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This chapter is from the book

ADDITIONAL DISCUSSION OF CHECKIN

The CheckIn pattern is more than its protocol; it is an ongoing process for a Core-adopting team. CheckIn requires continuously applying team efforts to increase the presence of team members. It necessitates the formation of an additional layer of awareness and discussion centered on one another's level of engagement.

Authenticity, integrity, and consistency are the highest values associated with CheckIn. Increasing personal proximity is the foundation of The Core protocols and is the basis for The Core's style of teamwork.

Perhaps the default "checked-out" state common in today's workplace makes more sense when assembly-line workers perform the same task a thousand times per day. Though it's doubtful, maybe such a remote style is somehow beneficial to the individual when the employer's goal is mindless, repetitive effort. Or maybe it is more tolerable when such a style is combined with a strict caste system. However, on a team with imaginative and creative functions, this state inevitably leads to lateness, mediocrity, and ultimate failure. Few arguments can be made against being as present as possible when you are involved with the group development of intellectual property.

Institutions that depend on teams to think and create are plagued by a lack of personal presence. This problem is in part maintained by an ongoing cultural belief—namely, that "work lives" and "personal lives" are and should remain separate. Loosely stated, this widely held belief holds that you show your "true" self at home, but demonstrate another persona at work. This dichotomy—so goes the belief—is the "professional" way to behave.

One problem with such a belief is that intellectual property is drawn from the human intellect.9 A given team member's intellect will manifest itself only to the degree that its owner is genuinely present. Human presence contains feelings.

Often, it is tolerable—even mandatory—for team members to "hide" their feelings. Of course, they can't fully hide them, and the cost of attempting to do so is high. Emotions, articulated or not, are the stuff of motivation. They predict and map behavior. They also give form to incredibly valuable intuitions. The richest information available, feelings are usually repressed and spent to no purpose, like waste gas in an oil field, burning in a dramatic, purposeless flame.

CheckIn gives expression to an explicit group intention to achieve the most gains possible out of the feelings that arrive continuously. It rewards a team disproportionately to the effort involved.

SOLUTION

Publicly commit to rational behavior and efficiently disclose your feelings at work.

The direct, authentic, and safe disclosure of emotion and the management of personal presence will radically increase interpersonal bandwidth, connectivity, and results.

MULTIPLE LEVELS

The CheckIn pattern takes place simultaneously on different levels. Each individual checks in, thereby

  • Bringing himself as fully as possible to the work;

  • Connecting as efficiently as possible with teammates;

  • Fully engaging his passion in the context of the team's work; and

  • Creating a more meaningful, higher-bandwidth channel with the rest of the team.

At another level, the entire team checks in. Teams ordinarily exhibit varying levels of "in-ness" for their members. Their products also show the degree of human involvement in their creation. The checked-in team monitors and manages its presence.

PRIMARY FUNCTION

Checking in starts or resets individuals, meetings, and entire teams.

DIAGNOSTIC FUNCTION

The CheckIn protocol is an effective diagnostic tool. Whenever something doesn't feel right in a meeting or when behavior seems ineffective, you can simply refer to the CheckIn commitments. Invariably, at least one of those commitments is being broken. Asserting accountability for any observable broken commitments will increase the results of a meeting and/or take it to a new, more productive level10 very quickly.

WHY ONLY FOUR FEELINGS?

The limit of four basic emotions keeps things simple and direct. Teams that have added other emotions to these four primitives have suffered ill effects.11

COMMON CHECK IN EVASIONS

People may unconsciously evade the directness of the CheckIn protocol. For example, saying "I feel tired" during a CheckIn violates the protocol. If others tolerate this statement, an error condition prevails and results will be unpredictable.

Your fatigue probably can be expressed as an emotional state composed of two or three of The Core emotions. If so, "tiredness" in this case is a "complex" emotion, composed of more than one of the four simple emotions. Complex emotions can include a sequence of simple feelings over time.

For example, if you are "tired," you may be repressing anger—a very tiring effort. You may be suffering (mad and afraid) from a lack of connection with your own passion. You may be tired from excessive effort while experiencing sadness or anger regarding the team conditions. You may be experiencing the sorrow of loneliness from your lack of closeness to other team members. And so on.

Seeing these phenomena in a useful way is important not only for your well-being but also for the health of the team. The limited palette of four emotional primitives makes it more difficult to persist in behavior patterns that you would rather leave behind.

