25 gen 2017
Why I Started Holding Meetings on the Run
Meetings. We all hate them because too often they’re time wasters spent on issues that could be quickly resolved over a phone call.
There is, however, one type of meeting I look forward to: The running meeting. A meeting where there is no prepared agenda, and—thankfully—no PowerPoint.
Rather, the running meeting allows ideas to be exchanged in a free form, high-energy setting, and once you reach the finish line, everyone involved has a clear head and shared understanding of next steps.
I’ve held running meetings since the beginning of my career, which started in the United States Marine Corps. Of course, I didn’t call them running meetings at the time—it was “PT,” physical training—and I spent many lunch hours running with colleagues around the base to prepare for physical fitness tests. During these runs, my colleagues and I would talk and, more important, build relationships that had value beyond our professional roles.
My running meeting practice has evolved as I’ve grown in my career. Today, I own a consulting firm, where I advise senior leaders on strategies to take their business to its next level of success. To best assist each, I find it helpful to establish a strong personal relationship—one built on trust, understanding, and respect. This can be difficult to develop during routine meetings at clients’ offices. And while it certainly could be accomplished over cocktails or long, expensive dinners, I prefer hitting the road.
Many of my clients are runners, which shouldn’t really be surprising. When you think of what it takes to be a runner—discipline, commitment, perseverance, and grit—you recognize the same skills it takes to run a successful business. Also, when you consider that running is great for stress relief, it makes sense that business leaders seek this outlet to help them stay mentally fit.
Initiating a running meeting isn’t difficult. Because I’m often camped out at a local hotel near my client’s site, I’ll mention that I’m a runner and ask about local trails that I can hit in the morning. If they share a few options, I ask, “Hey, do you run? If so, I’d love a tour.” If they’re hesitant, it’s usually because they enjoy solitude, or it’s a question of pace, which can be addressed easily. I’m always quick to add that we’ll run at a conversational pace and if the running meeting turns into a walking meeting, that’s fine by me.
Another important aspect of initiating a running meeting is setting expectations related to time rather than distance. A simple “We’ll go out for 30 minutes” is a great starting point when you’re initiating a running meeting. For many experienced runners this might not feel like a workout. But it’s important to remember the goal is to get to know someone, not to sneak in a tempo run.
During the run itself, I have two key rules for myself:
1) Let them set the pace.
2) Ask more questions than I answer.
I find that both set the foundation for good running etiquette, and help ensure a conversation can happen.
Through the years and hundreds of running meetings, I’ve had the opportunity to learn things about people. One of my clients, a senior vice president at an insurance firm, has every minute of her workweek planned. During runs, she never wears a watch—this is her time to be free of coordination. Another client, who is pretty casual at work, arrived at our first run decked out in the best gear and equipped with tech to collect all sorts of data on his performance. These idiosyncrasies can be revealing about a person and their priorities outside of the office.
Beyond these surface observations, I also hear the most amazing stories. During a 45-minute run with a CEO in Wheeling, West Virginia, I learned about how her father started the family business, as well as the day she took over the firm. It was an emotional conversation, and when the run was over, I walked away with a greater appreciation for the business and its leader, who took her responsibilities as a steward to her father’s legacy very seriously.
Conversations on the open road can be candid because there are zero distractions. Emails aren’t buzzing, phones aren’t ringing, and people aren’t interrupting. It’s a space for you, your colleague, and the open air. When you finish you exchange high fives, express appreciation for the run, and say, “See you back at the office.” Sure, there might be more meetings that day—but none as productive and invigorating as the one you just had.
a mercoledì, gennaio 25, 2017