The Check-In

"This meeting could have been an email," goes the professional's lament these days. Far too many leaders in business waste valuable time and money on pointless meetings with their direct reports. The Check-In should be an opportunity for leaders to provide support to their team members, but there are three things they need to do.

Three key elements of a successful check-in consist of the Agenda, Performance, and Discussion.


Use a standing meeting agenda or living working document to keep the meeting, which should ordinarily be 30 minutes or less, on track with its intended purpose: making sure your team members are supported and that, as their leader, you understand how to keep them on the track to success. Use the following template for your team member to own and fill out ahead of the meeting:

1. Updates since Last Week
2. Priorities for This Week
3. Issues and Blockers
  1. Updates since Last Week
    Summarize major accomplishments, progress, or outcomes against the priorities previously discussed. Include any significant milestones or deliverables against initiatives or projects.

  2. Priorities for This Week
    Identify the top 3 to 7 priorities (i.e., outcomes, achievements, or deliverables) for this week. Avoid a discussion of activities (i.e., what you are doing) and instead focus on results (i.e., what you hope to accomplish). These should all be connected with the team member's ongoing performance goals (see below).

  3. Issues and Blockers
    Share any problems or concerns, including feedback, you may have. Classify them by severity as follows: 

    1. Severity 1: This issue or blocker prevents me from moving forward, and I need your help (as my leader) to clear this blocker with me.
    2. Severity 2: This issue or blocker has some impact on me moving forward, but I am able to manage this on my own and am just letting you know.
    3. Severity 3: This issue or blocker has little to no impact on me moving forward, but I think you should know about it and I welcome your feedback.


Team members should be updating their performance - the metrics and leading indicators, as well as the measurable business outcomes - on a regular (daily and weekly) basis. You can use a centralized performance management system, or even just a shared spreadsheet or note-taking tool. These should track back to monthly and quarterly goals and objectives - for themselves, their teams, the department, and the company as a whole. Each goal should be reported as follows:

Goal: The measurable goal for the month/quarter.
Metric (a): Quantifiable progress achieving the goal.
Metric (b): Quantifiable progress achieving the goal.
Metric (c): Quantifiable progress achieving the goal.
  • Goals
    Goals should be measurable and specific outcomes that the individual, the team, the department, and the company all find valuable and aligned for business results. Avoid vague qualifiable goals (e.g., "Land some amazing clients" or "Deliver great customer experience") and instead focus on quantifiable goals (e.g., "Close $3M in new business this quarter" or "Maintain an average Customer Satisfaction rating of 4.0 or higher"). 

  • Metrics
    Metrics should be reportable progress or updates on how the individual or team is tracking towards that goal. While performance is rarely linear, having insight into how much effort remains to achieve the goal is important in a conversation. Focus only on the numerical results that are directly applicable to the goal (e.g., "Closed $1.5M quarter-to-date" or "Current CSAT average is 4.1 quarter-to-date").


With an agenda pre-filled out by your team member and performance tracking maintained consistently, the check-in discussion should be anchored principally upon elevating topics where the leader can support the team member. Support should consist of:

  • Clearing obstacles, blockers, or issues preventing progress or forward-motion
  • Identifying additional resources or assistance needed to perform on targets

In a typical 30-minute check-in, consider devoting around 20 minutes to the discussion. Leaders should ask questions and listen generously to their team members. Repeat what team members say to ensure that it is being well-understood and properly internalized. Team Members should be actionable and results-oriented. 

  • Example leader talking points:
    • "I noticed limited progression against this priority last week. Can you tell me more about this? How can we get this back on track?"

    • "You've identified this as a priority for this week, but I'm not sure it's connected with the goals we've previously discussed. Can you tell me more about why you've selected this?"

    • "You listed this issue as a Severity 1 item. Tell me more about how this problem is preventing progress, and how I can help remove it as an obstacle."

  • Example member talking points:
    • "We had an unexpected problem last week and it prevented me from making much progress against this priority. I've adjusted this week's objectives to include it, and I do not think it will have an impact on the my monthly or quarterly goals."

    • "I've added a new priority this week that aligns with a personal goal we've previously discussed. While we're not tracking this as a top-level goal for the team, it's important to me as a part of my professional development and I would like your support. Here's why."

    • "I've run into a serious problem with which I need your help. Until I can overcome this obstacle, I'm a stand-still with this priority or initiative. Can we tackle this problem together?"

Dedicate the final 10 minutes of the meeting to review next steps and action items. Both the leader and the team member will have new priorities and follow-up activities in order to make progress. The leader may need to bring additional resources or support for the team member to be successful. The team member may need to gather further information or deliver a specific outcome in order to continue making progress. Transparency and shared accountability are key, and the plan for the next week - both in priorities and updates - should be reflective of the conversation's topics.

Running a great check-in is about avoiding micro-management (i.e., the leader telling the team member what to do or how to do it) and instead focusing on supporting the team member in their work (i.e., the leader ensuring the team member is able to make progress against priorities that they both find valuable). If there is limited progress, or an issue/problem that arises, the check-in is the right place to call it out openly and honestly. In this way, check-ins can remain outcomes-oriented and can drive a supportive stewardship relationship between the leader and the team member.