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Three C Check-in: Real-time Feedback for Leading and Managing in a Crisis

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Vanessa Lopez-Littleton and Brian Corpening
April 2, 2020

The future of public administration will undoubtedly be full of case studies and evaluations of the public’s response to COVID-19, the highly transmissible coronavirus responsible for a global pandemic. Yet, in the midst of the crisis, those in leadership positions are called upon to demonstrate their ability to lead and manage. This is particularly true in the public sector where administrators must demonstrate their ability to get things done, manage expectations, uphold the public’s trust and serve in the public’s interest.

The Three C Check-in was developed to assist in assessing team performance to drive change in real time. To use the check-in, team leaders should verbally ask team members about each area by adding it to the agenda. They could also choose to randomly selected constituents to participate in a quick assessment on team or management performance. The Three C Check-in includes: Communication, Coordination and Collaboration. Each area is presented below with a brief description followed by questions for consideration.

  1. Communication: Effective communication is arguably one of the most important characteristics of effective leadership. In thinking about communication, it’s important to understand your leadership style, management philosophy and organizational structure. Another important consideration regarding communication is the importance of recognizing how your communication is received by diverse populations. In times of crisis you cannot assume that your message or style of communication is well-received by everyone in the same manner. Using this as a starting point, consider the following questions in an honest reflection and assessment on how things are going right now.

Questions to Consider: How well are we communicating with our constituents? How well are we communicating with one another? Have we established appropriate communication channels? Are we aware of the various voices, perspectives and situations of all of our constituent groups and across various cultural and identity groups? How can we communicate more effectively? Are we communicating in a timely manner with those who need to know or those closest to the end user or people on the ground? Are we acknowledging successes, positive occurrences or good deeds? Could we do more to acknowledge positive aspects of what we are accomplishing? Are we communicating our missteps in a timely manner to those who need to know about them? How are we using communication to drive the success of our team?

  1. Coordination: This is where you may want to consider how well your efforts to work across teams and systems are working. In this regards, consider questions that focus on effectiveness, efficiency and equity. You may recognize these as three of the four pillars of public administration, along with economy. The concepts are defined as follows: a) effectiveness is how successful you are in reaching your goals; b) efficiency is how well you are meeting your goals while using resources in the best manner possible, (in this regards, best refers to the use of the least amount of resources); c) equity is giving people what they need based on their unique set of circumstances.

Questions to Consider: Are the strategies we are implementing effective in accomplishing our rapidly changing short-term goal(s)? Are the strategies we are implementing done in a cost-effective manner? How are we considering the differences in the range of human experience in making decisions and how are those considerations integrated into our final decisions? Are we considering avenues and opportunities for those who may be disenfranchised or disadvantaged in some way? What could we do differently that may provide access and opportunities for groups that may not have a seat at the table? Are we waiting for someone else to do something this team has the ability to do?

  1. Collaboration: The ability to collaborate with colleagues and constituents is an important characteristic for any effective team and leader. As we know, silos can ruin outcomes, contribute to frustration and derail good intentions. In a crisis situation, collaboration becomes your hallmark by signaling that you will work with anyone to accomplish what needs to be done. In a crisis situation, considering who is participating (individuals, teams, groups, systems) and how they are engaged may be a good way to assess collaboration in real time.

Questions to Consider: Are we bringing the people we need together in a meaningful way? Can we improve our ability to bring people together? Who is missing from our meetings? Are we leveraging the cumulative wisdom of diverse perspectives? Are we building trust and inspiring respect and trust? Are we developing and implementing processes to allow for real-time feedback? Are we being our authentic selves and allowing others to be their authentic selves? Do we have people serving in roles where they are viewed as facilitating processes rather than managing processes and people?

While this check-in is a quick assessment of teams functioning in a crisis, each part fits into the broader concept of community, which was carefully integrated into each area. Community-building in a crisis is a moral imperative for any leader or manager looking to strengthen the bonds of connection with their team and the communities they serve. In this regard, community-building is about demonstrating humanity, compassion and care.

Community, beyond physical and social boundaries, can only exist when we are committed to communicating with each other in authentic ways. Community can only exist when the members of the community are committed to coordinating their actions in ways that enhance the capacity and presence of the community. Community can only exist when members respect and value other members and demonstrate respect and value through openly communicating, coordinating and collaborating with one another. When members of the community are viewed as essential to the organizational structure, they can begin to align themselves in a way that will inevitably support the survival of the organization through and beyond the crisis.


Vanessa Lopez-Littleton, PhD, RN, is an associate professor in the Department of Health, Human Services and Public Policy at California State University, Monterey Bay. Her research focuses on social equity, health disparities, racial equity, and cultural competence. She may be reached at [email protected], DrVLoLil.Com or @DrVLoLil

Brian Corpening, PhD, is the Associate Vice President of Inclusive Excellence, Chief Diversity Officer at California State University, Monterey Bay. Throughout his career he has focused on the development of community and its role and impact on the effectiveness of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at colleges and universities. He can be reached at [email protected]

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