I mentioned this in a podcast interview I did recently, and to a couple fresh sales leaders I am mentoring. And I was surprised that this was a major take-away for them - so thought I would share more about it here.
As I grew into leadership roles, I realised how much time I spent in one-to-ones.
I also realised that meeting someone within the confines of a meeting room, makes the exchange "stiffer" than it should.
When the goal is to have a deep discussion, especially about someone (their drivers, fears, ambitions, etc), this can be counterproductive.
Of course, the usual alternative is a "coffee meeting" - already better. Though it comes with consumption - bad for your wallet, and your health sometimes (a juice is probably better than your 3rd pumpkin spice latte of the day).
And in any case, sitting down face-to-face means there is more (unconscious) focus on how to behave - body and face expression while facing the other - especially when there is a hierarchical relationship to the two participants.
Plus silences - to think and reflect on a question or topic - are "heavier" when sitting down face-to-face.
A walking meeting is ideal with someone working in your team (eg 1-to-1), a candidate, or simply with a colleague.
It can be just around the block, or in a more pleasant environment. I loved doing some along the Thames river, though I have done many more simply walking the (quieter) streets of London.
In my experience, walking meetings help reduce the barriers.
People talk more openly, share more. Perhaps due to a combination of fresh air, being in the open (feeling less vulnerable), and not looking directly at each other.
It helps go "deeper" into one's understanding of the other.
And silences feel more natural when walking.
When assessing a candidate, it provides a more human insight into her/him - the mask drops off (a bit).
It's also a much nicer way to deliver and discuss bad news - like having to let someone go - or addressing and working out problems - like when a team member is on the path to it.
The focus is more on the discussion, the content, rather than on "how to behave".
Engine for creative thinking
Beyond my experience, it is also scientifically proven, that humans think better, and creatively, when walking:
"In three of the alternate uses studies the numbers were profound: 81%, 88%, and 100% of participants were more creative walking than sitting"
For innovation discussions, clarifying the mind(s) or solving problems collaboratively, walking together is something I highly recommend.
“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
He was quite extreme though, saying "Only ideas won by walking have any value." - I would not go as far though. Showers and baths are great for me too... but probably not something you want to picture me in nore something you'd want to do a meeting in!
If you're a TED talk fan, here is one for you: "Got a meeting? Take a walk."
So Freud, Aristotle, Truman and Dickens were also known for using long walks to foster their thinking.
And Steve Jobs famously relied a lot on walking meetings. Which is perhaps where I took my inspiration to do these in the first place, though I can't remember exactly - decisions are usually a mashup of various inputs and a process, rather than the consequence of a single input.
A healthy habit
Walking meetings will also help you achieve your 10,000 daily steps - contributing to keeping you healthy.
It exposed you to fresh air - which we are all lacking in our office jobs. At least as fresh as city air can be!
There is really no downside, in my eyes, to do meetings while walking. At least when it's only 2-3 people involved.
So if you need to have a deep discussion, where openness is critical, or foster a creative discussion, be it personal or business, ditch the office and have a walking meeting.