Sherry and Twiglets vrs Fence Building. How shared action builds relationships, and why I want a walking coach.

This might seem like an odd admission but…… I have always dreamed of having a boss that would take me out walking in the Brecon Beacons once a month.

There, I’ve said it. Now let me explain why……

I’ve got a new neighbour, who’s doing lots of renovation work on the property including fence building. Whilst I was busy constructing my shed (subject of a previous post on malicious compliance), I popped over to help with fixing the rails between the fence posts. It wasn’t a particularly difficult or strenuous job, but it was just a bit easier with two people. What it did allow was a bit of conversation between us. In the space of 45 minutes we covered a huge range of things, many of which I can’t remember now, other than walking away thinking, “he’s a decent bloke, we are going to get on well as neighbours”.

What also struck me was the difference between this interaction and the ‘sherry and twiglets’ experience we had when the previous neighbour had organised a meet and greet session before she left. There was nothing wrong with the event (the twiglets were excellent), I just didn’t have the same level of conversation or make the same sort of connection as I had whilst fence building. Doing things together seemed to enable a different type of conversation and the development of a deeper relationship.

This got me thinking, and then a few things happened to reinforce what I’d experienced;

  • I watched my Mother, Son and Niece bake cakes together.  A shared (very messy) activity if ever there was one,
  • The re-commencing of lunchtime walks in the park with a colleague who has been away for a while (welcome back btw), and
  • I heard someone talk about ‘walking and coaching’ in a meeting to establish a South Wales network for the EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council).

Walking and coaching intrigued me and following a quick search, much to my joy, I’ve found out that there are people doing it and it is a legitimate business pastime. Have a look at this site by The Walking Coach and Mike from Mentoring for Change who gives a good explanation of why walk and coach. I’ve been extremely happy at learning this. My desire to go walking with my boss isn’t just another peculiar fantasy of mine. It’s a legitimate business activity about coaching, mentoring; and for me building a better relationship and understanding of other people while sharing an activity.

When you think about it, why wouldn’t coaching in the context of walking be an eminently sensible thing to do? I know plenty of people who will happily spend a few hours in coaching sessions sat in hotel lobbies, meeting rooms and other peculiar sedentary locations. Why not get out there in the fresh air and have a walk when you are doing it. It seems like a win, win to me (just remember to wear some decent shoes though).

I’m sure there is theory and technique around how to get the most out of walking and coaching, finding that out is my next challenge. I’m the meanwhile; I’m off cycling for a week in Germany with my friend Geof. Not sure how this is going to work, it’s definitely a shared activity, but I can barely breathe most of the time, let alone talk.

So, what’s the PONT?

  1. Sharing a physical activity with someone does help generate a different level of conversation and help increase understanding and develop relationships.
  2. Walking and talking informally can achieve this (have a walk in the park with a colleague at lunchtime),
  3. Walking and coaching (much to my joy) is a legitimate business activity. Have a think about it as an alternative to hotel lobbies or stuffy meeting rooms. Best of all though, try some joint fence building (or cake baking).

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here:

9 Responses

  1. Lippy Lloyd

    I totally agree with the idea of taking a lunch time coaching and mentoring walk. I’m sure many simple disputes could also be resolved in this way.

      1. Lippy Lloyd

        A man from the Fulani tribe of West Africa once told me it was often better to walk side by side when a difficult topic needed to be aired as you are both walking in the same direction, and that’s a good start!

  2. olwenmhughes

    There”s a good deal of evidence that people are happier and more relaxed outside – something to do with it being where we ought to be, I suppose. I know I think better outside and while walking and a great friend described running as meditation only last week. All I know is I’ll do more walking and coaching than I ever have to date. I have done it, but didn’t click that it was what I was doing…

  3. James Moore

    I’d suggest connecting body, heart and mind to help you think, feel and be betteris a universal truth. Helpfully, science is now catching up with this. Spark and Brain Rules are both great sources of evidence. I’m going to be facilitating some pilot programmes for Welsh Public Services leadership to really take this further. I’ve also developed a little ‘pack’ to encourage and support exactly the sort of conversations you’re talking about. I’m happy to share.

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