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.

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.)

 

Working Out Loud in China 

If you had asked me a year ago whether China could be a good place to spread Working Out Loud, I would have had my doubts. I would have imagined how culture, language, and even technology issues might be barriers. 

Yet this week, I’m excited and optimistic about WOL in China. Here’s why.

A simple beginning

It started seven months ago with a LinkedIn request from Connie Wu. That led to a nice email exchange, and Connie saying that the book and weekly blog posts helped her to be more confident. She said she started taking advantage of more opportunities, including making her work more visible. She told me she worked at Bosch, and would join a WOL Circle soon.

We kept in touch over the next few months, and she connected with Katharine Krentz and the Bosch team in Germany who had been spreading WOL there. In May, she formed a Circle with people from different companies, including her own.

More connections

I quickly learned that Connie is someone who gets things done. At her urging, I had a WeChat account (WeChat is an instant messaging app with about a billion users, 90% of whom are Chinese), and was interacting with her Circle and other people in China. That led to more connections and a video call with over 100 people in China, including Human Resources. Connie wrote a LinkedIn post about WOL, and we began talking about a trip to Shanghai. 

When Connie's WOL Circle was about to have their 12th and final meeting, she asked if I would join, and I was quick to say yes.

The lovely "WOL Circle CN_001" in WeChat

Some wonderful possibilities

The group includes people from a wide range of professions and companies, and they each had their own goals, questions, and challenges. I was struck by how gracious and friendly they all were. The other thing they had in common was that, now that they'd experienced WOL for themselves, they wanted to spread it. 

One of them, for example, is living in Germany for a year, working at Continental where they already have WOL Circles. Perhaps he could help spread it for the company in China, just as Connie might do for Bosch? Another woman is involved in venture capital and innovation. Perhaps she could use WOL to reach more start-ups and also help them build their own networks?

They asked, “When are you coming to China?” and we talked about about things we could do together, like translating the guides into Mandarin; a certification program so I could “train-the-trainer” and they could scale their WOL efforts locally; and even a public event so we could reach more companies.

I thought about what a tiny miracle this all was - meeting such a wonderful group of people on the other side of the planet and talking about collaboration possibilities - and how it all started with a simple message. I’m grateful to Connie for sending that message, and I'm excited about what’s next.