Is A “Walk And Talk” The Best Way To Connect With Your Direct Reports?

The best kind of meetings are the ones that leave you breathless
The best kind of meetings are the ones that leave you breathless
Image Credit: Pero Kvrzica

Think for just a moment about the last meeting that you went to. How did that turn out for you? Can you remember what was said? Even more interestingly, were you any healthier once the meeting was over. I’m willing to bet that the answer was no. Don’t you wish that, assuming that these meetings are a necessity, there was a better way to conduct them? It turns out that there is. Depending on the size of the meeting that people are having with the person who has the CIO job, a “walk and talk” just might be a better way of communicating with the members of your department.

The Benefits Of A Walk And Talk

So first off, let’s make sure that we are all on the same page when it comes to this “walk and talk” thing. The good news is that it is exactly what it sounds like, you hold a meeting with one or more people while all of you are walking. Instead of having to have your meeting in any one of the boring conference rooms at your work location, you now have a number of different locations where you can hold your walk and talk meetings: outside, in a park, or even in the halls at your office.

These meeting often take place over a set route – you don’t want to have to be distracted trying to figure out where you want to go next. They also generally have a fixed amount of time that they are going to occur in. 30 minutes seems to be the norm. You might think that it could be difficult to get others to join you for a walk and talk meeting; however, you may be surprised. The reasons that people are willing to meet this way are varied but they include having a desire to boost their daily step count or people who have been reading the latest research that shows that we all need to become more mobile while we are at work.

As with all workplace activities, the scientists have been hard at work studying the impact of adding walk and talk meetings to your day. What they have found is that people who engage in this type of activity were less likely to miss work due to health reasons. By now I think that we all realize that spending the entire day just sitting at our desk can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and lots of other bad health issues.

The Proper Way To Hold A Walk And Talk

So if we can all agree that this walk and talk thing might be a good thing for us to start to participate in, the next question is just exactly how should we go about doing it? The first thing that you are going to have to realize is that this type of meeting can’t replace all of the meetings that you hold. Rather, it is a good fit for a subset of your meetings. Walk and talk meetings are ideal when you want to meet with one person; however, they can also work if you need to talk with two people. However, that’s the limit.

The next thing that you need to realize is that unlike a meeting in which everyone will be sitting around, there is a very clear time limit to walk and talk meetings. When you realize that you will be making a physical effort to walk during the entire meeting, you need to realize that both you and the people that you are talking with will become tired as the meeting goes on. This means that you need to call a halt to the meeting before anyone becomes too tired to keep up. A good rule of thumb is 30 minutes.

Finally, and this may be the most important rule of all, you need to let other people know what you are up to. The reason for this is because if you go off to a park and go for a walk, if people don’t realize that you are engaged in a business meeting then they’ll probably just assume that you are goofing off. However, if you inform people what you are up to, you’ll get credit for holding the meetings and there is a good chance that they’ll leave you alone while you are walking and talking.

What All Of This Means For You

Meetings are a part of the life of the person with the CIO position as we try to communicate the importance of information technology to the rest of the company. They are how we get the status updates that we need in order to make good decisions and they are how we let our direct reports know what we want them to do. However, all too often the meetings that we attend can be both boring and inefficient. What we need is a new way to hold meetings that will both benefit ourselves and be more effective.

One such way to hold a meeting is to have a “walk and talk”. Quite literally you go for a walk with one or two other people and while you are walking, you have the same discussions that you would have had if you were sitting in a meeting room somewhere. The health benefits are clear: you will boost your activity and avoid doing even more of that dangerous sitting around stuff. To make this kind of meeting be successful, you need to do several things. You have to limit the number of people who participate to only one or two. You need to limit the time to no more than 30 minutes. Finally, you need to tell other people what you are doing so they don’t think that you are just goofing off.

Meetings are how things get done. However, they don’t always work and we have a need to stay healthy. Adding walk and talk meetings to our set of tools can provide us with yet another way to connect with the people who work in our department and change things up a bit. The next time you need to talk with someone about a topic, suggest that the two of you go for a walk.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think holding your walk and talk indoors or outdoors would be more effective?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the person with the CIO job, it’s your responsibility to make sure that the company’s IT department understand the importance of information technology and is able to meet the needs of the rest of the company. There are actually several different ways to go about doing this. You can be the “slow and steady” IT department that rolls out new products and services after everyone else in your market has already deployed them or you can be the “first in” who rolls out new services before anyone has ever heard of them. Wouldn’t it be better if your IT department was more like Apple and just got it right each and every time?