The best way to build your network is working out loud, and the best way to actually practice working out loud is to form a Working Out Loud circle. Based on feedback from the first wave of circles, there are new circle guides available today, and the best way just got a bit better.
What’s a WOL circle?
So far, there are over 100 circles where I work, and there will be over 1000 of them across companies in time for WOLWeek in November 2015. (There are circles in 10 countries so far.) Here’s a short description:
A Working Out Loud circle is a small peer support group in which you pick a goal and build a network of relationships that can help you with that goal.
Groups meet for an hour a week for 12 weeks. By the end of your 12 weeks in a circle, you’ll have developed a larger, more diverse network and a set of habits you can apply toward any goal.
Feedback from the first wave of circles
I got the chance to join many circles in their fourth week and after their last meeting, and I asked them what was working and not working. People usually found the experience valuable, offering comments like these:
“After just one WOL Circle meeting, I was already feeling more connected with my colleagues and more encouraged about my career. I believe at the end of 12 weeks, I will be well on my way to new habits to accomplish my goal.”
“We are in our fourth circle week and having a blast. It is clear and concise and motivating…I honestly feel empowered to own my success and not wait for it to come knocking.”
But there was room for improvement. For example, I had originally provided detailed instructions for only the first three weeks. I figured people would make progress at different paces and would be better offer following their own agenda from weeks 4 through 12. I was wrong. Most circle members told me they preferred having clear instructions each week.
I also noticed that I was asking people to do too much too soon, and that made the process less enjoyable for some than it could and should be. After all, circles are based on small steps, practiced over time, with feedback and peer support.
Circle Guides 3.0 (and beyond)
The new guides include a simple set of instructions for each of the 12 weeks. I wanted to balance making the guide stand on its own - even for people who haven’t read Working Out Loud - with keeping each section short and simple. Each part of the guide now includes a clear objective, suggested agenda, exercises, discussion points, and answers to common questions - and it can still fit on 2 double-sided sheets of paper.
I’m publishing the first four parts here and the rest by the end of August 2015, to allow time for feedback (and to finish writing them!).
My intent is to keep refining the circle experience to make it ever simpler and more engaging.
If you want to form a circle…
So far, the circles spread via career events inside organizations and via personal book clubs. We're considering other ways to spread them too - e.g., including circles as part of an outplacement firm’s array of support services, offering an online course, or having a “circle finder” to help match people.
What would make it easier for you to form a circle? Or to spread them at your organization?
Your feedback on the guides and your suggestions help more people access a better career and life. Thank you.