“Before we begin, is there anything on your mind?”

When leading projects, clients, teams, or, really, any interpersonal relationship, we often experience the unrelated subtleties of human emotions clouding interactions.

It’s easy to forget that the people we are interacting with each day have their own stresses and anxieties and challenges that they bring to the table (or the Zoom call!).

We interact for a brief moment in time and catch a very brief glimpse of their world that rarely extends beyond the time boundaries of the meeting or call.

How often do we ask those we interact closely with each day what’s their biggest stress in the moment or what’s keeping them up at night?

How often do we kick off meetings or calls with a quick check-in on people’s well-being?

Not often enough, I suspect.

I’ve been trying to do this more—starting calls with a quick round-table check-in of who is overwhelmed and why.

I have been trying to bring a level of mutual empathy and understanding to conversations before just jumping into the agenda and the tasks at hand.

How often do we ask our teams or clients or prospects what they’re struggling with and how we can better support?

How often do we ask them what else is going on outside the window of our brief interactions that is impacting our work together?

We tend to think our clients and teams are as dedicated and committed to our work together as we are but because our schedules and headspace and commitments are not in sync and rarely overlap, people in meetings and calls tend to be in very different head-spaces when coming together.

This is one reason I schedule meetings as a rule and rarely take spontaneous calls—so everyone can ground themselves and come together prepared to align for the duration of the call.

But it goes further than that and we need to remember to check-in with everyone before diving into the talking points.

Next time you’re having a meeting with your team or a client or prospect, try kicking off with “before we begin, is there anything on your mind that’s keeping you up at night that we might be able to better support you with?”

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