People engage in rituals to achieve a broad set of desired outcomes. Rituals support a team to work efficiently and can be a way to change culture and habits and help you establish a framework for being productive. Many workplaces have their rituals. At Walmart stores, workers begin the day with a company cheer. At Yelp, salespeople bang a gong when they close a sale. Research shows these group rituals can help increase a team’s bonds and boost performance.
When I started my journey at Hyper Island, I learned about daily Check-Ins and Check-Outs. Check-in processes are fundamental for the work the team engages in and for setting its purpose. It is a simple way for a team to open a process. Checking-in invites each member to be present, seen, and heard. Checking-in emphasises presence, focus, and group commitment.
The check-out process is fundamental to the work we engaged in. It sets the context for what we did. It is a simple way for a team to close a process. Checking-out invites each member in a group to be present, seen, and heard. Checking-out emphasises reflection and closure.
How does a Check-In / Check-Out work?
When meeting face-to-face, stand in a circle. Choose a check-in question based upon the context of the session.
Examples for check-in questions:
What is one thing you hope to accomplish during today’s meeting?
What has happened since we last met?
What is the one thing you will need help with this week?
One-by-one, team members answer the check-in question and then make a step forward. Once every team member has checked-in, the task is complete. Teams should conduct check-ins before every meeting or workshop. If possible, they should also check-in at the beginning of each day.
At the end of the session, stand again in a circle. Invite each group member to share something they would like to “check-out” with. This could be a feeling, a reflection, the most important thing they take with them, what stands out the most, etc. Choose a check-out question based on the group and the purpose of the session.
Examples for check-out questions:
What is today’s biggest take-away for me?
What will I choose to do differently next time?
How was this experience for me?
One-by-one, team members answer the check-out question and then take a step backwards. Once every person has checked-out, the process is complete. Check-outs should be done after every meeting or workshop. Ideally, check-outs should be conducted at the end of each day.
Why are Check-Ins and Check-Outs so powerful
When I was working at NZZ for the digital product department, we started to introduce weekly Check-Ins and Check-Outs to our teams. We also made them a mandatory part of each workshop. In the beginning, it felt weird for everyone.
In my experience, this is how change works. You have to embrace the new which feels different, uncomfortable and challenging. From then, it is like building a muscle. The more you do it, the easier it gets. At one point it just becomes the new normal.
The same happened with Check-Ins/Outs. They became part of the culture, and they had a fantastic impact on the teams. People started sharing new things about them. The result was that people began to know each other better which helped to build trust and empathy. Check-Ins/Outs also helped that people are present for a session and then close it afterwards. Everyone appreciated the feeling of closure.
I also started to introduce Check-Ins/Outs at Vorwerk. They have not become a part of the culture yet but helped my team to move closer.
How to check-in and out in remote settings
My team is mostly remote, so we do not have the chance of doing face-to-face Check-Ins/Outs. My team also did not want additional meetings, so we do a weekly Check-In on Monday and a Check-Out on Friday via Slack. On Mondays, we are also sharing what we plan to work on and where the team can support.
On Fridays, we share how the week went, how happy the team feels, and what work wasn’t finished.
Are Check-Ins/Outs something for you?
I would recommend doing Check-Ins/Outs for every working session over 40 minutes. Give it a few weeks and see how your teammates feel about the new ritual.
In the second phase, I would start with weekly Check-Ins/Outs and then move to daily ones with your direct team. Check-Ins/Outs are fundamental part at Hyper Island, and I have not met a team yet that did not become stronger with the new ritual. So investing a few minutes of each day will pay off.
Check-In and Check-Out questions
To get you going, I am sharing my full collection of questions you might ask with you. Many of them I found online, some are recommendations and some I came up with myself. If you are using Check-Ins/Outs and you have some additions, please share them with me.
Dr. Emily Anhalt’s list of her favourite ice breakers
✨ Who is one person who changed your life but doesn’t know it?
🔪 If you were a kitchen utensil, which one would you be and why?
🎭 What is one thing you love that most people hate, and one thing you hate that most people love?
😎 What mattered to your high-school self more than anything else?
📢 If you were handed a megaphone and could blast out one message for the entire world to hear, what would you say?
🧠 What’s one thing that you’ve changed your mind about lately?
🖌 If your life is a story and at this point you’re in chapter two, when did you go from chapter one to chapter two (or in other words, what‘s been the most significant moment of change in your life thus far)?
📚 What would the title of your autobiography be?
🧸 What is your number one comfort item?
👀 If you walked into a room with everyone you’ve ever met in it, who would you look for?
❤️ If all of your romantic partner’s personality traits / attributes were going into a bag and you could only guarantee that they’d get three of them back, which three would you choose?
