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Sharpening the Saw

 "Look at the mower on the summer's day, with so much to cut down as the sun sets. He pauses in his labour. Is he a sluggard? He looks for his stone and begins to draw it up and down his scythe, rink-atink, rink-atink. Is that idle music? Is he wasting precious moments? How much might he have mowed while he has been ringing out those notes with his scythe! But he is sharpening his tool. He will do far more when once again he gives strength to those long sweeps which lay the grass prostrate in rows before him."

- Charles Spurgeon, quoted in Helmut Thielicke, Encounters with Spurgeon, Fortress, 1963.

Take A Hike, Or At least Go for A Walk


Managers and executives in all kinds of organizations frequently endure meetings that take too much time and achieve too little. Every day, hundreds of thousands of decision-makers stare longingly out the window during meetings that grow boring and frustrating before important decisions can be made. Of course, good food and good facilitation help, but comfy chairs can be a liability in rooms with poor air circulation - especially if you sit too long.

How often have you found the break the best part of a meeting? Glenn R Harrington, a communications advisor with Articulate Consultants in Victoria, BC, has found a novel and effective solution to the problem of boring, ineffective meetings. He'll take a client or associate out for a walk.

Almost as common as the experience of boring, ineffective meetings is the understanding that sitting for a long time can hinder performance. People know that it's good to take a break, have a stretch, and breathe fresh air. Indeed, more progress is made during some breaks from meetings than during the meetings themselves. Harrington has been doing business walking Victoria sidewalks for seven years. He has found that when the whole meeting is one fresh-air break, walking city streets or nearby parks, he can accomplish more in less time.

Keltie Flanagan, an Articulate associate for the past two years, finds Harrington's walking meetings refreshing. She says, "Not only do you get fresh air and exercise, but everything flows more; your blood and your ideas circulate better. The fresh air makes it easier to have a fresh perspective and the open environment is conducive to an open mind."

If the fresh air and exercise cause you to work up an appetite, then you can stop for a brief snack and keep the dialogue going. Flanagan says, "Everybody likes a break from the environment they work in. With walking meetings, you get that break and you know that you're going to return to work physically and mentally invigorated, possibly having accomplished much more than if you held your meeting sitting indoors."

Sounds good for two. What about meetings of three or more people? Harrington says that meetings of three or more can often be rendered unnecessary if people take walking meetings in the right pairs. Three people walking city streets together is only a problem on busy sidewalks, which is not the right kind of environment for walking meetings, anyway.

If you walk in a park or courtyard, groups can walk the same route in separate pairs or trios and you can call out for your colleagues to join you for part of your discussion. Cell phones can be handy, too. "Walk somewhere open," Harrington suggests, "and if you must speak to somebody else during your meeting, call them on your cell phone."

Still, walking meetings are not for everybody. If you need to use audio-visual aids, if you can't split up into pairs or trios, if walking for an hour or so is not possible for health or weather reasons, or if you don't have convenient access to a suitable environment, then you'll have to stay indoors.

If you can conveniently get access to a courtyard, park, or other relatively quiet outdoor environment, then walking meetings can be a satisfying boon to health and productivity. Harrington's clients and associates consistently remark how much they enjoy walking meetings. "If all goes well, we think more clearly, make better decisions, feel more inspired, and enjoy our work more." His penchant for walking meetings also helps Harrington stand out in people's minds. "It's one more way to demonstrate my company's uniqueness. I'd be satisfied to know that others were inspired to hold walking meetings, too."


- Glenn R Harrington, Articulate Consultants Inc.


Reprinted with permission from Quotes of the Day, Tuesday March 4, 2003 published by Ross Porter of Xtend Solutions.



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