On Leadership: Walk and Talk

 

12.17.13

 

All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Influence International, the company that provides a proven system for building trusted business relationships, is located at the mouth of the Provo Canyon in Utah.  In less than ten minutes after leaving the door of Influence’s offices you can be in the mountains enjoying the beauty of nature and walking along well kept trails.

I believe in having weekly one-on-ones with those who work directly with me as a way to not only review progress on business objectives, but also as an opportunity to deepen trust in the relationship.  When I worked with the team at Influence, I would often invite those I worked with to walk with me along the trails in the canyon.  I enjoyed these walks and had many good conversations and experiences with the Influence team.

In the Jonah Berger’s book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Dr. Berger shares an academic study where the researchers were analyzing the power of exercise to stimulate the desire to share.  They had two separate groups in the study.  The first group was asked to sit and relax for 60 seconds, then read an article on something relatively basic and then asked to indicate whether they would like to share the article.  The second group was asked to jog in place for 60 seconds (it didn’t matter if they were in high heels or sneakers, they still were asked to jog in place), then read the same article, and asked to indicate whether they would like to share the article.

The comparative results between the two groups were significant.  The group who jogged for 60 seconds prior to reading the article were more likely to share over those who did not jog by a wide margin (I believe it was more than three times as likely).

As I read about the study, I thought back to the walk and talks in Provo Canyon.  Sure enough, it seemed that both of us in the conversation felt more willing to open up and share what we were really thinking about.  The addition of mild exercise increased a willingness to share.

I also thought about what I learned when reading the biography of Steve Jobs.  When serious conversations needed to be had, or deals to be worked through, Mr. Jobs liked to walk and talk.  I found this to be an interesting leadership approach when I first read about it, but after learning about Dr. Berger’s research findings, I can see the additional wisdom in the idea.

In your leadership, you will likely face opportunities where you will need to have an open and vulnerable discussion with someone and invite them to share what they are really thinking. As you prepare for such a conversation, I recommend you consider walking and talking or possibly some other form of exercise (Dr. Berger talks about how bike riding has been found to be effective).  Not only will you strengthen the relationship by changing up the normal routine, you will create the right setting for real sharing.

Choose to seek truth through vulnerable conversation.  Choose to apply effective principles to encourage sharing.

Choose greatness.

~ SLE

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