Based in Washington, Ross is a general manager of a food safety company. His musings explore life, work and every moment in between.

Windshield Time

Boise’s branch meeting Wednesday was great. Eight presenters from their perspective teams covered a wide range of topics from safety to customer service. Presentations, videos, team exercises, individual exercises and some light hijinks rounded out the meeting. During my time in front of the team, I thanked them for getting together and for the unique venue – two hours from the office in Burley, Idaho. This venue allowed those located in and around the city of Boise time to travel to Burley (160 miles) to be with their teammates who work on the eastside of the state. Many carpooled and traveled together carrying both supplies for setups and other materials for the remaining six team members who occupy the burrows of Twin Falls, Burley, Idaho Falls and Sun Valley. Those fortunate enough to carpool were afforded what I call windshield time. Rare, important bonding time.

 

When we get in a car as a passenger we have implied trust onto the driver for taking us to where we are supposed to go and for getting us there safely and on time. We have made a conscience decision to trust one another. The conversations had in that space are by contrast much deeper than those held in an office or a restaurant. When we sit across from one another in these scenarios, we do not have the same mutually shared journey. We are both in the same space but maybe not headed down the same path. When we ride together in a car we are on the same journey.

 

A hidden advantage for windshield time is the lack of body language required. In typical office meetings, direct eye contact and body language are instantly read – they mean just as much as the content being shared. Sitting next to one another, this changes. Body language becomes a distant requirement. It can be easier to get to know someone and their point of view while looking out at the world. The use of body language and eye contact become emphasis instead of being center stage. Silence between remarks becomes more natural when there is shared scenery. Conversations flow. 

 

On our first date, Laura and I sat at a sushi bar. Later I realized most of that first-date nervousness was gone because the sushi chef held our shared attention. Instead of facing each other, shifting uncomfortably in our chairs, over-reading and analyzing body language, worrying about silence and making eye contact, we could enjoy the scene before us. We could more easily converse. Windshield time does this brilliantly.

 

You do not need a car to do it. My favorite way to mimic this effect is to get coffee and go for a walk. The conversation is different because the atmosphere and the people are different. This week, give it a try.

Seattle in 1989

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