Celebrating 5 WOL Coaches

Back in February, in a post about how WOL could scale, I announced the first people I was working with in a formal way to deliver talks, workshops, and other training related to Working Out Loud. It was an experiment at the time, but it has worked so well that it’s now grown into something much more.

The new site for Certified WOL Coaches refers to them as “A global network of highly-skilled facilitators.” The five people listed have all contributed to the WOL Community for years. I work closely with each of them, and am inspired both by what they do and how they do it.

Sabine Kluge

Alexander Kluge

Katharina Krentz

Barbara Schmidt

Mara Tolja

I want to thank Sabine, Alexander, Katharina, Barbara, and Mara for their trust, and for the many ways they have made Working Out Loud better. In the future there will be other coaches in other places, and it will be hard to match the experience and commitment of these five people. 

workingoutloud.com now in German

It’s fitting that I’m writing this on a train from Bonn to Stuttgart. I’m heading to #WOLCON18, a joint event organized by Bosch and Daimler for 400 of their employees.

It’s a good time to announce the newly bi-lingual version of workingoutloud.com. You can now toggle between German and English by using the new language switcher in the upper right-hand corner, and it should work on your phone as well. (There are still a few pages being translated, and more content I intend to add.)

I’m often asked, “Why is WOL big in Germany?” I usually respond that there’s nothing particularly German about the method. It’s just that Bosch, based in Stuttgart, was the first company to embrace it. That was three years ago, and they ignited a trend in their home country. Since then, they spread it to employees in over 45 countries, and WOL is now in a wide range of organizations around the world, from corporations and non-profits to schools and governmental groups.

Almost from the beginning, local communities sprang up where people would share their experiences with WOL or look for Circle members. (These are in addition to the WOL groups I created on Facebook and LinkedIn.) There’s a Yammer group in German, and a @WOL_de Twitter account. There was also an early attempt at a German website that proved difficult to maintain, and having up-to-date information was my main reason for finally making workingoutloud.com bi-lingual.  

For sure, these groups help raise awareness and create a sense of connection for German speakers, and I’m grateful for that. I’m also grateful to Claudia Kaspereit for her translation work on the website, and to the Bosch team for the first-ever WOL translation of the Circle Guides a few years ago. 

Having the website available in another language is just a small, long-overdue step. But each time WOL content is translated into other languages - the Circle Guides, journals, book, subtitles on videos - we are able to reach more people. That makes each step worth it.


WOL Circle Guides now in Italian!

I never met my grandparents, Vito and Angelina Bruno. They emigrated from Piaggine, Italy to New York City about a hundred years ago by boat. No jobs, not much money or education, unable to speak English. I suspect they would be thrilled about this latest development: WOL in Italy.

 The first Circle members in Bologna sharing their experiences with an audience

The first Circle members in Bologna sharing their experiences with an audience

I first heard from Samantha Gubellini in February of this year. She works at a management consulting firm, SCS Consulting, and she told me she hoped to do a pro bono experiment with the city council in Bologna, applying the WOL method in a “smart city program.” As part of that test, they would translate the guides into Italian. 

The first Circles just ended, and Circle members recently shared their personal experiences in a gorgeous room in Bologna. Below are two translated snippets from posts on LinkedIn. (See here, here, and here for some of the original posts in Italian.)

“During the 12 weeks we laughed, we cried, we celebrated the progress, shared the failures and we supported ourselves to overcome the obstacles. We have learned the basics of working aloud, but we do not want to stop here: our intention, and our challenge, is to continue to use these tools in our professional and personal path.” 

“What was WOL for me? So many things.. Live the emotions without brakes, understand the point of view of your colleagues, share the experiences - even the deepest, but above all show yourself without being judged! I laughed, I cried, I discussed, I shared.. In practice I opened the heart to people who until recently were unknown!” 

It was Teresa Arneri and Maria Chiara Guardo who took on the extraordinary work of translating the thirteen Circle Guides, and they’re now publicly available. Teresa wrote me a note about what motivated her to do it.

“As you could seen on LinkedIn,  the WOL experience ended in one of the most beautiful and emotional ways!

The WOL Circle Groups’ testimonials were impressive and able to spread the importance of WOL to those who still didn’t know anything about the project. The result was quite surprising, as we know that the WOL method is something difficult to convey! But the audience showed enthusiasm and seem to understand this innovative approach.

Since the beginning, when I first met the WOL methodology while surfing on the web, I immediately felt that this kind of practice was meant to be successful. In fact, the methodology plays with such elements that no other classical training (that also teaches how to build collaboration) is able to transmit.

