Checking-In is the Most Important Part of Being a Leader

Kathy Fortin

August 1, 2019

“Checking-in is the Most Important Part of Being a Leader”


I often write about the importance of meetings and the necessity of communicating regularly with your law firm staff. These interactions benefit performance and client service and contribute to a positive law firm culture.

In my consulting work, the lack of regular meetings and frequent communication is still common. The results can lead to a whole host of problems: work performance and productivity issues, poor job satisfaction (on the part of lawyers, not just staff), unhealthy morale, and a negative culture.

Taking time for brief check-ins is a different way to think about meetings. While it can sound very simple, these occasions can have a huge impact. One-on-one get-togethers are an effective means to manage people and their work, and eliminate the more common problems I mention above. These meetings are an important part of what it means to be a leader according to co-authors Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall in their book, “Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World.”

Their idea of checking-in makes perfect sense and might make the difference for you and your firm. Checking in with your staff weekly is a way to achieve effective communication. By asking the priorities and discussing what help is needed keeps the focus on results. Meeting less frequently can be ineffective, as generality discussions then replace the specific needs. This results in distaste for useless meetings. Frequency is the key. The authors say, “The data reveals that checking in with your team members once a month is literally worse than useless.”

Weekly check-ins are about real-time projects and are geared to specific needs, which they describe as “priorities, obstacles, and solutions.” An added purpose to check-ins is that the leader can teach, train, and coach at the same time. In the small law firms I see, lawyers complain they do not have the time to teach and train young lawyers and staff. Thinking of teaching in small increments, ten to fifteen minutes at a time, can make all the difference.  Messrs. Buckingham and Goodall give the following reasons in saying that check-ins are the work of leading. The leader with his or her team member is:

  • Listening
  • Changing course as needed
  • Adjusting
  • Coaching
  • Pinpointing
  • Advising

This list covers the critical aspects of managing people and the work, and of creating effective communication, all of which should enhance job satisfaction and contribute to a healthy workplace culture. To be able to accomplish so much in ten to fifteen minutes at a time is worth evaluating and watching to see how it benefits your law firm.


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