Perfecting the Structured Digital Check-In

Oct 15, 2020

2 min read

Remote work, ongoing conflicts around the social justice movement, and mounting stress have placed increased importance on the art of the emotional check-in, particularly for DEI practitioners. But check-ins are hard — specifically for professionals struggling under the weight of their own concerns.

Tactics can provide a level of relief so we requested guidance from two professionals known for effective and powerful check-ins: Tedi Parsons, CEO of The Professional Forum, and Liva R.J., a leadership coach specializing in emotional intelligence.

“I think we have entered a new era in many respects,” says R.J. of DEI-oriented check-ins after the death of George Floyd. “I think a level of thoughtfulness will remain.”

Parsons and R.J. posited that while not all approaches to check-ins need to be the same, leaders who excel at digital check-ins all tend to follow the four following pieces of advice:

  1. Schedule emotional checks or explicitly use them to bookend appointments using a “check-in” and “check-out” system. Assume that it’s going to take a second for people to articulate their feelings and make sure they don’t feel rushed. “When working with individuals and clients in the DEI arena, I always make sure everyone has time to ‘unpack,’” says Parson.
  2. Play extremely close attention to body language — both your colleague’s and your own. “Someone can say things in a nonchalant way, but their body is strained,” says R.J. “When I spot such signs of hidden or unconscious distress, I slow down my breathing, thereby inviting the person I’m speaking with to do the same. And I ask if there is something else, related or non-related, that they’d like to talk about.” Take note of what seems to usettle employees so you can observe trends over time.
  3. Don’t leave on a sour note. This is specifically important because the check-in might be the last interaction a colleague has for the day. “Before we say our goodbyes, I make sure nobody is leaving in a bad place or space,” says Parsons. It’s important to focus on this because social behaviors that emerge in person — lingering with someone who seems rattled — may not naturally emerge in virtual spaces. Leaders cannot, in a sense, trust their instincts.
  4. Build habits and check-in with colleagues at a regular cadence while revisiting previous conversations. Remember that check-ins, as Simon Sinek has memorably argued, represent an extended dialogue about well-being, not a series of dialogues. Picking up where you left off and calling back to previous points demonstrates thoughtfulness, which is critical to helping workers who likely feel isolated.