top of page

The best use of 5 minutes, for any team : 5 Hidden Outcomes for Teams who Check-in

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

The world of work, for many teams, can be experienced as a whirlwind of meetings. Meeting with stakeholders, clients, connected teams, collaborators and of course the team itself.

It is important to recognise that whilst this is what 21st Century work looks like, it is a far stretch from how humans evolved culturally, socially and psychologically. We are tribal by nature and our psychology has learned to adapt to this new mode of operations - where we can be in new tribes by the hour and on the hour - often with no time in between. We can also, more recently, expect for these spaces to be digital and so a further step away from what we have evolved to accommodate. Now, we face a screen full of faces all looking at us at once - minus much of human non-verbal communication and often with our own face looking back at us too!


When working with teams, groups and clients we have been trained as clinicians to utilise the check-in process. Some examples of check-ins, to be clear about what I am referring to. These exercises being the initial component of a team meeting for all members to be included:

- each stating how they are feeling right now

- each stating what they are bringing from their work day / week that is perhaps difficult to let go of

- each stating what they hope to achieve or expect from the meeting today

- each stating what they have experienced about the team this week, that was positive

- each stating what their energy level is like, out of 10, ahead of this meeting

- etc

We train teams in this approach too, as the benefits are often more than might be expected:

#1: Transitioning Spaces

Whatever we have come to accept as normative now, we are physical beings in a physical world. For millennia, we have moved between spaces and our psychological frame shifts and adapts as we move. When we are in a bar we have a different role, expectations and social script to when we are in a meeting with our colleagues to when we are in our dining room with our families.

The world of work requires us to often shift out frame of psychology in an instant. Perhaps moving from a planning meeting into a sales meeting, or a management meeting into a crisis solution meeting... We can experience these back to back, the whole day - no wonder we get tired!

The problem for teams arises when teams meet to develop the team or to invite innovation. In these spaces the team needs to be able to access playfulness, creativity, trust and all of the other good emotions teams can bring. This can be very difficult when we don't have the signal we have evolved to need, to signal to us that we have moved to a playful space. We are perhaps still using Teams, in the same room, or entering the same board room we had a stressful meeting in 2 hours ago. Our minds have not had a prompt that this space is for something very different - and so it can rely upon associations and take shortcuts to put us in a state of mind and emotion.

This can mean that teams arrive together with emotional states and expectations that are very out of sync with a team development goal.

Stating out loud what the meeting is hoping to achieve and then letting the team state how they feel in relation to this goal can be helpful. Team members get to notice where they are in relation to where the team needs them to be and the team gets a barometer on how much it might need to to support team members in arriving psychologically.

#2 Mental Health Awareness

Asking each other to state how you feel and making this a permissible act within teams is a valuable approach towards creating team understanding, compassion and an overall awareness of individual and team need. The team, and leaders, can observe if there are general feelings common to the team or repeated feelings common to individuals. This creates a broader sense of team or individual need, beyond the goals of the organisation. Inviting and permitting emotions to be stated is powerful for teams and should be practiced. Quite often we hear individuals state that emotions should not be brought to work, denying that we do even if we don't want to. When teams model the disclosure of emotions, it breaks down barriers and shows team members that this is a safe topic.