Meetings are inevitable. In fact, in a recent Harvard Business School study, during the pandemic and now after, the amount of meetings went up by 12.7%! As coaches that specialize in team culture, the way you meet can determine the overall engagement of a team more than you think. Ever been in a bad meeting? You know you have – the leader is not prepared, talks the whole time, the people around the table are playing on their phones, and when you leave the meeting everyone on the team has a different idea of what they’re supposed to be doing. Sound familiar?  

Meetings don’t have to be this way. In fact, meetings are something that we not only tolerate, but encourage for positive team culture. Effective meetings are fun, they encourage participation from every member, they’re engaging, and at the end of the meeting everyone leaves with the same vision, goals, and action items. When the next meeting comes around, the action items are completed, the vision and goals are secure, and the team looks forward to getting together.

One of our favorite strategies is to talk and walk (some call it a “walkie talkie”), or simply a walking meeting.

WHY MOVE WHILE YOU MEET

Friedrich Nietzsche (1889) wrote, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” And it turns out, he’s right. We know that exercise stimulates the Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which encourages the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus. Know what else is located in the hippocampus? Memory and creativity. A study in the American Psychological Association Journal showed a 60% increase in creativity while walking, rather than sitting. In his book The Rockefeller Habits, Verne Harnish talks about how John D. Rockefeller used walking meetings to increase energy level. These meetings don’t have to be just one-on-one, either. A team of people who move are going to get the creative juices flowing!

INCREASE THE CONNECTION

Especially in a post-COVID world, the connection between people has been at best strained. Zoom meetings have taken over, and although a Zoom meeting is typically about 20% shorter than an average in-person meeting, participants in video meetings are much more fatigued afterward. The other thing that is often missing, without an intentional strategy, is a personal connection. Did personal connections happen over video during the pandemic? Certainly. Collaboration happened, people shared ideas, and we got creative.

But getting away from the physical office building has a unique way of increasing the connection between people. Outdoor meetings can be a COVID-safe, creative way to increase that connection, even for those who are not yet comfortable without social distancing. We have clients that do one-on-one collaboration meetings by meeting at a park, or even phone meetings while they walk around the neighborhood. Being outside, especially on a beautiful day, sets everyone at ease. There’s something about breathing the fresh air that makes the tone of the meeting instantly relaxed. Peg even has one of the clients she’s coached the longest that has committed to outside walking meetings, rain or shine! Since we live in Ohio and it snows for 3 months of the year, that’s quite a commitment. But it gave them something to bond over, and a goal to be reached, even before they said one word about what was going on in his business.

GET BUY-IN

Getting your employees’ buy-in is really important when doing a walking meeting. Don’t just come to your team and decide that you’re going to walk in an hour. You never know what is going on with your team, and something as positive and wonderful as a walking meeting need not be spoiled by someone who is not on board. Use the platinum rule that we talked about last week – treat someone like they want to be treated. There could be physical challenges that you don’t know about, they might not be wearing the right shoes or clothes, or any number of things. The best rule is to plan it in advance, and be sure that everyone is prepared.

On a more logistical note, figure out the best way to take notes, and follow up with commitments. Remember that last piece of an effective meeting? In advance, make sure that everyone is prepared to take notes however they’re comfortable, or appoint a note taker (not the same person every time) who will relay the commitments and action steps to the team. Every meeting should end with a to do list for after it’s over. We have some clients that take notes on their phone, some who carry a small notebook and pen. Whatever works for you, make sure there’s a plan for that.

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If there’s one thing that COVID has taught us, it’s that getting creative is how the best of the best survive. And just because we’ve all pretty much figured out how to jump this hurdle, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be another one that requires creativity. It’s the nature of entrepreneurship. And isn’t it wonderful? So get out there and increase your energy – see you at the park!

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Need help with how to have effective meetings? Is your team unhappy and disconnected? Could your employee engagement use a boost? We can help. Schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today.

About the author,

Director of Marketing, ActionCOACH Columbus

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