Walking During Board Retreats: A Few Tips | Beth's Blog

Walking During Board Retreats: A Few Tips

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I recently joined the advisory board of the Leadership Learning Community.  Last week, we had a board retreat to dive into identifying core results as part of results-based accountability work, facilitated by an excellent outside consultant.   Board retreats, day long meetings, can be potentially be deadly — sitting most of the time and hearing a parade of reports.  However, this was far from it.  Not only was the work on trying to figure out outcomes (and the measures) stimulating,  we also incorporated movement into our day long meeting.

Give Everyone at the Meeting Permission to Stand Up

When I work in my home office, I’m used to standing every 20 or so minutes.  But when I go to meetings, I find that people sit more than stand, stretch, or walk. You can feel the malaise and energy drain when you are at meeting table.

The human body was not designed for sitting all day long.   There are serious health risks to a sedentary work style, but it also impacts our minds as well.   Moving around at work helps get our brains to re-engage.  Even small movements cause improved brain processing speed, learning, and short-term memory.   Our brains begin to slow down when we are not moving.   Being active in meetings can bring our brains out of “hibernation mode.” Just standing up can improve one’s ability to think, clear your mind, and improve concentration.   If everyone at a meeting was engaged, wouldn’t the meeting be more effective?

One of the things we did at the beginning at the meeting was to give permission for people to move or stand up.    The facilitator also incorporated the option of walking during our small group work.   Movement became acceptable as part of the meeting – and I know I was about to pay more attention and make better contributions as a result.

Use Mobile Phone or Notebook/Pen for Note Taking

One of the barriers to incorporating movement into meetings, particularly small group work is the worry “How will we take notes?”  “How will we remember our conversation?”

Our board retreat meeting required the group to break into smaller groups to do more detailed work.  We had to discuss specific strategies or do brainstorming on how to measure a result and then report back to the full group.

I wanted to encourage doing the small group work while walking, so I invited folks who wanted to try walking and small group to experiment with me.

Here’s a few tips:

  • We took a photo of any flip chart notes, instructions, or report information we needed to reference
  • The facilitator told us a specific time to be back
  • As we walked and brainstormed,  we took notes in different ways.   I took notes using the notes application on my iPhone, while my colleague wrote the key points on his hand!
  • We found that walking and discussing the strategy was really useful, but we returned to the meeting room 5-10  minutes before our time was up so we sit down and write out our key points.  This was really useful in helping to synthesize the discussion.

I left the meeting energized – inspired and with lots of new ideas.   I think the combination of focusing on outcome-based results and movement was pretty powerful!

How have you incorporated movement into board meetings?



One Response

  1. Great post, Beth. I always incorporate “get up and move around” activities into any board retreat I facilitate. In addition to the benefits you mentioned, it helps people get to know one another better and forces people to interact with people they may not know as well.

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