A first-time manager (I’ll refer to her as Lisa) made a brilliant choice to diffuse an uncomfortable situation. During an awkward meeting, she reached a quick decision to change the scenery and get moving. The impact of this decision turned the meeting from ineffective to productive. Lisa’s decision is worth sharing.
As Lisa and I prepared the announcement of her management position, we identified a potential stumbling block. We considered the possibility of resentment on her new team. There was one individual who might feel he, not her, was deserving of the promotion. To address this potential issue, we ensured my talking points were solid for why Lisa was the right fit. We also role-played scenarios that could come up during her meeting with him.
Our intuition was right. During the team meeting, this individual’s resentment was clear. While he acknowledged the points I made to answer why Lisa, he had not totally bought-in to the new structure. He was on the fence. Thus, I knew a productive meeting with her was essential to ensure he was on board.
Just as we anticipated it might be, their meeting was awkward. The energy was uncomfortable. Tension permeated the space. His body language was closed, and his energy was low. Discussion was laborious, not flowing with any ease. The meeting was doomed unless something changed.
Recognizing she was not going to make progress in this atmosphere, Lisa asked for a change in venue. She suggested that they bundle up for the winter weather and take a walk around the campus. Once outside, the energy around them shifted. It was lighter and more vibrant. As they walked at a brisk pace, conversation began to flow more naturally.
By changing the scenery and engaging in physical movement, a safe and courageous field emerged between them. They were able to open to one another, articulating what each felt and needed from the other. Creativity emerged as ideas were shared. Those ideas were then built upon. Enthusiasm for what was possible began to come forth.
The meeting turned into a productive one. In fact, when she suggested they move back into a warmer place, he declined. He said he was enjoying the walk and the conversation.
As this story illustrates, changing the scenery and incorporating movement can have a positive impact. Here’s why:
- Movement helps burn off and thus reduce nervous energy. The body / mind connection is real, so shifting the way the body feels through movement can alter the state of mind.
- Movement changes the breathing pattern. Walking helps the body create more carbon dioxide naturally. This results in more efficient breathing. Adjustments to more efficient breathing can help restore balance in emotional energy.
- Movement provides sensory distraction. The cold temperatures, the wind, the crunch of ice, and feet on the ground – These distractions help the brain process new things. Processing this new information makes it harder to hang on to what had been experienced. By letting go, the freed mental energy can be applied in a new direction.
Along with the benefits of moving, the side-by-side position while walking suggests, “I am by your side. I am on your side.” This position can help disarm defensiveness and engage relaxation. It evens the playing field, so to speak. By evening the playing field, an opening for new ways of working together can develop.
Try changing the scenery and incorporating movement in your meetings. In addition to the physical and psychological benefits of movement, you might find yourself tapping into new ways for thinking creatively. Tensions may dissipate. Openness may be more readily available. Communication might start to flow with more candor. Increased energy levels and shifts in moods could result.
Why not give it a try? What do you have to lose?