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Walk and Talk Coaching With Zoe Lewis

An increasing number of organisations include leadership coaching as a key part of their leadership and talent development programmes. This coupled with an growing awareness of the importance of exercise and the great outdoors linked to employee well-being and mental health is seeing a new trend (likely to stay) in walk and talk coaching.

You may now find yourself asking "what is walk and talk coaching?". There are a couple of options; one is where coach and coachee take to the great outdoors and host a walk and talk coaching conversation and the other is where coach and coachee are in different areas in the great outdoors and use the power of technology, for example, telephone coaching to conduct the coaching conversation.

Stairs in the woods surrounded by trees

A new concept, Coach Zoe Lewis provides insight into a recent Walk and Talk Coaching session below!

"Well, it’s a new concept alright…come on a virtual walk and talk with me and experience that of a senior leader losing pressure and gaining perspective.

Walking up the previously trodden path, I ask "Tell me, where are we heading today?”. “Up and away from the world!” My client responds with an exasperated laugh. “That bad, huh?” I ask as we meander our way up a hill, dodging mole hills along the way. “Well Zoe…” he continues and downloads the worries of his mind. He refers back to our previous discussion and the bigger context of the overall coaching goals, involving other key stakeholders.

As we walk, the sun shines, the birds’ tweet a low back-drop of chirps and the only other sounds are our voices in conversation. I notice my client’s shoulders drop a little, as he breathes a deep lungful of fresh outdoor air. He shares the challenges, the pressures, the updates on the project that’s not heading in the direction to which it needs to go.

We pause and look back down the small hill…he comments on the ability to see for miles and the different perspective of the land. I play back…”how does this compare to your view on the challenges you just mentioned. What if we were to put them out there on the landscape for a minute to look at?” He takes another deep breath and nods. As we continue our ascent, he talks openly and honestly about people and situations that are causing him sleepless nights. We use the great outdoors as a metaphor, there is a whole section of the route that is flooded – the barrier to the goal. We discuss this briefly in practical terms, for how to manoeuvre around it and then link it to, so what options have you to manoeuvre around the real world ‘flood’?

We reach the peak, somewhat out of breath and sit on the bench looking out across the stunning views. I ask how we are doing today…what goals we are moving closer towards?

Then I say, “So, ‘x’ what’s the difficult conversation that we need to have today? There’s almost always one, otherwise there’s little challenge.” “Ah, you know me too well…the ‘blot on the landscape’ as we might call it today is a rather difficult discussion I’ve been putting off with my director of ‘x’ about a restructure. I know she’ll fly off the handle and well…yes, I probably do need to talk about it.”

We rise to our feet and begin our descent, the conversation, along with the walk, at times, is not an easy path. There is uncomfortable feedback that I, as the coach, have a need to provide and it’s fair to say the atmosphere at times is tense. I call out the atmosphere and he agrees, yet also accepts it’s a necessary part of the journey…he jokes “it’s no walk in the park, this coaching business!”.

A mile or so on and we have traversed the light and the dark of his thinking, the highs and the lows of the hill and importantly, identified the next steps in this executive’s development.

Picture of a landscape with sheep

Interested in Walk and Talk coaching? Zoe Lewis has shared her top tips;

  1. Coach and coachee need to consider if walk and talk coaching is appropriate for them - a trial can be a great way to test this

  2. A suitable route needs to be identified with consideration to both parties' preferences, fitness levels, ability to walk and talk, etc.

  3. Health and safety expectations need to be set and managed

  4. If using telephone coaching, practical issues such as mobile signal and audibility need consideration

  5. Weather - as a fair-weather walker myself and the impact of the weather on the coaching, I always have a suitable backup plan if the forecast is inclement

Share your thoughts on walk and talk coaching in the comments below.


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