This article is an excerpt from Insight’s leadership playbook. Go for a walk with a team member to demonstrate you are invested in them personally, want to know what they think, and rely on their thoughts to make the best decisions for your team.
Go for a walk with someone on your team to discuss how things are going. Such an informal setting better equalizes the supervisor-report dynamics, compared to sitting behind your desk and summoning them into your office.
Why We Go for a Walk
Taking a walk with a team member will demonstrate your interest in their opinions, instill in them a sense of self-worth and value to the company, give them an opportunity to voice questions or concerns, and help both of you think more creatively. Directed or open-ended conversations can be surprisingly productive if you simply step outside of your typical work environment and go for a walk. Walking and talking is a less formal method of discussion, as there’s no desk separating you and you’re not calling someone into your office—a sometimes frightening possibility if employees do not know how you perceive their effectiveness. Walk down the street or hallways as equals who simply want to have a quick chat.
How We Go for a Walk
When you see an opportunity to discuss a topic with someone, ask if they’d be open to walking and talking. Going for a walk—especially outside on a nice, sunny day—can clear some mental space and help both of you think without the typical distractions of a busy office environment. There’s no computer screens to flash in the corner of your eye, no co-workers unexpectedly interrupting you, and no paperwork staring you down from your desk.
It’s an easy suggestion to make, as it takes no more time from either party to walk while talking, and you’re likely able to find a pleasant and relatively distraction-free path to take once you step away from your office. Even indoor hallways may be adequate venues for a walking conversation.
Spending time with a team member in a one-on-one setting—especially when you make a point to interact with them specifically—increases your rapport. As you gain comfort in having face-to-face discussions, you will experience a greater sense of respect, trust, and openness with one another. This is useful in a professional setting for exposing issues, addressing employee concerns, or identifying ways you or the team can improve. The team member you walk with has an opportunity to voice concerns that may otherwise go unheard. The individual attention also helps increase their sense of value to you and the company. Over time the team member will be more likely to share thoughts and ideas that can help you both make a greater place to work.
Additionally, there is research to suggest that taking a walk can increase creative thinking. Brainstorming over solutions to a problem can be an effective use of your time taking a stroll. Moving outside of your typical work environment can help both of you decompress and think about work with a different mindset.
Bob and Carl are discussing an upcoming project in the cafeteria. A few people stop by their table to say hi or interject their thoughts into the conversation. The typical clatter of dishes, people walking, phones buzzing, and music are all present in the background, sometimes briefly interrupting their thoughts or making it difficult for the other person to hear what was said. Bob realizes they could be talking for several more minutes and would prefer taking the discussion somewhere where he and Carl can focus.
Bob: Hey, it’s a little distracting in here, how about we take a walk around the block?
Carl: Umm, sure, let’s go. It is getting a little hard to hear you in here.
The two walk to the nearest exist and find a much calmer outdoor environment to continue their conversation.
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