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When you can't be present, you stay in a meeting anyway, regardless of the cost of your false presence to yourself and your team.

When the goal is truly achieving results, you must remove yourself from the environment when you cannot contribute. Convention suggests it is more important to be physically present than to be actually present, so most people will remain on the scene even when they can no longer contribute. When you cannot add to the process, however, you subtract from it.

Use CheckOut when you are aware that you cannot contribute at a rate you find acceptable. This behavior is important to you, because it is important to make your time count. It is important to the team, because you distract others from getting their results if your body is present but the rest of you isn't. The goal is that your physical presence means your actual presence.


When you are not contributing, leave the environment without distracting your teammates.


The execution of a CheckOut:

  1. Say, "I'm checking out."

  2. Immediately physically leave the group until you're ready to check in.


Use your time off in a way that will allow you to return refreshed and participate fully, even though you may not feel like using your time in that way. While there is no shame in checking out, your lack of contribution should inspire concern. Give it some thought. Also, you may experience discomfort when you check out, but it will soon be lost in the greater sense of relief that you feel in living out your commitments.

Others may become alarmed by what they perceive as your abrupt disconnection; but they'll survive any momentary discomfort and even prosper in your absence. Avoid the temptation to exploit their potential for alarm by making a show of your CheckOut (for example, dramatizing the viewpoint that they are driving you to check out).

Check Out Results

CheckOut removes you from the group when you are not fully checked in, and it gives you the space and time to prepare yourself to return and be productive.

When to Use Check Out

When you need time to take care of yourself in any way (e.g., to calm down, rest, or do what is necessary to return fully checked in). CheckOut gives you and your team the opportunity to be productive simultaneously when that is impossible if you remain.

CheckOut is also used when individuals need to take care of personal matters.

Check Out Commitments

As part of adopting CheckOut, you make the following commitments:

  • To admit your lack of productive engagement and physically leave

  • To not check out to get attention

  • To return as soon as you can be productively engaged again

  • To return without unduly calling attention to your return

  • To be clear with the team about your checking out (For instance, tell the entire team when you are checking out, not just one person. If you are checking out for more than an hour or so, let your teammates know when you will return.)

Check Out Guidelines

CheckOut is an admission that you are unable to contribute at the present time. It is intended to help the team, not to manipulate it. This pattern is not intended for any of the following purposes:

  • To express your anger
  • To cause disruption
  • To draw attention to yourself
  • To create drama
  • To trigger others' feelings

You can tell it's time to check out if the idea occurs to you. The rest of the team will be relieved of the maintenance costs of pretending that you are contributing. Seeing yourself as an occasional noncontributor is recognizing a truth about yourself and creating opportunities for others.

In our experience, when team members have trouble with CheckOut, a problem exists with the team. Not being clear about who is checked in and who is checked out indicates a lack of team connection.

When a person drifts away, whether remaining in the room or not, without telling the other team members, he is implicitly telling teammates that neither he nor the team matters. He is breaking the CheckIn commitments.

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