Checking in with My Colleagues

In the fast-paced landscape of today’s professional world, the importance of workplace connection cannot be overstated. The following was originally posted on my LinkedIn four years ago. As we navigate the intricacies of our careers, fostering genuine connections with our colleagues emerges as a cornerstone for success. This sentiment rings true now more than ever. It echos the profound impact that intentional and meaningful interactions can have on our collective work environment. 

Imagine how much more we could be connected if we checked in with our colleagues more often.

Reflecting on the Leadership Lab Retreat and Workplace Connection

I had the honor and pleasure of facilitating a 3-day “Leadership Lab” with the executive management team of a market-leading television station (think off-site strategic planning retreat with a focus not just on planning, but on defining and embracing the mindset required to make the strategic plan stick).

In my business, these types of retreats are only one part of a much lengthier process.  Prior to the retreat, my role is to perform some level of needs analysis, develop an agenda based on those needs, establish appropriate meeting goals and objectives, and conduct stakeholder interviews with key participants.  During the three days, I challenge meeting participants to connect, think deeply, and commit to necessary changes.

This time, the connection process seemed more appropriate than ever.  We started out seeking to answer the question: “What does it take to continue being the market leader?”  What actually happened was much more powerful than any of us anticipated!

The Power of Checking In

Our retreat kicked off less than 4 short hours after the unthinkably tragic and senseless on-air murder of a news reporter and cameraman.  The people who lost their lives were industry colleagues of the exact audience who would be attending our retreat.  I kick off all meetings of this nature with a “Check-In”. It’s an opportunity for participants to share “where” they are both personally and professionally.  Also, it allows everyone to understand background histories, current motivations, and future plans.  It allows everyone to form a collective understanding of who we are as a unit because we gain visibility into the individual people who comprise the unit.  And most importantly, it allows us to share proud accomplishments and difficult challenges with which our colleagues may be struggling.

The ten of us wound up “checking in” for nearly 2 hours.  Our group was made up of both women and men; African-Americans and Caucasians. We ranged in age from 30 – 55. Company tenures ranged from 3 months of service with the company up to one employee with 31 years with the company; including employees with and without children; and representation from varied geographic regions.  But we quickly learned that regardless of race, gender, age, employment tenure, marital status, parental status, company department, or any other variable, at some point, we all struggle with the same challenges of work-life balance; the desire for meritocracy in our work environment; the need for open, honest, and timely communications; a need for ongoing development opportunities; and support to reach career aspirations. 

Our check-in resulted in a better understanding of how each participant’s experiences on and off the job helped shape their current approaches to work.  During the check-in process, participants not only shared, but began to help resolve issues and ease fears through peer coaching.

We wound up incorporating a “check-in” to kick off each day of the 3-day retreat.

Workplace Culture Change with Regular Check-ins

Imagine how much more we could be connected if we checked in with our colleagues more often.  Obviously, there are many challenges that we can’t resolve for our colleagues.  But imagine the difference in our daily work environment if we knew more about the personal and professional challenges of those sitting to our right and left.  It is obvious that company productivity and profitability increase when employees are able to focus.  But sometimes distractions prove to be much more than workplace nuisances. Then they erode the foundation of healthy working relationships. 

Be attentive to the workplace atmosphere that we help create.  Be mindful of the impact of our words and actions on our colleagues.  We might not be best friends with everyone on the job. But we can at least check in from time to time to ensure we are not adversaries.  We may never fully understand what drives an employee to murder his co-workers in cold blood, but at a minimum, checking in with our colleagues might provide some insight into what struggles our colleagues might be facing.