For centuries, authors and thinkers have touted the benefits of walking. Dickens and Aristotle took regular walks, Kierkegaard believed that “if one just keeps on walking, everything will be alright,” and Henry David Thoreau spent four hours walking every day.
In today’s hurry to get to work, meetings, and then home again, Thoreau-style walks sound indulgent at best and impossible at worst. Leisurely walks have turned into contemplative stares out car windows in rush hour traffic.
But Ecosystems is bringing walks back. Every quarter, our CEO and co-founder, Chad Quinn, offers his time for one-on-one walks with employees as a way to provide support . He also discusses any progress or questions we have about our Individual Development Plans (IDP). We call these “Walks to Mars.”
What is a Walk to Mars?
The walks usually follow a particular route, where the destination is a brown, nondescript building—a corporate office of a chocolate company called Mars. Thus, “Walk to Mars.” (I’d like to see the reaction of someone who doesn’t have this context when they look at Chad’s calendar, only to find several “Walks to Mars” scheduled in 15-minute increments.)
As a team member early in my career, I’m thankful for a CEO who offers his time so generously and believes in supporting our professional and personal development. One year ago, on a Walk to Mars, Chad encouraged me to try yoga for the health benefits. I was admittedly skeptical at first, but agreed to try it based on his recommendation. Now, one year later, yoga has become part of my routine. From Ecosystems’ weekly yoga classes to my own personal practice, it’s an essential part of my life—and I have my November 2015 Walk to Mars with Chad to thank for that.
Below are the perspectives of others on the team about the Walk to Mars:
- “One of the greatest contributors to both my happiness as an employee at Ecosystems and the personal and professional growth I have already experienced in my five months here is due to the investment our leadership has made in me. The Walk to Mars is a perfect example of that.”
- “I like the Walk to Mars because it gives me a chance to talk to leadership in a more casual setting than a performance review. This allows for me to be more open about what I am planning to do in the future and where I would like my career to go.”
- “We typically discuss not just where I see myself in my current role, but more so, what I want to do at Ecosystems… I like how candid the conversation is; I never feel like I have to beat around the bush.”
- “I really appreciate the intimate nature of the Walk to Mars . . .On my first Walk after being here for a month (and in the DC area for 3 months), Chad was just as interested in how I was settling into a new city as into my role with the company.”
- “I think the Walk to Mars is good to just keep an open and honest line of communication with your management. It comes off more like a discussion with a mentor than a boss.”
Professional Development in a Broader Context
I have yet to hear of other companies that offer one-on-one walks with the CEO. But a few other CEOs are also taking steps to prioritize their employees’ personal and professional development, including:
- Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square and Twitter — Jack Dorsey has been known to go on walks with new employees from the Gandhi statue to Square. He tweeted: “Best part of my week is walking with new employees from the Gandhi statue to @Square discussing our guiding principles.”
- Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook — Once a week, Mark Zuckerberg makes himself available to employees by gathering with them in the auditorium and taking questions. One employee wrote, “Every Friday at 4 o’clock, Mark Zuckerberg comes in our big auditorium and stands in front the crowd and takes questions, and he loves hard questions. What I appreciate is that he really does want to understand what we care about and what we want to know about. That’s a huge part of our culture.”
- Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin — Richard Branson spends more time walking and interacting with employees than sitting behind a desk. In an interview with Inc., Branson said, “I think in this day and age, it is very easy to be out and about and not stuck behind a desk. And you’re going to learn so much more. I mean, if I’m on one of our airlines, I will make a point of getting out and talking to a lot of staff, talking to as many of the customers as possible, having a notebook in my back pocket, listening.”
Share Your Thoughts
What opportunities does your company offer to connect with leadership?
What steps are you taking—as a company or as an individual—toward professional and personal development?