WOL is based on simple, common things that are part of a system of natural rules that human beings have acquired since the beginning of time, in order to be able to coexist and survive within a community.

This is for me the power of WOL. Therefore it was impossible to not collaborate to the spread of this method by our contribution of the Italian translation of the guides! 

Thank you so much John (Giovanni) 😊

Teresa”

I hope to meet Teresa, Maria, and Samanta in Bologna someday, and give them my thanks in person, along with a heartfelt “Grazie mille!” from Vito and Angelina.

WOL Circle Guides now in Dutch

As I began to write this post about the Dutch translation project, I looked again at the letter that Marc Van De Velde wrote telling me the work was complete. After reading it several times, I realized there were no better words than his, and so I include his note in full below. His last paragraph on his motivation for doing it is especially powerful.

My only addition is to add my personal thanks to Marc, Annemie, Geert, Frederik, Natasja, Saskia, and Jeroen for their translation, and to Peter for his review of it. It is a tremendous effort, inspired solely by their desire to help others.

Annemie told me, “I am proud to have participated in this project. Grateful and happy to have met beautiful people who I trust deeply.” What a truly wonderful collaboration. I hope to thank them all in person some day.

***

“Amazed by the first steps I set myself in relation to Working Out Loud, I saw the richness that the Working Out Loud method has to offer to other individuals, teams, and companies. I also became convinced that it would be beneficial for many Dutch-speaking people to have the circle guides in their own native language. 
Triggered by the initiatives from Fiona Michaux and Tiago Caldas who translated the guides into French and Portugese, I contacted you in the beginning of this year to see whether you would agree that I would launch such an initiative. 
Grateful to have received your formal agreement I’ve launched a request for help on the WOL-facebook page and other networks I was involved in. I was proud that a group of six people responded enthusiastic and committed to help me out on this project. With the help from Fiona Michaux I was introduced to the way she and her team approached this translation into French so that our NL-team could have a head-start in our own translation project. 
On March 20th of this year I held the formal kick-off for our WOL-NL-Translation-project together with Annemie Martens, Geert Nijs, Frederik Maesen, Natasja van Schaik, Saskia Wenniger and Jeroen Brands. As a team we discussed on how to approach this project and divided work amongst each other. As in any project, also this project was not spared the difficulties and problems that we had to solve as a team. Every member did what she/he could in order to complete this project and to deliver a great result to you. 
Before delivering our work to you, the Dutch circle guides have been reviewed by Peter De Troch and are currently tested within the company Annemie is working for. 
I’m proud that we made it work as I am with the result achieved. I feel humble as I’m allowed by the team to deliver our great result to you and hope that you also like what we’ve done and that you will make the Dutch version of the circle guides available on the Working Out Loud website. As you will notice we’ve also tried to respect the original layout as much as possible although we’re aware that it might still need some corrections in order to be delivered in a final version. 
As to the question “Why we’ve done this?” I think I speak for the all team in saying that we have done this project out of generosity towards the growing WOL community while at the same time being convinced that this will help others in experiencing the fun and effect of Working Out Loud. Working as a team felt as in participating in a WOL-circle in which we all experienced how great it is to work with peers who are their to help and support the other when facing a problem, issue or difficulty. In being part of this each one has built on the intimacy level with other team members so we became more closely related with each other. As a result of this we’re now even explore on how we can do more things together.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to initiate this project.
Marc"

***

Annemie Martens

Frederik Maesen

Geert Nijs (Author of "De netwerkexpeditie. Slimmer samenwerken met sociale technologie" available November 2018)

Jeroen Brands

Marc Van de Velde

Natasja van Schaik

Peter De Troch

Saskia Wenniger

Thank you very much in Dutch.png

 

 

Introducing a new kind of Circle: WOL-SC

For people who have participated in a WOL Circle, a common question is, ”What comes next?” Many people want to keep going, so some join another Circle with new members. Others just continue to meet every so often, updating and supporting each other. 

Now there’s another option. It’s a new way to deepen the insights and practice you began developing in your WOL Circle, and it’s called WOL-SC.

 

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What is WOL-SC?

The “SC” in “WOL-SC” can stand for many things: “Self-Care,” “Self-Compassion,” “SuperCharge,” or whatever other label you can come up with that expresses a sense of investing in yourself and and developing important skills. In many ways, a WOL-SC Circle can be thought of as a prequel to a WOL Circle. Whereas Working Out Loud improves how you relate to others, WOL-SC helps you improve how you relate to yourself.