🎶 What’s your hype song (the song that would play as you enter the arena)?
🕰 If you could, would you rather spend a day with your younger self or your older self?
🔥 What’s on fire (in a good way) in your life right now?
🎅🏽 What is something that you learned much later in life than most people?
🍱 What’s your death-row last meal (pick a main dish, two sides, a drink, and a dessert)?
🔮 What’s a story from your childhood that, looking back, predicted what you do for a living today?
🎯 If you were on Jeopardy and could pick your Final Jeopardy category, what would you pick to give yourself the best chance of winning?
🤯 What’s something that you assumed was true for everyone that you later found out is only true for you / your family?
🚚 If you could win a lifetime supply of any one thing, what would you choose?
🏆 What’s one thing you always wanted that you have now?
3️⃣ What are three words your best friend would use to describe you?
👩👦 What is one thing your parents did right? And what’s one thing you wish they’d done differently?
COVID–19 / Quarantaine
- How are you taking care of yourself today?
- What part of your shelter-in-place residence have you come to appreciate the most?
- What surprising thing have you been stocking up on (that isn’t toilet paper)?
- What’s a story — from a book, a movie, an article, a conversation — that you’ve been gripped by recently? Why did it capture you?
- What habit have you started, or broken, during the quarantine?
- Which specific place in your neighbourhood are you most looking forward to visiting once this is all over?
- What’s the easiest part about the quarantine?
- What are some things you have realised that you don’t need?
- What’s something you own that feels useful?
- What is your COVID–19 nickname/alter-ego?
- What problem — either yours or something more global — do you wish you could solve?
- What’s something that you miss that surprises you? What’s something that you don’t miss that surprises you?
- Which member of your family/ friend group have you been thinking about the most during this time? Why?
- What’s the most generous act you’ve seen recently?
- What’s the last thing you experienced that made you laugh, or cry?
- What times of the day or the week are hardest?
- What’s giving you hope right now?
- What’s the best thing that happened to you today?
- How do you want this experience to change you? How do you think it will?
- What do you hope we all learn or take away from this experience?
- While on a date, what’s your biggest pet peeve?
- Tell us about one of your quirks.
- When I dance, I look like…
- What’s the best thing about being tall?
- Who is the quirkiest person in your family?
- What is your favorite joke?
- If you were on Mars, what would you do for fun?
- I’d hate to be stuck in an elevator with…
- Tell us about a person you’ve met and wish you hadn’t.
- What one sentence would you most like to hear from your boss tomorrow morning?
- Which TV game show would you have the best chance of winning?
- If you were a chef, your least favourite dish would be…
- Who is your favourite comedian?
- What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
- Which famous person do you think you look like?
- When I write my autobiography, I’m going to call it…
- What is something about you most people would find funny if they knew?
- How would you describe what you do for a living to a bunch of five-year-olds?
- What never fails to make you laugh?
- What would you name your pet monkey?
- If you had a Second Life avatar, what would they look like?
- What makes you geek out?
- Which famous person would you ask to autograph your cast?
- Which city in this country should not be included on a map for tourists? Why?
- When did you last get the giggles in an awkward place?
- How can you tell if someone’s a nerd?
- If you had the chance, would you choose to stay your current age forever?
- If you could paint a portrait of anyone, who would you paint?
- What’s at the top of your bucket list?
- If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
- How many books have you read this year?
- What thing are you most afraid of?
- What was your favourite book as a child?
- When people compliment you, they’re most likely to comment on your…
- Which celebrity would you hate to sit next to on a plane?
- What do you think is your best feature?
- What has been your most exotic trip?
- Which song are you likely to have on repeat this week?
- If you could change one aspect of your appearance, what would it be?
- What genre of music do you dislike?
- What is your favourite type of cuisine, and why?
- Have you ever seen a phenomenon you still can’t explain?
- If you had a time machine and could make a single, one-way trip, where would you go?
- Which award would you most like to win and why?
- What’s the best thing to happen to you this year?
- If you could be any animal for a week, which would you choose to be and why?
- Who’s your favourite superhero and why?
- What’s your favourite thing to do in the summer?
- Do you have any pets?
- What is/was the name of your favourite pet?
- Who is your favourite cartoon character, and why?
- Describe yourself in three words.
- Where did you grow up?
- When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you do?
- What is your favourite movie quote?
- At which store do you shop the most?
- What’s the longest time, in a single stretch, that you’ve ever been in a car?
- What’s the lowest grade you ever received in college, and which class was it for?
- How many keys are on your key ring right now?
- What’s your favourite song?
- How many siblings do you have, and where are you in the order?
- What is one food you can’t give up?
- Which sport do you most like to watch?
- Tell us something about yourself that would surprise most people who know you.
