- Wise Words -
Get on your feet
by chris eberle
Get up. Get on your feet.
That’s a line from the Gunnery Sergeant in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. I’d be surprised if anyone who has worked with me would describe me as a drill sergeant, but that soundbyte stuck in my head while I was thinking about this piece so, there’s your title.
Thanks, open office.
Much has been written about the pros and cons of the open office. That’s not the point of this piece. The point of this piece is to get you on your feet. To walk. To get some air and some time away from your screens. And for me, it all started with the open office. In 2010 I made the jump from AOL to Meebo. From big company to startup. From hierarchical office culture to an open office. And also from managing a team of 100+ to managing a team of 3, but that’s a topic for another time.
At AOL I had a nice big office with a meeting table. I could take my calls on speaker (yup. that guy) and most 1:1s and smaller meetings could all happen in there. But I haven’t had an office since, and 6+ years later I still can’t take calls from my desk. I just never got used to it. I always feel like people are listening to my calls (they are) and that I might be a loud talker (I am) so I pretty much always take calls from a conference room or outside, on foot. And conference rooms are always at a premium at growing companies, so I have been on foot a lot.
Enter the walking call.
At Meebo I made a rule for myself – if I was the only person dialing into a call from my location, and I didn’t need to be looking at anything for the call, I’d take it on foot. It got me out for some fresh air, and didn’t tie up a conference room. I mixed it up with a few different routes around downtown Mountain View, and sometimes I just paced around the parking lot. But it got me walking, breathing, moving. It also kept me engaged. The temptation to fire off a few emails or respond to pings during the call was reduced to nill. I was focused and productive. I was also keenly aware when I had not contributed much to a call, which helped me prioritize.
The walk & talk.
I hadn’t done many walking 1:1s before Meebo, but they were a fave there. Again, the conference room scarcity was a forcing function, but with a great result. I reported to the President of the company who was a big fan of the walk & talk, and he got me hooked. You get that same focus without the distractions of your screens, and they are particularly good for conversations where you step back from the day to day. To talk about how the work gets done, or careers, or relationships. And sometimes they are great for those difficult conversations that we all know we need to have, and that none of us are great about consistently having. I believe you can get further, faster, with the walk & talk. No pun intended.
Battling the blah.
Sometimes I get a little afternoon funk. Not every day, but when it hits it hits hard, and it hits around 2pm. Particularly if I’ve had a bunch of crazy days (or weeks) in a row. So I try to set calls for around that time – calls I can take on foot. And calls I look forward to. The air does me good and before I know it I’ve worked through the funk. Yay for change of scenery. Funk be gone!
Ok. I work in the San Francisco Bay Area. The weather really is as nice as they say, so I know its easy for me to get outside. But even on the road, even when its cold or hot or there’s strange wet stuff falling from the sky, I still make it a point to get outside. In the past year I’ve been fortunate to go for “walk & talks” in Austin, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Singapore, London, New York, Sao Paulo, and Taipei, to name a few. Bonus: when you’ve got limited time in another city, it’s a great way to get a little taste of a city. And speaking of visiting other cities, if you’re visiting another city, make the time to meet with people 1:1. People you manage, your cross functional partners, your POC at a partner company. And yes, get outside if you can. In addition to the goodness mentioned above, you’ll get to know people better, show them you care, and you’ll get a change of scenery.
Oh and it’s good for your health.
According to The American Heart Association, just 30 minutes of walking per day may:
So in conclusion:
If you can take a call on foot, take it on foot.
Embrace the walk & talk.
Make the most of your time in other cities.
So, get outside. Get in some steps. Get some air. Get away from screens. And get people talking.