WOL-SC is comprised of five discrete practices that you experiment with one after the other. Without exaggeration, these practices have changed my life. When I compare my current self to myself in years past, I am happier and calmer. I act with more confidence and clarity. I am a better father, husband, and friend. WOL-SC is an attempt to distill what I’ve learned from years of experiments aimed at improving my own work and life. It is not meant as a prescription that will work for everyone, or to presume that anyone should do what I do. Rather, it's offered in the spirit of “this helped me, and I hope you find it useful too.”

The main ideas are not new. The WOL-SC Circle Guides are all based on ancient wisdom, much of it thousands of years old and increasingly supported by scientific research. My intended contribution is to make it easier for anyone to apply these fundamentally good practices till they become habits, so more people can realize the many well-documented benefits.

How does it compare to a WOL Circle?

If you have already been in a WOL Circle, then certain aspects of WOL-SC will be familiar to you. You will meet as a group of four or five. It will be a psychologically safe, confidential space without judgment or competition. Your Circle can meet in person or via video across locations, and there will be guides with instructions on what to do in those meetings.

Beyond that, there are several important differences. You will meet only once a month for six months. You will do daily exercises on your own each month, and your meetings will be for you to share what happened and to prepare for a different practice the next month.

Also, unlike a WOL Circle, there is no goal or relationship list. The practices are largely focused on yourself. The only goals are to develop greater self-awareness and mindfulness. These are the keys to realizing more of your potential as well as a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness. The reason for the Circle meetings is that the structure, shared accountability, and support can help each person make progress. Also, reflecting on and exchanging experiences each month can advance your learning. 

Better for you. Better for your organization.

The personal benefits of the five practices in WOL-SC have been thoroughly studied and documented, and the new Circle Guides include resources to help you explore further and learn more. But there are benefits for organizations, too. Companies clearly recognize the need to do more to help employees handle the strains of work and life. Every company I've met with, for example, has a Wellness at Work or Mindfulness program. And hundreds of companies are spreading Working Out Loud Circles, proving that they are willing to create a safe, confidential space for employees to develop themselves.

What if we could build on that, and use Circles to enhance employees' focus, self-control, and stress management while helping them be kinder and happier? How many people would benefit if all those wellness programs had a new method that was easy to implement and spread? 

If you would like to be the first to try it…

I’ve been toying with this idea for a few years. While staying in Japan this summer, I finally drafted a set of guides that are ready to test, but not yet ready to publish. For the first experiment, I’d like to form 3 Circles, comprised of people I don’t know well and all of whom have been in at least one WOL Circle. We will start in September.

  • Circle #1 would meet in person in New York City, and I would be a member. So I would need four volunteers who live in or near NYC.
  • Circle #2 would meet via video and would span timezones. I would be a member of this Circle too, so I would need four volunteers from different countries.
  • Circle #3 would not include me. This will help me understand if the new guides are self-explanatory and what changes I may need to make. For this Circle, I would need five volunteers who would meet via video (unless five people in the same location volunteer as a group).

If you would like to volunteer for the WOL-SC experiment, send me an email at john.stepper@workingoutloud.com and let me know if you have a preference for which Circle you’d like to join. This is version 1.0 of something that may take many iterations to get right, but I am committed to working on it and to making the guides available for free. I appreciate your interest and support.

WOL Circle Guides now in Spanish

When Barbara Wietasch first told me she wanted to translate the Circle Guides into Spanish, I was confused. We had corresponded a few months earlier, and I remembered she was German, living in Vienna. She even blogs in German

She explained, “I lived 14 years in Madrid studying and living and working within the Spanish culture. So my emotional part is always there.” My next question was, "Why would you volunteer to take on such an extraordinary project?"

“I believe in agile work and want to make the world and organizations a better place to live, and I’m sure that WOL is an important method….a clear structure, a method, and a mindset of “who gives – wins.” I’m a fan of WOL and feel like an ambassador, having the need to spread and share it.”

She reached out to Spanish-speaking friends in Madrid, Vienna, and Munich and came into contact with new people who wanted to contribute. Gabriela participated because she “firmly believes in collaborative work and work methodologies such as WOL." Ana volunteered because of her own experience in a Circle. 

“I think WOL is really good. The change of mindset and how it worked for me in the first two weeks made it already worth it. My network is already larger than it had been before and my working area is known better only by doing WOL.”

Julia is someone I have written about before. She contributed so more people could experience the benefits.

“I am a great fan/follower of WOL and I have not thought twice when I saw they were looking for people to translate it into Spanish. I think there are many people who feel more comfortable reading in their native language and I wanted to support facilitating the dissemination of WOL in Spanish speaking countries.”

Daniella, who worked on the Portuguese translation and who used her Circles to do amazing things, said, 

“When I heard Barbara was putting together a team for translating the guides to Spanish, I did not hesitate in activating my network and bringing together some amazing women. Again, another wonderful team was formed that contributed to spread Working Out Loud! It was a great experience.”