- What do you admire most about the person to your right?
- What do you do to beat stress?
- What is your dream car?
- What’s the most surprising thing that’s ever happened to you in another country?
- Are you a plant person?
- What kind of chocolate do you prefer — white, dark, or milk?
- Do you have a favourite animal?
- Have you ever written a letter to the editor of, or an article or opinion piece for, the local paper?
- How many languages can you speak?
- Are you good at fixing things?
- Which is your least favourite fruit?
- What do you like to do on weekends?
- What’s your favourite color?
- What’s your favourite nursery rhyme?
- Have you ever travelled in a submarine or helicopter, or on a dogsled?
- Who played at the first live concert you ever attended?
- Have you ever climbed a mountain or run a marathon?
- Which sports team(s) do you support?
- What’s your favourite video game?
- Have you met anyone famous in the last year? If you have, may I see a photo?
- Do you cook? What’s your favourite recipe?
- Do you play a musical instrument?
- Name one movie you think should have had a sequel.
- What was your favourite board/card game as a child?
- Have you ever driven anything other than a car or light truck?
- What’s your favourite time of year?
- When it comes to candy, what is your guilty pleasure?
- Can you read music?
- What do you like on your pizza?
- What’s the oldest article of clothing you still wear?
- Have you ever skydived? Would you?
- What’s the longest book you’ve ever read?
- What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
- Which show are you currently watching?
- What do you usually have for breakfast?
- What is your middle name?
- What is your favourite junk food?
- What colour is your kitchen?
- Which is your favourite brand of clothing?
- Where would you like to move when you retire?
- What happened on your worst birthday?
- What is your favourite dessert?
- Which is your favourite flower?
- What date on your calendar are you looking forward to this year?
- Which is your favourite restaurant in [insert name of place]?
- What is your favourite drink?
- Do you prefer dancing with others or alone?
- If I opened your closet, I would find…
- Who is your favourite artist?
- What is your favourite work of art?
- Are you good at imitating foreign accents?
- What would you be doing if you weren’t at your current job?
- What more do you want in your career right now?
- If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are living right now?
- Describe your biggest failure in business.
- What is one word you would use to describe yourself as a child?
- How do you recharge?
- If you were to tell one person “Thank You” for helping me become the person I am today, who would it be, and what did they do?
- What one thing about you do you want in your eulogy?
- What movie or novel character do you most identify with?
- When are you, the happiest?
- Fill in the blank: If you knew me, you’d know..
- If you were to start a company from scratch, what values would you build it on?
- What characteristic do you most admire in others?
- What kind of impact do you believe you have on people?
- What one memory do you most treasure?
- If you could change one thing about how you were raised as a child, what would it be?
- What would a “perfect” day look like for you?
- What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in the last year?
- If you ruled the world, what would you change on Day 1?
- How do you act when you’re stressed out?
- What are you most afraid of and what’s it stopping you from doing?
- In three words, how would your family and friends describe you?
- What’s your most favourite place to travel to, and why?
- What’s your life’s biggest dream?
- Tell us when last you took a big risk?
- What are your top 3 most hated foods?
- Are you an owl or a lark?
- Do you have any hidden talent? It could be positive or negative.
- What is the hidden meaning behind your name? Why were you given the name?
- Which best describes you? An introvert or an extrovert?
- Tell us three random facts about yourself!
- Pick something from your pocket/purse and tell us why that thing is inside there.
- What is your best season of the year? Why?
- What is your best breakfast at home?
- Tell us five things you always carry in your backpack!
- Name the most intelligent person you know.
- Your favourite film genre is what?
- Mention somebody you truly admire.
- Mountain or beach, which one would you prefer for vacation?
- What’s your favourite way to spend a rainy weekend at home by yourself?
- What’s the most unusual food you’ve ever eaten?
- What’s the worst dish you have ever made?
- What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever done?
- Mention a gift someone gave you that you can never forget?
- Mention one thing you love about yourself.
- Tell us the bravest thing you’ve done in your life?
- Do you have any tattoo on your body and how does it look like?
- How and where did you first meet your best friend?
- What’s the most amazing thing you’ve seen in nature?
- What piece of clothing best describes you? Why?
- What’s the oldest item in your wardrobe? How old is it?
- Tell us your guilty pleasure!
- Any brothers, sisters or cousins? Which one do you have?
- Where do you prefer to live — city or countryside?
- Have you ever stayed in the countryside for weeks or a year or two?
- Can you manage livestock, such as goats, cows and chickens?
- How do you relieve stress and anxiety?
- What’s your weirdest dream ever?
- What are you doing next weekend?
- Are you a planner or spontaneous?
- Has anyone saved your life before? Have you ever saved someone else’s?
