WOL Circle Guides now in French

An incredibly dedicated group of volunteers wanted to make it easier for French speakers to Work Out Loud, so over the past few months they translated the WOL Circle Guides

It’s a tremendous amount of effort. In addition to the work of translating, proofreading, and editing, there are all the challenges of navigating the different opinions, work styles, and busy schedules of people in different companies and countries. 

I asked them, “Why would you do such a thing?” Most said it was because they enjoyed their WOL Circle, and they wanted to help others experience it. 

“Having the WOL Circle Guides in French will open the potential of the WOL Method to our colleagues and beyond.”
“I hope that the French WOL method will spread a new way of collaborating as we did for the translation. This shows how it is possible to go ahead together without knowing each other.”

They wrote a blog post about what they did, and I smiled at the last lines. 

“Now the guides are ready to be read in the language of Molière, and I hope it will touch many persons and increase the chances they benefit from the method.
It doesn’t feel like the end but rather, as Humphrey Bogart said to Louis Renault in the movie Casablanca, it’s “the beginning of a beautiful friendship” between WOL and the French-speaking community.”

I am deeply grateful to everyone who contributed, and look forward to thanking each of the them in person someday. I hope these guides help spark a WOL movement in France and beyond.

Translations:

Christine Montes

Fiona Michaux

Marie Dalleur

Marie-Anne Schroeder

Proofreading & more:

Aude Latreille

Celine Sauriac

Charline Lomba

Howard Joanne

Malika Boussetta

Marc Van de Velde

Monique Roullet

Vincent Kosiba

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 5.43.12 PM.png

It can be as easy as this

Peter was at a work event, and needed information on a topic that was unfamiliar to him. He had done some research online, and now he was looking for advice.

If you were Peter, what would you do next?

Giving & receiving

You might keep on searching and reading. That’s not a bad strategy. Or you might ask some people at the event or send a few emails to people you think might know something. Instead, Peter posted a simple question on a community site related to the topic. The topic was Working Out Loud. 

“At this very moment I am facilitating a networking event around #NewWork at Deutsche Bahn. One specific session just strived to understand #WOL. Any help or advise is highly appreciated. We have the rest of today plus tomorrow and would love to get started in that timeframe. What immediate first steps would you recommend?”

Within a few minutes he had responses from people in three different cities and companies. Within a few hours, people from Deutsche Bank, Bosch, and BMW as well as independent consultants all offered suggestions and asked questions. As the world turned, more people joined from five different countries. Many more people viewed and reacted to the post.

One of the commenters actually drove to the event to bring Peter a copy of Working Out Loud.

Peter started the discussion by simply offering his attention and vulnerability - “We’re working on this and interested in what you do. Could you help us?” - and the community responded with specific, constructive advice, encouragement, and even a sense of humor.

Maybe it ends there, with a nice discussion. Or maybe Peter tapped into a valuable practice he can spread inside his company and a global network that can help him - all with a simple contribution. It can be as easy as this.

Simon Terry, consultant and leader of Change Agents Worldwide, summed up what many of us in the discussion were thinking.

The list Santa never made

The list Santa never made“After all this time,” my friend said, “I think I finally understand what you mean by ‘contribution.’” Then she told me a story. She had thought of something that would be useful for an important person in her network. She worked hard on it, sent a nice note, and felt certain this would help deepen the relationship.

Then she got no response.

How would you feel? What would you do next?

An annual ritual in my house

My mother was a generous woman. We didn’t have much money, but she always managed to have something for people. It might be cookies or bread she baked. Or cologne or soap from the burgeoning inventory of Avon products she sold.

She also sent out Christmas cards each year with a personal note. She kept  list, and next to each person’s name, she checked off who sent her cards in return. If there wasn’t a check next to your name, you wouldn’t get a card next year.

A simple self-test

Perhaps you would agree with my mom’s score-keeping strategy. Or maybe you think it’s childish to withhold such a small gift for lack of a response. So consider this everyday situation:

What do you think when you open a door for someone and they don’t say “thank you”?

