Open air coaching/mentoring

When choosing a place for a coaching or mentoring session, the obvious choice is to find a quiet meeting room, where you can relax and be creative. Unfortunately, meeting rooms tend to be anything but relaxing, with minimalist furniture and décor, based on the premise that nothing should distract from work (with a capital W). The result is reduced creativity, from lack of stimulation, coupled with immobility.

A practical alternative is to take coaching and mentoring conversations into the outside and ideally into an environment that encourages reconnection with normality. Walking – especially in a park or other natural environment – provides positive reinforcement to open thinking. It also pumps more blood around the body, increasing the volume of sugars to the brain and hence to the power of our thinking.

Open air coaching or mentoring can be either one-to-one or for a whole team or group. The ground rules are:

  1. Mobile phones and other technology must be switched off or left behind
  2. Because someone, who is thinking deeply, walks more slowly, the other walkers should adapt to that person’s pace, rather than stride ahead
  3. It’s fine to stop and admire something on the way – these distractions (unlike those in the office) assist our thinking, because they stimulate our sense of wonder, which is closely associated with our creativity
  4. Frequent pauses allow us to capture insights as we go. Everyone carries a pen and notepad for their reflections
  5. In a group or team, people break into smaller groups of two or three, walking and pausing together. Every now and then, as occurs naturally, they may all come together to share their thinking, before walking on in (often new) sub-groups. Over an hour, this process may be repeated four or five times. A larger group walking together is less effective, because people find it harder to focus on each other.

Both coaching and mentoring can be described as accompanying someone on a thinking journey. Introducing movement brings that metaphor to life. When coaching in an office, we sit opposite or at an angle to the client; in the outdoors, we literally walk beside them.

© David Clutterbuck, 2019

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