Have you ever played that icebreaker game called “Two Truths and One Lie”? You share two things about yourself that are true and one lie, and people try to guess which is which. The game is an easy way to get people in a group to start talking, and it’s a fun way to get to know people. And I have one of the best “truths” that people usually identify as my lie. I raced motorcycles as a kid. Growing up, my family belonged to a camping/motorcycle-riding club, and we participated in family and individual races organized by members of the group. My very first “race” experience involved me sitting on my daddy’s gas tank as we went through the course during a family race with my mother and brother. At about 5 years old, I started riding my own motorcycle. I know you may envision me flying down the trails, but in reality, with my helmet and riding boots (for safety of course), I never really went very fast. But I loved it! My first “race” involved an enduro style trail (a trail through the woods with some obstacles - like a small ditch - that circled back around to the start). The goal was to go around the trail as many times as possible in the time allotted. Each time a racer rode through a checkpoint, a race official would hole-punch a plastic card attached to the handlebars. At the end of the race, the rider with the most holes would win. I can proudly share that even though I stopped every single time at the ditch obstacle, got off my bike, let my daddy ride my bike down and up the ditch while I walked, I still came in 2nd place and took home a huge trophy! (Please don’t ask how many racers were in my age group … it will only take away from my story!!). So what communication strategy am I sharing this week? Well, let me explain what happened at the checkpoints, especially in the younger age-group races. A parent manned each checkpoint, located near an obstacle or further down the trail in the woods. When a rider reached a checkpoint, besides hole punching the card, the parent could double check that the rider was safely participating in the race. One checkpoint was close enough to the obstacle so the parent could know if a rider fell, while other checkpoints on the trail were spaced in such a way that if a rider ever experienced trouble, he or she could easily yell or walk to get help. The checkpoints served two purposes: to track the progress of the race and to track the safety and well-being of the riders. Those racing checkpoints can and should be used in communication as well. Outside of motorcycle racing, a checkpoint is defined as “a point or item, especially in a procedure, for notation, inspection, or confirmation.” In any communication experience, we should strive for that checkpoint -- a moment to check our progress and check on the attitude of the participants. During a meeting, incorporate time to stop a discussion and check to see if more clarification, more resources, or even more time is needed. In a face-to-face conversation, ask open-ended questions like, “How do you feel about that?” or “What do you think about that?” to check for understanding or perceptions. Use emails as a checkpoint -- after a discussion, send an email outlining the discussion with a request for any additional clarification or missed details. Some people question the value of using checkpoints and feel that waiting until the end of the project or meeting or entire task is the best way to evaluate for understanding and attitude. I disagree, and once again, golf can best support my opinion. I am still trying to better my golf swing, so Scott suggested I watch some YouTube videos. One particular video suggested that as you swing, you establish checkpoints to check your form and where the club is facing. The pros suggested 3 different checkpoints - one as you swing back, one as you make contact with the ball, and one as you finish the stroke. Although it’s hard to stop mid-swing, by checking at each point, I can adjust my form more easily than by evaluating the entire swing. Establishing checkpoints in communication experiences allows you to evaluate a smaller chunk or short term goal or isolated step and allows for better feedback. etc Strategies believes that just like in my motorcycle race, checkpoints can help you track progress and track participants’ understanding and perceptions - their “safety” and “well-being.” And maybe those checkpoints can help you win the race too!
PS -- There were only 2 riders in the race where I won 2nd place … but I still “won”!!