Would you open that door for the same person again?

When you smile at the universe

My friend was irritated. She told me how she fumed for a few days, thinking of various personality flaws that might explain the person’s lack of gratitude and, even worse, lack of acknowledgement.

But a gift with strings attached isn’t a gift. It’s bait, trying to lure the person to do something. It’s something many of us get wrong and so in our working out loud circles we practice what to do when we don’t get a response, whether you’re offering help or asking for it:

“We assume the best of people – they’re simply busy or have some other legitimate reason – and we focus on what else we can do to be helpful. That mindset ensures your requests don’t feel like burdens and makes it much more likely people will respond favorably in the future.”

With this approach, your contributions feel like an invitation, not an imposition.

After our talk, my friend simply let it go. She stopped making up stories, she mentally untied the strings from her gift, and she felt better about what she had done and about the person she had done it for.

The next day she got a response. A thoughtful, lovely, generous note.

Sometimes, when you smile at the universe, the universe smiles back.

A gift from Imabari

An encounter with an old woman in a small Japanese port city taught me a lesson about giving and receiving gifts, and what the word contribution can mean. I was with my good friend Greg on our annual trip to some of the most wondrous parts of Japan. After several stops in Shikoku, we were heading to the Seto Islands and needed to catch a ferry in Imabari, a place famous for towels of all things. Imabari no taoru would be appreciated by our relatives in Kobe and Tokyo, and we bought some in a small store dedicated to this source of local pride.

Greg purchased our tickets. He’s fluent in Japanese and can navigate the complex timetables and transportation options whereas I’m limited to basic transactions like ordering food. We waited by ourselves near the water.

After a few minutes, an old woman with a cane and several bags approached us and started talking. She was at least 80 years old, perhaps much older. I couldn’t understand her and my first instinct was that she wanted something from us. But Greg explained she was just making small talk. Then she fished inside her purse, pulled out a small wooden carving, and handed it Greg.

The Gift from Imabari

She told us that her husband carved them and she liked to hand them out to people who would be traveling or living abroad. Her husband liked knowing that his small creations were spreading around the world, and she was pleased that I was from New York. So she looked for another one to give to me. After a fruitless search in her large bag (“I always carry more with me,” she said, disappointedly) she unstrapped the one from her mobile phone and handed it to me.

We thanked her but felt compelled to offer her something in return. Greg asked if we could pay for them. She looked at him soberly, “If you give me money, I can’t let you have them.”

We quickly recovered from our blunder and talked a bit more about the carvings before the ferry came. The boat filled with schoolchildren as we made stops at several islands, and I marveled at the gorgeous scenery and at a life where people commuted this way.

A different way to commute

Our destination was a small island called Yuge. As we exited the boat, I saw the old woman, by herself, carrying her bags and her cane and heading up the steep ramp. I ran up to her calling “Sumimasen!”  ("Excuse me!"), and carried her things. At the top of the ramp, we smiled, bowed towards each other, and said goodbye.

Now, I carry that little wooden carving wherever I go. It reminds me of the gifts available to me every day, and that I can experience connections and other beautiful moments if only I’m open to accepting them.

Yuge

I like to think we gave her a different kind of gift, our own small contribution. I imagine her coming home, relating a story about the two foreigners she met at the Imabari ferry, and telling her husband that two of his creations would be going on a journey soon.

#thankyouthursday

Every Thursday at work, I take a few minutes and think of someone I would like to thank publicly. Then I write a short post on our enterprise social network and tag it with #thankyouthursday. Over time, more people at work are offering thanks that way too. It’s not an original idea. There’s a thankyouthursday.org and a Facebook group and, of course, the fourth Thursday of every November in the US.

My hope is that this post will help you implement your own version of #thankyouthursday at your company or with your friends and family.

Solving the recognition paradox

Inside large organizations, there’s a recognition paradox. Everyone says there should be more recognition of people and their good work, but few people do anything about it. Instead of thanking and recognizing each other, we limit ourselves to Recognition Programs created by Human Resources.

