Revolutionize Your One-to-Ones: The Surprising Benefits of Walking Meetings

by | Health, Productivity

Marcey Rader explains how to use walking meetings for your most successful one-to-one meetings and interviews.

Walking meetings for one-to-ones aren't just good for your butt. They're good for your brain and work relationships.

On average, we sit for 8 hours a day.

“Sitting is so incredibly prevalent, we don’t even question how much we’re doing it. In that way, sitting has become the smoking of our generation.” Nilofer Merchant, TED speaker on Got a meeting? Take a walk.

Do you spend most of your time in meetings just sitting? You can calculate the risk of your sitting time on your health here.

We’re spending a lot of time on our butts. You could consider buying a sit-stand desk from here**. Alternatively, why not just get out and do a walking meeting versus sitting across the desk? 

A walking meeting habit also has other benefits. For instance, when sitting across the table from someone, there is a real or perceived hierarchy level. But, walking side by side, you lose that hierarchy. You’ll be more open and honest when walking. 

When you're moving both sides of your body, after about 15 minutes, the neurons between the hemispheres of your brain start to connect, leading to a higher level of creativity and collaboration. I call walking meetings walkie-talkies. I discuss it more in my podcast on ‘All Work and No Play.‘ 

This method is also followed by leaders across the world. As per Steve Jobs's biography, he made a habit of walkie-talkies, especially for first encounters. Taking a long walk was his preferred way to have a serious conversation.

Client Case Study: Walkie-Talkies helped my client in a crucial conversation with an employee.

My favorite walkie-talkie story was from a biotech company in Boston. I was coaching the director of contracts and finance. They had a team member make a million-dollar mistake and were considering firing her. She felt sick about it. I was coaching the director that day and commented, “I would think twice about firing her because she'll never make that mistake again. It wasn't malicious.” I also encouraged her to do this as a walking meeting to get them out of the office environment and away from curious eyes. When her direct report was in nature walking, it reduced her nervousness and anxiety. It relieved the adrenaline, and she didn't have to look at her boss. She was more open and honest. Also, her boss is a very tall woman. I'm only five foot two. So, when dealing with somebody much taller than me, I can't help but feel that hierarchy. One-to-ones are also great for phone walkie-talkies if you can't do it face-to-face. I do that all the time, especially with my family.

The Charity Miles app integrates with Outlook, allowing you to schedule a walking meeting one-on-one. While you're using it, you're also raising money for charity!

Walking Meeting Case Study

Want to read another story about how powerful walking meetings are? This excerpt is from an email from Matt Findley, Home & Land Lending Manager for Horizon Farm Credit, after attending my Meeting Power-Ups and Manage Well Remotely programs. It's so powerful it brought tears to my eyes.

“In your presentation, you stressed the importance of being disconnected from technology when conversing, thus allowing yourself to not be distracted. Once your training was completed, you and I discussed how we thought this would work with individual check-ins. Soon after, our management group had the opportunity to sit down with our teams and discuss 3–5-year plans for where they would like to go and how we, as leadership, can help them accomplish this goal. 

I offered each one of my team members the opportunity to have the meeting as a walking meeting, face-to-face or virtual. Thankfully, all chose face-to-face or walking. 

I asked the team members who chose walking meetings to come prepared to walk and not wear work attire. I also allowed them to select the location to meet.

We would start walking, and I would talk with them for the first five minutes (as you discussed, after 10-15 minutes, both sides of your brain are now connecting). During these five minutes, I took this as an opportunity to help explain the why. Why was this important to them, me, and Farm Credit? I also talked with them about our meeting and your shared impact on walking and disconnecting. Finally, I spoke with them about the importance of the symbolism of walking side by side. My definition was, I am not standing in front of you leading you to where you think you need to go, I am not walking behind you to push you to where I think you need to be, I am walking next to you as this is a journey, and I am here to support you along the way. 

After that first five minutes, it was my opportunity to sit back and listen by asking one simple question – What's on your mind?

By asking this question, I was blessed with everything from family life, struggles that they were facing personally and professionally, and the good, bad, and sometimes ugly of normal everyday life that affects us all. This simple question will be one that I will continue to use with my colleagues as it invites them to take down whatever wall is there. This lets them know they have my undivided attention and that I truly care about hearing their experience.

Some of these conversations went on for miles, yes, miles. Most averaged two miles, and the furthest we walked was four miles in 98-degree heat (I think he wanted to find out if I was for real). To say the least, yes, I was for real. Once our discussion was completed, we found a bench (still not at the office) and did a read-back. We sat down, and I started writing notes. Then, once I completed a thought, I would follow up with them by saying This is what I heard you say. Was this your intent in this conversation? This allowed them to have final input and allowed me not to place my biases on the conversation.

Every one of my teammates who selected the walking meeting has told me this is how they want to have check-ins from here on out. I have had multiple walking meetings since this check-in and have really bonded with my team. One employee said the meeting filled his ‘cup of trust’ with me. I told him that was inspiring to hear because now he knows that my requests of him don’t come from a place of malice or distrust but from a place of need.

Thank you again for agreeing to speak with our management team at Horizon Farm Credit, as your ideas have allowed me to grow a stronger bond with my team.” 

Matt Findley, Home and Lending Manager, Horizon Farm Credit

When can you schedule your first walking meeting and make an impact like Matt?

Post written by Marcey Rader and Rijul Arora.

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