Managing Smart: Making the Most of Check-Ins

By Dani Moritz-Long

It’s all too easy to brush off the Beginning-of-Year Check-In as a monotonous task on your already overwhelming to-do list. I get it. With immediate assignments to tackle and projects to start, annual conversations about skill and goal development can seem superfluous. The reality is, though, they’re anything but.

If used properly, the Check-In can serve as a vital and effective tool for both employee and supervisor as they navigate workplace challenges and opportunities. So, if you and/or your employees haven’t yet completed your 2017-18 Check-In, consider these tips to make the most of Check-In conversations:

Honesty is the Best Policy
It’s a cliché, I know, but it’s also true. Unfortunately, when we perceive our Check-In as a mundane, but mandatory to-do, we have a tendency to be less than honest with ourselves, because honesty takes time. When we do, however, take the time to reflect on last year’s experiences and our goals for the coming year, we have an opportunity to genuinely contemplate performance and whether or not we’re moving in the right direction. And, with honest reflection, comes change.

For example, this year I opened up with my supervisor about a personal challenge I’ve faced over the years. While I was wary about being so honest about the challenge (which is an uncomfortable reminder of a weakness), I found crucial support and guidance from my supervisor that will help me grow. Had I kept my concerns to myself, I doubt I’d have the confidence I now have knowing my supervisor and I are on the same page, and she’s in my court helping me to succeed.

The Check-In is About More Than Filling in the Blanks
It’s easy to stick to filling in the blanks and moving on when it comes to the Check-In, but some of the best and most helpful conversations I’ve had with my supervisor have come from conversations outside of the immediate scope of a Check-In form. Skill development and goals are absolutely important conversations to have, but so are dialogues about challenges outside of skill development and the next year’s goals.

Be Specific
Another Check-In temptation is to submit vague goals like “I want to become a better leader.” Leadership, of course, is an excellent goal to have but is needlessly vague. This goes back to digging deep and following the aforementioned honesty policy. Think about why you want to be a better leader and how you might get there, and then you can formulate your Check-In goal. Maybe you want to work on being more democratic, something you can measure by making inclusive and invitational statements at least once in every meeting? The options, of course, are limitless. You just need to reflect and find out what makes sense to you.

Different Methods Work for Different People
Some employees and supervisors may find that Valencia’s Check-In worksheet is all they need to facilitate Check-In dialogue. Others, however, may need to explore other tools designed to help facilitate reflective thinking and goal creation. Valencia’sCreative Problem Solving workshop (which will be hosted next on Wednesday, November 29, 2017), for example, may be beneficial to some. If you or an employee struggles working through Check-In conversations, don’t hesitate to explore the internet or the Valencia EDGE for inspiration and additional tools.

Big Picture Thinking
While goals should be relevant to an employee’s role and, ideally, tie in to his or her team or department’s development, they should also be of personal interest to the employee. In other words, don’t be afraid to think big yourself and encourage your employees to think about the bigger picture. To foster this kind of thinking, questions like “where do you see yourself in five years” and “what are your next career steps” can certainly help.

For example, one of my big picture goals is to develop myself as a leader and, when I’m ready, assume a leadership position at Valencia. While this specific goal isn’t on my Check-In for the coming year, enhancing my leadership through developing and presenting an Employee Development workshop is. This is a prime example of being honest and specific, while thinking big picture.

Needless to say, there are countless more tips you’ll find with a quick search in Google. Simply try searching for topics like supervisor employee check-in or how to have an effective 1:1. (You can also find plenty of other sources of inspiration in the Valencia EDGE.)

If you have additional tips for your colleagues, please consider posting them in the comments below.

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