Lead by Example and Take Your Business Outside
Shortly after I moved to Boulder, Colorado, I was asked to step in to lead a yoga, fitness, and wellness company. Naturally, the company offered yoga classes for employees throughout the day. I decided I would prioritize taking a yoga class at least three times a week for as long as I was there. Even though I was busy in my new role as president of the company, it was an intentional choice. I wanted to show the other employees that I could live the company’s core values.
In my first class, I was so surprised to find only three other people. But over time, things began to change. The employees saw that the president was attending yoga classes, and that gave them the permission they needed to do the same. In the next class I attended, ten other employees showed up; the time after that, there were twenty people.
One day, when I was walking down the hall with my yoga mat, the CEO of the company made a comment as we passed. “Oh, it must be nice.” I was startled by the comment. The subtext, of course, was that it must be nice to have so much free time that you can take a yoga class during the day.
I was trying to lead by example, but instead, the CEO made it seem that I must be shirking my responsibilities or not working as hard as she was. Even though the company said they had a culture of health, wellness, and balance, everyone knew that the actual corporate culture rewarded more hours behind the desk.
Like that CEO, many workers have the misconception that when they spend time outdoors, engage with movement at work, or do much of anything outside the norm, they aren’t really working. Executives need to lead by example and take our work outside. Doing so will not only rejuvenate your mind and increase your creativity, but it will also help your team embrace the myriad benefits that exercise and time outdoors can bring.
There are countless ways to do business outside. If you aren’t sure where to start, use the following ideas as prompts.
Book the Outdoors
Just like booking a room, make it possible to book the outdoor space—whether that’s at the office or your remote workplace. Set up shop on your home patio, grab a picnic table, or bring a folding chair to a park.
These are one-on-one walking meetings outside. Ideally in-person. But if that’s not possible, ditch the video call and tell your team to take their phones and start a walking meeting. Not only does it provide a built-in way to de-stress, but walking together creates a common bond, generates creativity and clarity, and is better for your physical and mental health than sitting behind your desk.
Have a Weekly Check-Out
Check-ins are typically a time for managers and employees to touch base and update one another. A check-out is an invitation to be outside at any time throughout the day. It can create an opportunity to be more open and talkative. I find that being outside is more efficient and creates richer conversations. Research shows us that 87 percent of people enjoy the outdoors and nearly 86 percent would like to spend more time outdoors during the workday. So, schedule a check-out—either with teammates or by yourself.
Hold a BusinessOutside Brainstorm
We often generate more and better ideas outside. In a groundbreaking study, Stanford University researchers measured the effects of walking on problem solving and idea generation. Of all the variables tested, 81 percent of participants experienced enhanced creative thinking from walking outdoors. Try brainstorming outdoors and watch how many more ideas you can generate.
Host Fresh-Air Fridays
Statistics show that 77 percent of people regularly eat lunch at their desks. L.L. Bean coined the term “Fresh-Air Fridays.” Taking perks like catered lunches into the fresh air and having regularly scheduled picnics will break the routine and make lunch breaks even more healthy and fulfilling. Whether at the office or remote, take a Fresh-Air Friday. When I was at big companies like Kellogg’s and Novartis, anytime there was a meeting with more than ten people, it was often scheduled over the lunch hour. If you’re already doing that, why not take that meal into the fresh air?
Power Up Your Presentations
Often, people sit inside a conference room when doing a dry run-through of slides and talking points. Did you know we remember more when we rehearse outside? Next time you find yourself preparing for an important presentation, rehearse it outside and make the most of the extra memory boost that nature offers.
Lead the Way Outside
If more companies were made aware of the ways that working outside can bolster productivity and promote happiness, more workers would feel empowered to get outdoors. But the culture needs to change first, and that starts with the leaders. As a leader in your business, you have an opportunity to lead the way outside and establish a tighter team with more authentic connections and relationships as you do.
In the next week, find one new way you can take BusinessOutside: conduct one of your meetings outside, book a weekly check-out, or a Fresh-Air Friday. Move the picnic table, get in the shade, and have a meeting outside.
Two million years of evolution can’t be wrong. Humans thrive outside.
For more advice on leading by example, you can find BusinessOutside on Amazon.
Bart Foster is the founder and CEO of BusinessOutside®, a facilitation and training company focused on engaging, inspiring, and empowering individuals and teams to get outside in nature and outside their comfort zones. Bart is an entrepreneur and seasoned global executive who began his career at Kellogg’s and Novartis. After climbing the corporate ladder and building a successful healthcare startup, Bart found his true calling as an advisor, speaker, and coach to executives throughout the world. He lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two kids. Most mornings, he can be found hiking the peaks above town, usually with someone in tow, discussing business, outside.