In total, a dozen people self-organized around an idea they care about, and created something that can help hundreds or even thousands. I’m grateful to all of them for these new Circle Guides, and hope to thank each of them in person someday. 

Team Members:

Barbara Wietasch - Coordination & translation

Juan Salgado Bito – Proof reading

Daniella Cunha Teichert – Layout

Translators:

Rosa Reyero

Rosa Maria García Torres

Julia Flug

Julia Bustamante

Dolores Santiago

Jose Manuel Benedetti

Perla Saucedo

Gabriela Melicchio

Ana Belén Salcines

Muchas gracias.png

WOL Circle Guides now in Mandarin

I’m writing this overlooking Changfeng Park in Shanghai, and it all seems like a bit of a miracle to me. 

I first wrote about Working Out Loud in China in September of last year, after Connie Wu had me join her WOL Circle via WeChat. Little did I know that I would travel to Beijing and Shanghai, work with companies and a business school there, and see the Circle Guides in Mandarin

Now you know why I’ve begun calling her “The unstoppable Connie Wu.”

After her experience in a Circle, Connie wanted to help others have that same experience, that same feeling of confidence and connection. So she organized a team of 20 volunteers to translate the guides, and now they’re ready

Every one of these people has a busy work or school schedule (or both), and yet, motivated simply by the desire to help others, they generously worked to make the material accessible to more people in China.

I met Connie in person for the first time this week, and met her daughter and other members of the translation team. They’re smart, kind, determined people. I can imagine many more miracles in the future.

Chen Chanyu (Aimee)

Chen Jing (Lynn)

Chen Qin

Chen Yanyan (Dora)

Fan Yingying 

Fu Haoxuan

Liu Yi

Meng Na (Mona)

Pan Jiaqi (Olivia)

Shen Jie (Jane)

Shi Jing (Ivy) 

Wang Hui (Emma)

Wu Chuanjuan (Connie)

Xia Yunxin

Yang Mengyun (Daisy) 

Zhang Lingli (Angela)

Zhou Diya (Delia)

Zhou Jing

Thank you in Mandarin - Xie Xie.png

“The bird which doesn’t hide itself gets shot” 

Next week, I’ll deliver a talk and workshop in Beijing, and it will be my first time there. A month later, I’ll go to Shanghai for a different company, and be part of a public Working Out Loud event on June 23rd. A woman who grew up in China commented about it on LinkedIn.

“I am curious how the WOL culture goes with Chinese culture. I was told to be “modest” when I was a kid - don’t show it even if you are good... And we have sayings like “the bird which doesn’t hide itself gets shot”.

That saying stuck in my memory. There are other translations, and there are similar expressions in other countries. Sometimes it’s "the shot hits the bird that pokes its head out” (枪打出头鸟) or “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down” (出る釘は打たれる). Common interpretations are that conformity is valued over individuality, and that being open is somehow inappropriate or risky. ”Standing out invites criticism."

My first reaction to her comment was that it's your intention that matters. Indeed, it makes all the difference.

“Expressions like those are why WOL emphasizes the need to lead with generosity, to frame your work as a contribution that might help others.”

The “WOL culture” isn’t about trying to stand out or show how remarkable you are, but about being helpful, about leading with generosity as a way to build authentic relationships. If it feels fake or isn’t offered as a contribution, it isn’t WOL.  A post on Twitter yesterday highlighted this different:

“I expected #WOL to be all self promotion: look at me, how to get attention for what you are working on. [Instead] the focus was on was being empathetic, encouraging and helping others. Complete polar opposite.”

In China, WOL may not be as foreign as one might think. For example, they already embrace the concept of guanxi (关系),  "a central idea in Chinese society” that's related to “personalized social networks of influence…[in which] there is an emphasis on implicit mutual obligations, reciprocity, and trust.” Working Out Loud can be a way to extend this idea, making the networks even more open, and the relationships based more on empathy and giving freely than on obligation. As another Chinese expression says, "If you always give, you will always have.” (如果你总是给你永远拥有)

Are there differences between cultures? Yes. Is China different than Europe or the US? Yes. But “culture” comprises a wide range of human behaviors across huge numbers of people, and 1.3 billion people don’t fit comfortably into a single box. We have much more in common than the labels and expressions might lead us to believe, including our capacity for generosity and our need to build meaningful connections.

I’m looking forward to my visit.

WOL Circle Guides now in Portuguese

I’m not sure which is more amazing to me, that the Circle Guides are now in Portuguese or how those translations were done. 