PROTOCOL CORRECTNESS AND ITS EFFECTS

Team members must not tolerate deviations from any Core protocol. Thus, in your "tired" state, you must still stick to the four Core emotions.12 This somewhat minor effort accomplishes four goals:

  1. It supports your cognitive development.

  2. It helps you recognize your feelings.

  3. It promotes your consideration of the stimuli that trigger your feelings.

  4. It supports your well-being by helping you create a useful structure for your experience.

THE DIVIDENDS PAID BY CHECK IN

CheckIn's features and the structure it provides allow its adopters to more effectively address their problems and to take advantage of greater opportunities. For example, if you feel "tired" and you see this state as simple fatigue, you would probably sleep to recover. Of course, you will soon be "tired" again. If you are angry and become "tired" when you repress your anger, checking in may make you aware of the migration of your anger to your "tiredness." With this new awareness, you can deal with the sources of your anger and its repression rather than simply addressing the secondary tiredness that is a symptom of the true problem.

INCREASED IDENTIFICATION

Identification takes place in two dimensions. First, the practice of clearly expressing your emotions in simple, direct terms with your colleagues often catalyzes your identification of your underlying problems. Others will be able to help, but they can do so only when they know what is happening in your life. Commonly, identification of individual problems will happen for everyone upon the disclosure of general emotion. Second, you may discover that other teammates identify with your feelings, your problems, or both. People increase their identification with one another through shared difficulties. The commonality of feelings at certain times among team members will lead to effective group problem solving. Commonality of emotional states among team members will stimulate deeper thinking about shared underlying activities.

For example, you might check in as sad and then notice that most of your teammates also check in as sad. This realization could motivate you to address the underlying causes of your sadness. Because the sadness appears to be endemic, treating your own sadness might help the entire team.

A RESULTS / EFFORT SKETCH

It is helpful to examine the costs and benefits of legal versus illegal CheckIn. For example, when "tired" is the name of your state, you accrue smaller up-front costs than if you had followed the CheckIn protocol. Little mental activity was required to say, "I'm tired."13 To get a fuller picture of the costs to you and your team when you check in as "tired," however, you must include the following:

  • Your continuing ignorance of the reason for your tiredness

  • Your repetition of the behavior that led to the tiredness

  • Your teammates' ignorance of the cause of your tiredness and the consequent ineffectiveness of their connection with you

  • Everyone's ignorance of team or product issues related to your tiredness

Checking in as "tired" is clearly a smaller initial investment than digging more deeply and mapping your state onto the four emotions. When you make that effort, the up-front costs will increase to include the following:

  • Identifying that you are in a complex state14

  • Reducing your state to emotional primitives

  • Disclosing the primitive feelings to others in the language they commonly use and accept as legitimate (you may experience some initial costs in the effort to be courageous and truthful in your CheckIn)

If things go well, you will also experience more personal expense in terms of the additional thought expended to evaluate the cause of your true emotional state. These costs must be weighed against the following gains:

  • Your deeper awareness of the emotional elements of your tiredness

  • The diminished likelihood of your repeating the behavior that led to the tiredness

  • Your teammates' awareness of the actual elements of your tired-ness and the consequent extra effectiveness in their connection with you

  • Everyone's consideration of possible team issues related to your tiredness

OTHER COMMON EVASIONS

Two other emotions that are frequently substituted for the CheckIn emotions are "excited" and "nervous." Excitement is a mixture of gladness and fear, with the larger portion going to gladness. Sadness and anger may also creep into the "excited" state. Nervousness largely consists of fear, though anger makes more than an occasional contribution. The proportions of the four simple emotions that constitute one of these complex states15 will vary, but the nuances will become clear only when the individual maps his complex state to a simple one.

CHANGE AND FEELINGS

Groups are usually in motion, having both speed and direction. Feelings, when expressed publicly in a commonly understood language and updated sufficiently often, can guide a team in efficiently changing its course or velocity. Teams can change gracefully, in unison, in motion, just as a flock of birds might. Organizational change can potentially take place with both efficiency and precision. Ideally, a change of direction, velocity, organization, or any other feature of a group in motion will bring the group closer to its goal at lower cost. Feeling and thinking simultaneously represent the only way to accomplish this goal.

