Corporate Director Replaces Coffee Meetings with Walking Meetings & Reaps Benefits

Recently a blog post on the Harvard Business Review caught our eye. Nilofer Merchant, lecturer at Stanford and corporate director at a NASDAQ-traded company, wrote about conducting face to face meetings as a walk and talk.

She morphed a typical coffee meeting into a walking meeting. Merchant wrote, “I liked it so much it became a regular addition to my calendar; I now average four such meetings, and 20 to 30 miles each week. Today it’s life-changing, but it happened almost by accident.”

Actually, she may be onto something. How often have you wanted to go to the gym and had good intentions but alas, you didn’t have the time. It wasn’t a priority, there are enough excuses in the book but self-care frequently lost out to work, time with your family, you get the idea.

She added:

“My American-bred Puritan work ethic nearly always won out. Only when I realized I could do both at the same time, by making exercise part of the meeting, did I finally start to get more exercise. This is one of those 2-for-1 deals. I’m not sacrificing my health for work, nor work for fitness. And maybe that’s why making fitness a priority finally doesn’t feel like a conflict. It’s as easy as stepping out the door and might require as much as a change of shoes.”

If you want to try out a walking meeting, some people may turn you down. Merchant mentioned in her piece about one-third of the people she asks have expressed they aren’t fit enough for a walking meeting. If they’re not into it, no worries there — she simply schedules a typical meeting instead.

Interestingly enough though, the corporate director noticed several benefits to walking meetings aside from the obvious health benefits of exercising your body. “First, I can actually listen better when I am walking next to someone than when I’m across from them in some coffee shop. There’s something about being side-by-side that puts the problem or ideas before us, and us working on it together.”

Another benefit? No mobile phones in sight. Unlike a coffee house or even conference room table, when you’re walking and talking, the mobile phone is pretty much out of sight. Hiking meetings allow for participants to be fully engaged sans tech devices.

Lastly, her hikes usually end on a joyful note embraced by being outside. “When you step outside, you give yourself over to nature, respecting its cycles and unpredictability….It makes me present to the world around me instead of being insulated from it.”