- Whom would you be in a parallel universe?
- Tell us about your very first job.
- What is the most amusing thing you can remember at your workplace?
- What are the unique skills you would like to apply in the workplace?
- What do you like most about your job?
- Describe your team in one word.
- What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen in your workspace?
- Which of your skills do you feel are being underutilised at work?
- Which skills would you like to acquire your ideal workflow?
- How do you think your coworkers see you?
- Tell us about something you use to believe earlier in your career, but you now think about it differently.
- What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
- If you could give some advice to beginners in your work area, what would it be?
- Tell us about the last time you got angry with a coworker. What was the cause?
- Where do you want to see yourself in 10 years?
- In a word, what is the greatest challenge you have faced this month?
- What’s your favourite music band a decade ago? What of now?
- Have you ever met someone famous in person?
- If you can choose a famous person to hang out with, who would it be?
- What book are you currently reading?
- If you could master any skill instantly, what would it be?
- What’s your best sport or fitness activity?
- What animal is your favourite pet? And do you have any pet?
- Have you seen any good movies recently you would recommend?
- If you are to learn any new skill that is not related to work, what would it be?
- What’s your all-time favourite TV series or show?
- Do you have collections of things?
- What is your preferred YouTube vlog channels?
- You best time of the day is what? Morning, afternoon, evening or night?
- What is that thing you have never done before which you want to do next year?
- Tell us your best section in a library or bookstore.
- What is your preferred music genre?
- Have you seen your favourite musician in person?
- What is your favourite summer activity?
- Tell us a book or movie or video you’ve read or seen lately and which you would recommend? Why?
- What was the worst travel experience of your life?
- Do you play any musical instrument, and which?
- Do you watch Netflix shows? What’s your best?
- What is your most memorable childhood story?
- What was your best cartoon as a child?
- Tell us what’s your hero as a child. Why was he/she your hero?
- What was your greatest childhood gift?
- What’s your best memory from childhood, and why?
- Have you ever won a medal or trophy?
- Mention some embarrassing memories from childhood.
- When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
- How and where did you first meet your best friend?
- What were your favourite childhood TV shows and cartoons?
- What was your favourite childhood video game you played?
- What was your favourite book as a kid?
- What was your favourite film you watched as a child?
- Have you ever been to summer camp growing up?
- What strange room/feature would you build into your dream house?
- How would you spend your money if you won the lottery?
- If you had to be stuck at a particular age, what would that age be? Why?
- If people are to make a film about you, what would the genre be? A science fiction, romantic comedy, action movie or comedy?
- What animal would you be, and why?
- What would you do if you were invisible for 24 hours?
- If you could have any superpower, what would you choose and why?
- If your house was on fire and you could only grab three things, what would they be?
- What would you be found doing if the police unexpectedly break into your home in the day?
- If you could travel anywhere in the galaxy (outside the earth), where would you go, and why?
- If you could see in the future, which period would you choose, and why?
- If you could only meet one person from history, who would it be?.
- If you had one opportunity to run a restaurant, what would you serve?
- Tell us the very first thing you usually do on Christmas Day?
- Where do you usually shop for Christmas? What’s your family’s Christmas tradition?
- Tell us about your best Christmas activity!
- What is your favourite food to eat on Christmas?
- What is your best Christmas gift ever?
- When you were a child, what Christmas gift did you like most?
- What is the best gift you’ve ever given?
- What’s the best gift someone has ever given you?
- What is the meaning of Christmas to you?
- Which Christmas candy is your favourite?
- Which Christmas cookie is your favourite?
- Do you have any Christmas holiday travel plans? Where to?
- Tell us the Christmas film you always watch every year!
- What music do you usually relate to Christmas?
- What outdoor activity do you love doing on Christmas day?
- Do you like receiving or giving gifts more?
- What is the favourite Halloween costume you have ever seen?
- What is the most awesome Halloween costume you’ve ever made?
- What’s your best fantasy story? Character in a book? Movie? Legend?
- Are you a good or a wicked witch/magician?
- Have you personally witnessed how other countries celebrate Halloween?
- As a child, did you trick-or-treat during Halloween? Can you remember the costume you went out with?
- Do you or do you not like watching horror films, and why? If you like watching, what’s your most favourite?
- Tell us your best scary creature/monster of the night ever?
If you want to learn more about how to build effective teams and what other rituals will help you to build strong connections, you should have a look at The TeamKit. TeamKit provides a practical solution for teams everywhere to work towards improving team culture and experience. It is a self-facilitated team formation process, which encourages teams to use the right tools, or methods, during team formation. TeamKit enhances effectiveness by focussing on “how“ teams come together and define their journey ahead. Importantly, TeamKit does not require any prior knowledge in team formation.