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From Hot Yoga to Leadership: The Art of Checking In

From Hot Yoga to Leadership: The Art of Checking In

David Epstein, MD, MS, FAAP discusses how everyday encounters, and specifically check-ins, present us with opportunities to lead better.
After taking a hot yoga class, I was recovering in the lobby…sitting on one of the risers trying to catch my breath and rehydrate. As I was sitting there, I noticed that the yoga instructor who just taught the class was engaged with the manager in a discussion just within earshot of my position. She was a new teacher and this exchange appeared to be a checking-in point. Little did I know, I was going to be a fly on the wall, witnessing a masterful display of leadership.

 

Observing Masterful Leadership
I was barely paying attention, trying to focus on my own breathing and heart rate, as well as trying to make sure that I didn’t miss my mouth with my water flask. It was a tough class. But, through all the efforts trying to focus on my own issues, I couldn’t help but hear the manager of the studio ask the instructor a couple of open-ended questions. I didn’t listen for the answers. I just heard the questions and watched the demeanor of the conversation.
The first question that the manager posed was, “What did you enjoy about teaching the class today?” The second question was, “what were some challenges that you encountered during the class today?” There was a lot of discussion after each question, but I was impressed by how casual the conversation was and how pleasant the exchange was, based on their dispositions.
It was a leader checking in with one of her new teachers. The questions were simple and it was a very non-confrontational exchange. I saw it as more than just an inquiry by the manager. I saw it as providing an opportunity for the teacher to reflect and perform a self-assessment without apparent judgment or criticism. The manager was masterfully leading her charge towards self-improvement without even making a single comment like, “you should…”, “we usually do things this way…”, or “next time do it this way…”.

 

The Power of Check-Ins
Checking in with your colleague or staff is a powerful way to make them feel heard and find out what their wins are and what is presenting them with challenges. It is an opportunity to support them and find ways to help them succeed. The success of the leader hinges on the success of the team. The better connection that the leader has with the team, the easier it will be to find out ways to provide opportunities for everyone to grow, learn, lead, and succeed.

 

 

Four Elements of Effective Check-Ins
One article noted that frequent check-ins had tangible benefits showing that, “…when someone feels that their relationship with their manager is authentic, and that their manager wants to give them the tools they need to successfully do their job, that person is less stressed, more satisfied, and more likely to stay at the company.” The article goes on to describe the process of checking in as having 4 elements:
1. Focus the conversation on your team member and their needs
2. Keep it short
3. Give honest feedback
4. Track your results
This format will help people not feel micromanaged and will build trust. Giving someone the ability to feel like they have autonomy and some personal ownership over what they do will go a long way toward feeling satisfied and genuinely happy with work and other project endeavors.

“The better connection that the leader has with the team, the easier it will be to find out ways to provide opportunities for everyone to grow, learn, lead, and succeed.”

 

Learning Leadership Principles Everywhere
Lessons about leadership principles, like check-ins, are important for everyone. But, it is also important to note that these lessons can be witnessed anywhere and may be found when you least expect it. So, keep an eye out and observe your surroundings. Even your most routine activities may yield leadership pearls. You just need to be open to the interactions of others and be like a fly on the wall.
Have you ever experienced a leader who used check-ins as a tool for growth and development? How did it make you feel?

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