Red, Yellow, Green: Bringing Personal Check-Ins to the Office

Two years ago, I learned about the “Personal Check-In” from the folks at Subsequently, I introduced this concept to meetings I hold at FullContact.

Now, we check in at staff meetings, daily huddles, off-sites and board meetings. I even check-in during partner meetings, vendor meetings and candidate interviews!

I find that the personal-check-in fits in with FullContact’s “Fully Connect and Be Awesome With People” culture.

So what’s a “Personal Check-In?” It’s a simple but extremely powerful way of noting how you’re doing and sharing it with your team.

Too often in busy modern life, we don’t pause and ask these questions of ourselves:

How is my body feeling?

How is my mind?

How is my breathing?

How I am doing, really?

The check-in is the way to ask and answer these questions, and here’s how it works:

As the leader, I start. This is vitally important. By leading by example, it is much more impactful and I can set the tone with my own vulnerability.

I start by indicating whether I’m Red, Yellow or Green.

Red means that I’m in a hyper-sensitive, lizard brain, emotional state. This could be sad. This could be angry. This could be emotional. This could also mean that my body is just a mess, or I’m sick or injured.

Yellow means that I’m a little bit on edge. My body might be tired, or there could be some level of tension emotionally. Perhaps my thoughts are slightly jumbled and I’m distracted.

Green means that I’m calm. My body feels good. I feel rested. I feel like i can think clearly and lucidly.

After the color indicator, I then explain the WHY behind the color. This is the most important part. It forces myself to really examine why my body and my mind are in the state they are in.

Often, I find that it’s reasons that are both professional and personal.

I might be anxious about a whole host of things in my life.

I might be calm because I got to spend time playing with my kid the night before.

I might be tired because I’ve been traveling too much.

I might be sad because someone in my family is experiencing pain and loss.

I might be excited because the Broncos are in the Super Bowl.

The reasons are vast, varied and unique to each individual.

After all, as my friend Brad Feld once said, “we are just big bags of chemicals that come to work every day.”

After I finish, everyone else goes around and notes how they are doing.

We make certain not to judge each other during this process.

It’s not about what color you are as a way to score yourself against your team. It’s fundamentally about empathy and understanding your teammates better in order to work better together.

And it’s not intended to be a big group therapy session. It’s intended to be a tool for us to use to note how we’re doing, understand the root cause, put that aside, and get to work!

I’ve found that while awkward at first, teams naturally adapt to it and ultimately embrace it.

It’s not for every company culture, but I encourage you to try it out for a week and see if it works for you!

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