choose recurring topics that are relevant for everyone in the meeting, and focus on topics that benefit from live discussion (like troubleshooting blockers for a complex project) or question/answer format. For information that doesn't require much back and forth, default to sharing asynchronously.

Here are a few examples of recurring topics:

  • Team metrics
  • Updates on current projects
  • Past meeting action items

How to facilitate it: Go through each of the recurring topics, calling on the person who owns that portion of the meeting to share relevant insights.

Agenda-building

This is the dynamic agenda-building part of the meeting, where everyone has an equal opportunity to bring up something they'd like to discuss. This section happens quickly and efficiently, while also giving everyone a voice — that's the beauty of these meetings.

How to facilitate it: Adding an agenda item is an opt-out experience, rather than opt-in. Call on each meeting participant to ask if they'd like to add something to the agenda — they can choose to “Pass” if they don't have anything to add. Agenda items are represented with a 1-2 word placeholder. For example, if someone wanted to talk about the plan for quarterly planning to get clarity on decision-making and timeline, they would just say “quarterly planning.”

Agenda items

For each agenda item, the person who added the item to the list will briefly describe the issue or what they'd like to discuss. It may be something that is quickly resolved (perhaps they just didn't know who to talk to about something, and they just needed a pointer to the right person), or it could be something that requires some open discussion.

Importantly, each item can only be resolved by the person who brought it up. And once they've resolved it, the facilitator moves on to the next agenda item, avoiding a lot of conversation for conversation's sake around that topic.

Here's an example of how it looks in action.

Say Dan brings the agenda item “tech spec,” and I suddenly remember a tech spec that I wrote that no one's reviewed yet. I better add my own agenda item. If Dan's “tech spec” item also happens to address mine, great we can remove my item later. But the time spent on Dan's item will be solely focused on that one item, not generally the topic of “tech specs.” Suppose he just wants to know if there's a consistent place where we store tech specs, and he gets his questions answered. If someone else follows on, saying “Speaking of tech specs, I read something about how we can write better tech specs by using a standardized template,” the facilitator is free to put a stop to that discussion.

How to facilitate it: Keeps the conversation tightly focused on the agenda item, guiding it to a next action assigned to someone (if a next action is needed). If someone starts to hijack that time with something somewhat related but actually different, the facilitator may say “That sounds like a separate agenda item, would you like to add it to the end of the agenda?” If the conversation seems aimless, the facilitator may come back to the topic-bringer: “What do you need to resolve this item?” or “Is there a next action we can capture that can move this forward?” (Check out our meeting facilitation cheatsheet for more tips on handling tricky meeting situations and be sure to capture meeting notes as you go too.)

Closing round

The closing round mirrors the opening round, and is an opportunity for each person to speak, share any reflections on the meeting.

This can serve the role of a mini debrief, using check-out questions like: what went well in the meeting? What could have gone better? It's a quick and immediate way to get feedback on the meeting structure and facilitation. For example, someone might say “Good meeting and facilitation, though I think we could have spent a little less time on the tech spec discussion and moved some of that offline.”

You can also use fun questions or team-building questions for meetings to close out with a moment of connection.

How to facilitate it: Call on each person to share a reflection as part of the closing round, and then end the meeting. Afterward, the facilitator or note-taker should share out the meeting notes.

How to get started with check-in meetings

The structure of check-in meetings help create a space that is predictable, inclusive, and gives everyone a voice (https://www.range.co/blog/harper-reed-team-meetings).

For these meetings to be successful in creating that space, they do require a genuine desire and intention from the team to create an inclusive space for everyone to contribute. As a team leader, be sure to share this intention with your direct reports, and also make sure that beyond meetings, people feel psychologically safe.

In the absence of psychological safety and a genuine intention for an inclusive culture, you may get shallow opening and closing rounds that feel like a waste of time, people may not bring “real topics” to the meetings, and it may all feel more performative than actually inclusive.

Once your team feels ready to try out check-in meetings, we put together a meeting agenda template to make it easy to get started.

Try our check-in meeting agenda template
Team Check-in Meetings 101
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