Columbia University Medical Center

Practice Tip: Taking Meetings for a Walk

image of Melissa Mendez

Melissa Mendez, practice manager, Department of Neurology.

Who: Melissa Mendez, Practice Manager, Department of Neurology
What: Improved staff relationships and teamwork
How:  Taking meetings for a walk

For Melissa Mendez, a practice manager in the Department of Neurology, improving teamwork among her small staff was helped by going outside.

Trying out a technique she had seen on TV news, she started holding one-on-one meetings outdoors, to introduce herself to new team members, clarify her expectations, and discuss topics as specific as work assignments and as broad as teamwork—with a positive focus and an emphasis on long-term benefits for the entire department. The approach worked like a charm, starting communication off on a positive note with staff and helping to build personal relationships that are improving staff relationships throughout the department.

Mendez says the staff responds well to the personal, informal conversations. Outdoors, she says, there are “no interruptions or work distractions, and it makes people more comfortable” when they can speak freely and informally with her about work.

With one quiet staff member in particular, the one-on-one time really helped change the dynamics in the department. “Because this staffer was more of an introvert, working together wasn’t easy,” Mendez says. “Change for her was a challenge and communicating was very hard, but because we worked together in this way, I am seeing a lot of very positive changes,” she says. The staffer has taken her comments constructively and is much more engaged with her coworkers, which in turn, has led to a warmer reception from colleagues and a more positive team environment.

Mendez says it’s personally rewarding to see such changes take place. “Each person in the group matters,” she says, and “each person has individual strengths to contribute to the team as a whole.” Moving the management role away from task-by-task management and integrating team members into their groups is helping to build better relationships throughout her team, Mendez says.

“It’s not about dictating how people do things in the moment; it’s more important to be focused on long-term improvements and building the department,” she says.