Stage a Summer Walking Meeting.
Few of us really like attending meetings under the best of circumstances, but in the summer they seem cruelest of all.
Depending on where your office is located, you can see the gentle warm breezes ruffling the tops of trees and you can imagine how nice it would feel them on your face. You imagine the energy of the sun seeping into you. Were you really made to spend all your summer days indoors?
You have a proposal to talk about with a colleague or two, but rather than endure in your office, you make the spontaneous decision: “Why don’t we go for a walk and talk about it?”
Faces brighten. Minds shift. Shoes get changed and off you go.
Whether you walk in a nearby park or greenspace, or just through streets near your workplace, your perspective suddenly changes. You hear the concept, but it sounds different now; you grasp new dimensions of it that seemed flatter in the office.
I have been intrigued by summer walking meetings for about three years now. That is when I first read a study by the British Psychological Society that informed me the average office worker is desk-bound for 5.41 hours a day. But if we got up and moved more, as in walking around for our meetings, we would be healthier and more creative, not to mention slimmer.
We would also have less cancer and diabetes.
So I started small, sometimes just taking myself out for a walk around the block when I had something to figure out. Then I would invite a colleague to join me.
I didn’t invent this idea of using walking to stay healthier in your body and more aware and in tune with your mind. The idea actually goes as far back as the society of ancient Greece when the great philosopher Aristotle used to deliver his lectures as he walked around.
He formed what scholars call the “Peripatetic School” which literally translates as “given to walking about.”
It turns out that Aristotle was ahead of his time. More recent research suggests that just moving one foot ahead of the other as we walk stimulates our brain and makes us think more creatively.
Personally, I find that the level of honesty in exchanges increases when I am walking with a colleague. There is a certain informality to the walking meeting that makes it easier to say precisely what is on your mind.
Another big bonus I notice is that engagement is much higher at walking meetings. It is impossible to sit there making up your grocery list or your soccer team schedule or checking your messages when you might just roll off the curb and twist your ankle if you don’t pay attention to where you are going. You can walk in a walking meeting, I joke, but you can’t hide.
I also find that the atmosphere is really comfortable. Some studies suggest that this is because when you walk side by side with an employee, they feel less like a subordinate and more like a peer.
But even if you want to get out of the boardroom and into the sunshine, how do you do walking meetings effectively?
First, you have to acknowledge that while they work beautifully in some circumstances, in others they don’t. Know the difference.
Here are some suggestions for making them work well for you:
- Be courteous and tell the participants a day in advance about the walking meeting so they can bring proper shoes with them. If you do them every day, encourage your colleagues to keep sneakers at their desk.
- Make sure that a walking meeting is appropriate for your participants. Check to ensure they do not have impediments to walking. Visible ones may be obvious, but be mindful of people with cardiovascular disease and asthma or allergies who may find moving difficult in certain atmospheric conditions.
- Keep the number of meeting participants small. Four is okay, more than that becomes a problem. Three is perfect if you have a wide walkway in a nearby park. Two leads to an incredible and enlightening exchange of ideas.
- Persuade them with a promise of a treat. We are all kids at heart. Say you want to walk through the park and get a delicious iced tea or strawberry smoothie from the cart at the other end of the park. You will only have to buy the drinks once…after that they will be suggesting meeting by walking and bribe you with the treat.
- Don’t let the treat be a sit-down coffee. You will be deluding yourself, because the meeting will just be moving to a coffee shop, not actually a walking meeting.
- Be mindful that no meeting should go on for more than 30 minutes in a perfect world. If you are walking, a lot can be accomplished in even 15 or 20.
- Send your follow-up actions or decisions to each other on your mobile devices. You don’t need a smartboard or a notebook.
Paula Morand, CSP is a leadership building, revenue boosting, strategy expanding keynote speaker, author and visionary. This dreaming big and being bold leadership expert and brand strategist brings her vibrant energy, humor and wisdom to ignite individuals, organizations and communities to lead change, growth and bold impact. 24 years, 25,000+ clients, 34 countries, 14 books, former radio personality, 11x award winning entrepreneur and humorous emcee.
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