Walking & Talking – Project Coaching goes for a walk
Interview with Heike Linamayer (H)
E: Andrea and I very much enjoy walking and talking with colleagues, clients, etc. and we have made many positive experiences.
What is your experience with combining walking and (project) coaching? What are the advantages?
H: The advantages are clear: Physical activities have a positive effect on blood circulation and the metabolism and thus on mental performance, responsiveness as well as concentration. In our brain the production of various neurotransmitters increases. The higher concentration of serotonin (the so-called “happiness hormone”) when we are walking helps to increase confidence and mood. Furthermore dopamine supports the ability of clear thinking. Walking as well as other physical activities cannot stimulate the brain by themselves. Intellectual impulses (as part of the coaching conversation) are needed in addition.
My experience with “walking & talking” is very positive. Nevertheless this method or setting is not suitable for everyone and every topic. From my point of view it is a very effective additional method to others.
E: Is walking and talking also useful for group coachings? And what do you need to take into consideration?
H: I like to work in nature while walking with small groups. From my point of view it is important to have a manageable number of participants. Otherwise the interaction with the people is at risk. While working with such small groups, I often invite the participants to practice self-reflection, observations or bilateral dialogues. For impulses and ideas for the entire group it is better to interrupt walking and use a break.
A: What about eye contact? Is this important and how can you establish it?
H: That is an interesting question! My research has shown that many people prefer the missing or limited eye-contact during walking in the coaching situation. Also the fact that coach and coachee look into the same direction has been mentioned as a positive fact for several times. On the other hand some people miss the direct eye-contact. Therefore – from my point of view – it is very important to clarify these topics together with the client beforehand.
A: If you analyze a certain situation, how can you visualize it? By painting with sticks or collecting objects?
H: Yes, of course. Normally I bring clipboards and pens with me. Nevertheless nature offers great opportunities for visualization as well (just like in “landart” where you “paint” images with objects from nature). You also can do perfect Systemic Constellations with objects which you collect in the nature. During the constellation itself I invite the clients to take a seat. I always make sure that on my “coaching-path” there are places to sit down.
A: Is it easy to convince / win clients to use Walking and Taking?
H: Good question. I believe it is not about winning clients for Walking and Talking, but to create an optimal supportive setting for the clients. In a conversation before the coaching we define the most appropriate setting: going out into nature or even combine indoor and outdoor in the entire coaching process. Of course, some costumers want to be coached while walking after their visit on my website.
E: Are there situations were taking and Walking is not suitable?
H: Yes, of course. My study has shown that it is not possible to give general statements about non-suitable or appropriate situations, but a lot of individual dislikes. For some people it is very important to have a distance to other people while the coaching takes place. They don’t feel comfortable because someone might see them coaching and walking. For some people physical strain, dependencies of weather as well as different visualization-possibilities are an issue, too. In summary, interviewed people mentioned much more positive than disruptive factors. However for most of them there are some reasons why they prefer an indoor coaching, which again stresses the importance of the conversation beforehand.
E: What is your advice for project managers or coaches who would like to try walking & talking?
H: I am convinced that walking is wonderful, not only for coaching, but also for brainstorming, etc. Even in ancient Greece the philosophers knew about the effects of walking on thinking. As a project manager I just would try it out, if everyone agrees with the walking-idea and see how it affects the brainstorming and the solution-finding-processes. Counselors and coaches I would recommend to try it out with friends before, in order to adapt the own coaching-methods for “outdoor-usability” as well as to find suitable paths to enable a quiet conversation.
Thank you for the interview and a lot of success with walking & talking
Elisabeth (E) & Andrea (A)
Heike has worked as an IT project manager for many years. She is a systemic coach, a life and social consultant and has an MSc of psychosocial consulting from the Sigmund Freund University. At the moment she is working at her PhD about walking and talking.
Heike Linamayer, MSc Walking and Talking
Herminengasse 17/2, 1020 Wien
Mobil: +43 699 10101077