CHARACTERISTICS OF A CHECKED-IN TEAM

What should you expect when your team is checked in?16

  • You feel feelings in a fluid way. That is, you can express your feelings clearly and then move on. You don't get "stuck" on a certain feeling.

  • The expressed feelings yield useful information—energy that enables the team to make appropriate changes.

  • Team members build on one another's ideas not only because it is policy, but also because the effort feels good.

  • You laugh a lot.

  • You ask teammates for help the moment you suspect you might be stuck.

  • You finish teammates' sentences.17

  • You need only a look to communicate a complete idea. Much of the time, you are aware of what other teammates are thinking.

  • You can solve difficult problems in real time.

  • You can make big changes with minimal discomfort.

  • You are focused only on results.

  • You are not afraid to let teammates feel things. You encourage one another to feel.

  • You cry with one another.

  • You feel like your work is an integral part of your life. It is indistinguishable from play. You work 24 hours per day and, at the same time, you never work. It is part of what you like about yourself. You eat and sleep work, and yet the job is not taxing. It is often fun and mostly meaningful.

  • You feel that you can solve any problem that is presented.

  • You tackle the biggest problems that you can imagine and solve them.

  • You are willing to be patient and wait for a big idea if something seems like it will require too much effort.

  • You only hire someone for the team who will push you to be greater.

  • You don't solve problems by automatically requiring more time, money, or people.

  • You have a constant flow of good ideas that you share with your teammates.

  • You are always willing to drop your idea for a better one.

CHECK IN AT MEETINGS

CheckIn provides a way for you to increase your presence. How present you are is up to you. You can't pay attention if you are not attending. Showing up is "openers." If you spend a good part of your work time doing things you'd prefer not to do, when you'd rather be producing specific results, you might want to consult your feelings. Your own desires and feelings about what you are doing can be an effective way to reach your most efficient behavior.

Sometimes, feeling angry about doing something that seems inefficient, or pro forma, is simply a healthy response to waste. If some of your tasks do not contribute to the desired result, they are not worth doing. Specs, schedules, plans, or presentations are not usually the result. Likewise, meetings, reviews, and administration are not the result. While these things can contribute to achieving the result, they often devolve into self-sustaining adjunct activities that contribute less than they cost. If you consistently perform tasks not related to producing the product or directly contributing to those producing it, you are probably doing something wrong. Your more fully engaged presence is surely needed somewhere. Not only can your feelings clue you in, but they can help sustain you in increasing your focus. Your anger—mapped into determination—will be required if you are to purge such wasteful expenditures from your life.

Most meetings are marginally effective, at best. If you complain about too many meetings and then continue attending them, you might want to check your integrity. If you do not feel inclined to change, protest, or revolt, then you are committed to waste and should stop complaining.

Don't attend many meetings where you don't use CheckIn. If you do check in, it means that you want to be there, and the other attendees must take you as you are. You may be sad, angry, glad, or in some more complex state. Yes, you'll be there, but teammates must let you all the way in. You have to stop dividing yourself; stop splitting. Stop being false just because you're in a conference room. Start actually engaging. For example, when you think an idea someone states, or one a group adopts, is a poor one, use Investigator (see Part III). Either you don't understand it, or it is a poor idea. Stop everything, and find out why someone would say such a thing at this time. What was the purpose? What is the meaning of the contribution? Your teammates will have to live with your inquisitive engagement. You will be present, and you will engage them. You will see them. You will hear what they say. You will seek information about their emotional states, beliefs, plans, and skills. You will connect with other team members to the maximum extent possible. They will have to adjust to your strategy and its results or else not invite you—which would be fine.

That's checking in.

BEING THERE

The process of developing high-tech products relies on team presence. This relationship is particularly crucial if you are aiming for great products. If you aren't present, you can't possibly be great.

DON'T DO IT

You're a human being. Don't let the mediocre monsters get you; they are just a diversion. Check in. Bring your whole self to the job, including your emotional self. After all, that's the source of your creativity. Your creativity is bundled up in those repressed feelings, constrained by conflict you try to avoid, awaiting that seriousness of purpose you keep putting off. Your creativity can't be seen in that mess. Make it visible. Stir yourself up; stir up trouble. Conflict leads to passion, so you have no reason to fear it. Vitality is passionate. Care about how you spend your life.

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