But in an era of self-publishing, it’s easier than ever to change this.

In a recent session on twitter, people who work with social networks inside companies came together online and one topic was about the simple contributions people can make. That reminded me of #thankyouthursday.

thankyouthursday tweet

Steal Like An Artist

About 18 months ago, I wrote about another idea I hoped would spread. Inspired by Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist, I adapted a kind of discussion on Reddit called Ask Me Anything for use inside our firm.

Since then, over 80 executives have participated in open online discussions where anyone at the company can ask them anything. Those discussions are often rich and authentic, with dozens of questions and thousands of people looking on.

Better still, many other firms now use the same technique. They too stole like artists, further adapting Ask Me Anythings to suit their particular organizations. Now I hope the same thing happens with #thankyouthursday.

Creating your own culture of gratitude

Every week, reading all the different notes makes me feel better about where I work and feel more connected to the people there. The small investment I make thanking someone is repaid 100-fold.

To get this feeling yourself, you don’t need to wait for anyone to give you permission or create a program. Just start by scheduling a few minutes every Thursday. Then say thank you in a way that’s convenient and authentic for you. Here are simple instructions from thankyouthursday.org:

“Every Thursday, take an intentional moment to acknowledge those who you are thankful for. Send an email, post a note on Facebook, send them a message on Twitter, give them a call, stop by their desk… etc.

Simply take the time to thank those who have impacted you in big or small ways.”

Say thank you. Whether you do this with friends and family or at work, you’ll be creating your own culture of gratitude that’s good for everyone.

thankyouthursday tag

Approaching people who are smarter, busier, and more important than you

Approaching the Wizard One of the reasons many of us don’t have larger networks is we’re uncomfortable approaching people we don’t know. Here, for example, is a comment on last week’s post about relationships:

“It may sound stupid but the biggest impediment to my reaching out to experts I admire comes from a set of tapes in my head that they are too important, busy and clever to have time for a stranger. I think it’s an age and female thing – as my Millennial colleagues have no problem reaching out to anyone.”

Well, I’ve had that same fear, too. “Why would they want to talk with me?” In the coaching I do I find it’s a feeling almost all of us share - and one we can easily overcome.

What are we afraid of?

Part of my own problem was my sense of what traditional networking involved. Even excellent books on networking like “Never Eat Alone” contained chapters like “The Genius of Audacity”, “Warming the Cold Call”, and how to “Be a Conference Commando”.

The chapter headings alone made me uncomfortable.

There could be deeper reasons, too. Perhaps the commenter and I have self-esteem problems. Or we fear rejection so much we avoid making contact all together. Or we’re guilty of a fundamental attribution error that causes us to attribute superpowers to people we don’t know.

3 things to practice

Whatever the root cause, I’ve found being mindful of 3 questions changes how I feel when I approach someone.

  1. What would my reaction be if I were them?
  2. Why should they care?
  3. Why am I doing this?

The first question leads to empathy. It makes more mindful of the actions I take and the words I use. As Henry Ford observed almost 100 years ago:

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”

The second question leads to generosity. What is it I have to offer this person? The gift should be genuine and appropriate for the level of our relationship. Before approaching someone for the first time, I always check if they have an online presence or have published something I could read since genuine appreciation of someone’s work is a simple gift everyone likes receiving.

The third question leads to confidence. Examining my motives helps me avoid being manipulative, insincere, or otherwise avoid doing something I’m uncomfortable with. Seth Godin described “the sound of confidence":

“It's a blend of two things. "I'd really like to help you," and, "If this isn't for you, that's okay, there are others it might be a better match for."

Generosity, not arrogance. Problem-solving, not desperation. Helpfulness, not selfishness.”

When I’ve done my best to put myself in the other person’s position and I know my gift is genuine, I can be confident instead of afraid. Yes, they may not reply and might even reject me outright. But, as Seth Godin also says:

“It's arrogant to assume that you've made something so extraordinary that everyone everywhere should embrace it...Finding the humility to happily walk away from those that don't get it unlocks our ability to do great work.”

