Walk and Talk

July 2nd, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

As promised, today Rich shares his secret of ‘walk and talk’ meetings and why they can be so helpful for your small business momentum.

 

 

In business, surprises are never good—even when they are a good surprise. Good or bad, you’ve done something wrong if you didn’t see it coming.

 

When I was the general manager of About.com’s Web Services division, I found myself working with a group of brilliant engineers. Despite their brilliance, one of the challenges the group faced was a continuous breakdown in communication. Management would give direction to the engineers on a project, and the engineers would then disappear into their cubicles for several weeks to work out the details.

 

It was like waiting for a baby to be born—boy or girl? Ten toes and fingers? Pretty or ugly? They would surface several weeks later and present their interpretation of what they had been asked to create. Sometimes, it would hit the mark; oftentimes, it would not.

 

After several of these “little surprises,” I established weekly “Walk and Talk Meetings.” Some organizations share a common problem: they talk, talk, talk the day away and never get down to work. This is not good. My division had the opposite problem; the engineers would go off on a long “walk, walk, walk,” reaching a destination (the surprise product or feature) that no one wanted in the first place. When I realized this, I created a new approach for our team: “Walk and talk, walk and talk, walk and talk.” Walking and talking involves frequent, brief check-ins to keep everything on course. We would touch base in a way designed to keep everyone moving in the right direction together, avoiding the need for major course corrections.

 

It sounds simple, but it became a weekly ritual that was not only productive but fun. I ended up tying rewards to it, setting benchmarks and then springing for group lunches or handing out incentives upon completion. This dramatically increased productivity and stopped our brilliant engineering group from wasting energy.

 

Porter’s Points – Walk and Talk

 

  • To avoid surprises in your business, keep tabs on all assignments that you hand out. People quickly lose interest and momentum, though, so keep this contact brief and to the point.
  • Come to meetings with goals made and plans in place. If something doesn’t help you toward a goal, don’t use it. Talk things over with your team, then make decisions quickly but wisely and make sure everybody understands the plans and goals.
  • Some teams come with a little bit of inertia. Use reward systems to kick-start your own walking and talking. This will encourage the appropriate behavior and keep the inertia from settling in as you roll forward.

 

As an entrepreneur, do you typically act or react?  We’ll talk about the difference and why it’s important to distinguish between the two next time!

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