As a manager, finding the right balance between knowing what’s going on with your team and being overbearing can be tricky.
Staying on top of the work means you’re better equipped to help with blockers and address issues before they spin into something larger. And knowing what’s going on with your team, in or outside of work, can help build empathy and understanding, so you can better support them as a manager.
But what about (the dreaded) micromanagement? Asking for updates too regularly can come across as overbearing, and last-minute requests for status reports can pull people out of focus and into overwhelm.
So how do you get it right?
Team check-ins don't equal micromanagement. Checking in with your team on a regular basis can improve team dynamics, help folks be more productive, boost engagement (by 3x according to Gallup) and decrease turnover.
In this article, we’ll discuss why it’s important to check in with your team, what an effective check-in looks like, and how to build a habit around it.
What does a “check-in” look like?
Different teams do this differently (here’s inspiration from three teams). On the most basic level, as a manager, you’ve got two things that are important to check in on with your team on a regular basis:
Let’s take a look at why these two things matter.
Questions to ask:
Questions to ask:
A good check-in mixes the tangible (I accomplished X) with the less tangible (I’m feeling Y) because, without both, you’re not getting the full story behind the work.
Things outside of work impact our ability to perform at work — that’s something good managers understand and account for. Think of it this way: If someone on your team is feeling exhausted because they were up all night with a sick kid, it makes sense that they’d be less productive than usual. Without the proper context, a manager might just see decreased output and wonder if that employee is feeling disengaged or if there’s another issue going on with the project. Communicating clearly about both project outcomes and personal feelings helps you get a full picture about why people operate the way they do and equips you to better support them and make adjustments along the way.
Write check-ins (that happen asynchronously) and check-in meetings both have benefits, and they often work best in combination with one another. So what’s the best way to determine which check-in style to use when?
Here’s a good way to think about it:
Monday and Wednesday: Written check-ins
Pro-tip: Sharing feelings with your teammates might feel weird or uncomfortable at first if it’s not something you’re used to doing. To make it a little easier for folks to open up, consider using a simple combination of a color and emoji. It gives folks an avenue to share that can feel safer than words.
Friday: Check-in meeting (30 minutes)
Pro tip: To get the most out of your check-in meeting, it’s important to pull in the context you’ve gained from written updates throughout the week. Range makes it easy to build your agenda around the topics, flags, and blockers your team has surfaced throughout the week, facilitate a conversation about them, and provide everyone shared context.
Is there anything more annoying than being asked to cobble together a project update or slide deck on a moment's notice? We’ve all been there. Ad hoc, surprise asks pull us out of focus and fuel feelings of frustration and overwhelm.
(Plus, an update that you throw together right before the meeting will never be as comprehensive or well thought out as one you’ve had adequate time to prep and plan for.)
Whether in-person or in writing, check-ins work best when you build a habit around them so that people know what to expect and can plan around it. When your team starts checking in on a regular cadence, they’ll get more and more practice sharing their work — meaning their written updates will become more consistent and you’ll get the right information when you need it.Start building your team's check-in habit today