The Walk-About: A Real World Tactic to Facilitate Key Conversations

Jonathan SlainProductivity

Two team members from Pinnacle Construction share a frigid Cleveland morning walk-about to discuss key issues at the company.

Do you ever have to have a tough conversation with a key employee at your company and you put it off because you aren’t quite sure how you want to approach it?

Maybe you need to discuss their recent performance at the business?  Maybe you’re disappointed with key aspects of their role?  Maybe you need to ask them to take on more responsibility and you’re unsure how they’ll respond?

Instead of sitting down with them in your office, or in a conference room, or even over lunch, consider a technique that I like to call “The Walk-About.”  One thing you can often control with a difficult conversation is the environment in which you’re going to have it.  You can’t control how the other person will react, but you can decide when and where you’ll have the conversation.  

Set aside 30-60 minutes for your walk-about and make sure you give your walking partner notice of the planned outing so that they can prepare accordingly for the weather and temperature.  I find that the more extreme the temperature the better.  Extreme hot and cold have a way of focusing us on the issue at hand.  Maybe it’s our desire to get back inside and enjoy hot coffee or hot chocolate when we walk-about in the cold, or a nice Arnold Palmer or chilled beer when it’s steamy on the walk-about.

During the walk-about, the most important rule is for both sides to be extremely selfish.  You each need to own your expectations for the conversation and make sure you don’t stop walking until you’ve said what you have to say and asked the tough questions that need to be asked. 

If the situation involves multiple parties, I recommend you pair off for walk-abouts and then meet at a central location to rotate walk-about partners every 30 minutes.  After everyone in the group has had a chance to walk-about with everyone else in the group, you can get together for a group discussion.

It’s amazing how well this technique works!

I look forward to hearing about your experience with the walk-about.  Please email me at [email protected] and let me know how it works for you and your team.