“Geeze, it works”

I’m coaching a woman in Germany and I could sense her trepidation on the phone as we were going through her list of people she wanted to know. She’s smart, creative, and charming yet the mere idea of contacting a stranger made her anxious.

But with those 3 questions in mind, she sent a note to someone and  was happy and surprised when she got a response right away. It even included a warm thank you. “Geeze, it works ;)” she wrote me, “And I was so nervous to just approach them unasked..”

It was only in my mid-forties when I started realizing that the person behind the curtain is just a person. No matter how smart, busy, or important they may seem, they have needs and wants like everyone else. When you lead with empathy and generosity that’s free of attachment, your fear melts away and you can approach anyone.

Approaching people who are smarter, busier, and more important than you

Approaching the Wizard One of the reasons many of us don’t have larger networks is we’re uncomfortable approaching people we don’t know. Here, for example, is a comment on last week’s post about relationships:

“It may sound stupid but the biggest impediment to my reaching out to experts I admire comes from a set of tapes in my head that they are too important, busy and clever to have time for a stranger. I think it’s an age and female thing – as my Millennial colleagues have no problem reaching out to anyone.”

Well, I’ve had that same fear, too. “Why would they want to talk with me?” In the coaching I do I find it’s a feeling almost all of us share - and one we can easily overcome.

What are we afraid of?

Part of my own problem was my sense of what traditional networking involved. Even excellent books on networking like “Never Eat Alone” contained chapters like “The Genius of Audacity”, “Warming the Cold Call”, and how to “Be a Conference Commando”.

The chapter headings alone made me uncomfortable.

There could be deeper reasons, too. Perhaps the commenter and I have self-esteem problems. Or we fear rejection so much we avoid making contact all together. Or we’re guilty of a fundamental attribution error that causes us to attribute superpowers to people we don’t know.

3 things to practice

Whatever the root cause, I’ve found being mindful of 3 questions changes how I feel when I approach someone.

  1. What would my reaction be if I were them?
  2. Why should they care?
  3. Why am I doing this?

The first question leads to empathy. It makes more mindful of the actions I take and the words I use. As Henry Ford observed almost 100 years ago:

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”

The second question leads to generosity. What is it I have to offer this person? The gift should be genuine and appropriate for the level of our relationship. Before approaching someone for the first time, I always check if they have an online presence or have published something I could read since genuine appreciation of someone’s work is a simple gift everyone likes receiving.

The third question leads to confidence. Examining my motives helps me avoid being manipulative, insincere, or otherwise avoid doing something I’m uncomfortable with. Seth Godin described “the sound of confidence":

“It's a blend of two things. "I'd really like to help you," and, "If this isn't for you, that's okay, there are others it might be a better match for."

Generosity, not arrogance. Problem-solving, not desperation. Helpfulness, not selfishness.”

When I’ve done my best to put myself in the other person’s position and I know my gift is genuine, I can be confident instead of afraid. Yes, they may not reply and might even reject me outright. But, as Seth Godin also says:

“It's arrogant to assume that you've made something so extraordinary that everyone everywhere should embrace it...Finding the humility to happily walk away from those that don't get it unlocks our ability to do great work.”

“Geeze, it works”

I’m coaching a woman in Germany and I could sense her trepidation on the phone as we were going through her list of people she wanted to know. She’s smart, creative, and charming yet the mere idea of contacting a stranger made her anxious.

But with those 3 questions in mind, she sent a note to someone and  was happy and surprised when she got a response right away. It even included a warm thank you. “Geeze, it works ;)” she wrote me, “And I was so nervous to just approach them unasked..”

It was only in my mid-forties when I started realizing that the person behind the curtain is just a person. No matter how smart, busy, or important they may seem, they have needs and wants like everyone else. When you lead with empathy and generosity that’s free of attachment, your fear melts away and you can approach anyone.