A few months ago, I wrote about Tiago Caldas in Sao Paolo who wanted to translate the guides and spread Circles in his company and country. He made his intention visible online, and Portuguese-speaking people from around the world decided to join him, like Gleyce in Munich. 

“Why I have contributed to this project? When I first saw Tiago's post in the WOL community in LinkedIn asking for support to translate the guides into Portuguese, I immediately thought: how nice is that!?
Since WOL is based on generosity, I saw his post as an opportunity to keep the generosity ball rolling! As a bonus I got the opportunity to expand my network with others WOLies in Brazil and Germany that I hope to meet in person soon.”

The group grew to 11 people from multiple countries, and from companies including ZF, Bosch, Daimler, Airbus, and Schaeffler. They’re all busy professionals, yet something drove them to volunteer and take on this extra work. Daniella from Bosch wrote to me explaining why she did it.

“3 things have moved me to join the translation group:
1.       I wanted to contribute to spreading the WOL method to a wider audience, specially Brazil which is in dear need of a positive cultural transformation movement.
2.       I wanted to help the Portuguese-speaking community to better engage their emotions, having the guides in their mother-language when they are going through their WOL journey.
3.       I wanted to experience cross-company collaboration and to get to know amazing, engaged people from other companies to reach something together.
I would like to thank Tiago for the organization of the group and all the participants for the TOP engagement! It was fun, let us continue our cooperation! On an individual level our resources maybe limited, but together we can move mountains!!”

Though these people are working in very different environments, they share two things in common: their love for Brazil and their generosity. Danilo told me, "I fully agree with Tiago when he says that it will be very useful for Brazilians, assisting us to have one organized tool for development. Let's make it happen.”

When Tiago sent me the guides, he said, “I feel very good working for something that will help a lot of people to develop themselves and connect to a new world of possibilities. WOL captured in us this sense of how we feel good in being generous.”

Generous indeed! I am extremely grateful to this wonderful group of people for their tremendous contribution. I hope these guides help spark a WOL movement in Brazil and beyond, and that I get to thank each of the translators in person someday.

Ademir de Souza

Caroline Bremberger

Daniella Cunha Teichert

Danilo Diniz Cintra

Fabrício de Almeida Mozer

Gleyce Kastl Lima

Isabel Duarte

João Senise

Patricia Coelho dos Santos Nascimento

Sergio Scabar

Tiago Caldas

A cross-company WOL event in Shanghai on June 28, 2018

It all started with a phone call from Connie Wu. After her experience in the first WOL Circle in China, she wanted to spread Working Out Loud to more companies there. So she reached out to the dean of the business school she had attended, connected the three of us on WeChat, and together we came up with an idea.

Though we’re still in the planning stages, we're committed to the project. By sharing what we intend to do we hope to include more people and make the plans even better.

The main idea

Originally, I thought a simple event for multiple companies would be a good way to introduce WOL and launch WOL Circles. For global companies already spreading WOL, the event would give them a way to expand the movement in China. For others, it would give them an easy way to experiment with it.

It was Prof. William Hua Wang, the dean of the EM Lyon business school in Shanghai, who suggested we turn it into a kind of case study. We would still aim to launch Circles, but the business school would collect data before, during, and afterwards to measure effectiveness. I would also offer coaching webinars at several points throughout the 12 weeks.

Some details

This isn’t a marketing event, it's a learning event. We want to discover how and why WOL could help individuals and organizations in China. Over the course of a full, interactive day, there will be talks and workshops from a range of practitioners to help people understand and experience WOL, and to decide if they’d like to participate in a Circle and in the case study.

The date is Thursday, June 28th. We expect several large companies to join, and perhaps 100 or so attendees. In anticipation of the event, we’ll translate the guides into Mandarin and adapt them so they refer to more relevant tools and examples.

The case study data should help us understand whether cultural differences affect the adoption of the practice, and how we might handle those differences. For example, in Chinese culture there’s the concept of guanxi (关系) - social networks built on “implicit mutual obligations, reciprocity, and trust.” Would Working Out Loud complement or conflict with this idea? Besides translating guides into Mandarin, what other adjustments would we need to make?

If you or your colleagues are near Shanghai on June 28th…

I’m fascinated by the prospects for WOL in China. After all, more and more companies have employees, customers, partners, and suppliers there. And even if only 1% of the people in China Work Out Loud, that’s more than 13 million people. Learning how to better collaborate in and with China - how to develop a deeper sense of relatedness - is both interesting and valuable. 

If you or your organization is interested in attending the event, or would like to be part of the planning, please contact me at john.stepper@workingoutloud.com. I hope to see you there.

謝謝 (Thank you.)