“Would you recommend this method to your network?”

I can already anticipate my wife’s response when I share this statistic with her. “Darling,” I’ll say, “99% of the people in WOL Circles at Bosch said they would recommend them.”

There will be a pause, then a deadpan stare. “Darling,” she’ll say, “that’s not credible.” 

As usual, she’ll be right. It is hard to believe. Yet the team at Daimler had similar results in their survey.  How can that be?

First, a few disclaimers. The surveys are still small. The one at Bosch included 107 respondents out of the 500+ people who experienced a WOL Circle there, and the Daimler survey wasn’t any bigger. Also, I know that not all Circles are successful. People sometimes drop out because they’re too busy, or just not ready for whatever reason. For sure, we need to collect much more data.

Nevertheless, it’s a remarkable result for a change method inside a large corporation, and I think I know why these two institutions got such great results: It’s the way they introduced and spread WOL Circles.

The best write-up to date is a detailed article from Katharina Krentz at Bosch, where she outlined what they did, how they did it, and provided yet more survey results. 

Katha emphasized the importance of a “co-creation team,” something Daimler has also formed. It’s a group of almost all volunteers who oversee the spread of WOL. They serve as the linchpins within the company, ensuring each Circle gets the support they need and overseeing the spread of the method across the company. They’re the ones who work with me, and who engage HR, Communications, and other divisions for events and integrating Circles into existing processes and programs like employee on-boarding.

This structure helps, and even more important is their approach. They frame WOL Circles as simply a personal development method that’s good for the individual and for the company. It’s described as “a guided mastery program for collaboration and networking.” (One manager at Bosch said he liked the method because “it’s simple, structured, and human.”) As they get more positive feedback, they spread the word while opportunistically looking for ways to spread the method. 

These two co-creation teams are indeed excellent. The people are smart, creative, and kind, and they have an extraordinary ability to get things done. And because they Work Out Loud - offering what they did, how they did it, and what they learned - you can achieve similar results in your organization. 

***

Note: I was wondering about the one percent at Bosch who did not recommend the practice. (Human nature dictates that I focus on the negative 1% instead of the positive 99%!) After I shared the statistic on the WOL Facebook Page, Katharina explained it:

“Fun fact: the 1% comes from someone who skipped this answer - so it was a mistake, not a real “no.”" 

FAQ: “How do we get management support?”

This question often comes up when I do a Q&A session with an organization. Typically, they’re having early success with their first Working Out Loud Circles, and they want to go further.

“How do we get management support for Working Out Loud?”

I tell people there are three ways, plus one more that we’re piloting. I’ve seen all three be effective, and I’m optimistic about the pilot.

Here’s a key point: start small. Trying to get all managers to support anything is like trying to convince everyone of global warming. There will always be some who will sit there, arms crossed, and reject it no matter what you say or do.

#1. Leverage internal social proof

Instead of appealing to all executives, I rely heavily on social proof. I focus on finding and supporting managers who may be early adopters, help them succeed, and share their stories widely. 

“Social proof is also one of Robert Cialdini's six principles of persuasion, (along with reciprocity, commitment/consistency, authority, liking, and scarcity) which maintains that people are especially likely to perform certain actions if they can relate to the people who performed the same actions before them.”

For example, in a presentation to managers at a Bosch, we used photos and quotes of several leaders who had realized the benefits of Working Out Loud. That allowed managers in the audience to see, more than any facts or conceptual arguments I could present, that “people like me do this.” 

#2. Conduct a formal survey of circle members

Stories can be even more powerful when combined with data, and one way organizations are collecting that data is with structured surveys of circle participants. 

In an organization in Australia, for example, Michelle Ockers surveyed the first wave of circles. The results showed that participants overwhelmingly believed their Working Out Loud Circle improved their skills, made them feel more fulfilled at work, and would help their organization be more collaborative.

Data like this makes it easier and safer for a manager to endorse Working Out Loud or make time for employees to join circles.

#3. Leverage external social proof

When faced with a new idea, the most common question is often “What’s the business case?” and the surveys help answer that. The next most common question is “What do other organizations do?”

To answer this, I talk about the successes at Bosch that culminated in a full-day Working Out Loud conference. I talk about the range of organizations in which circles are spreading, from universities to governmental offices to other large corporations

Over time, there will be more case studies to share, and so more chances to see that “organizations like us” are realizing benefits of Working Out Loud Circles.

Pilot idea: Include them directly

Sometimes, people ask how they can get managers to work out loud themselves. More than getting their approval, how do you get their involvement?

Working Out Loud for Leaders is something I developed with Bosch and Postshift, and that Bosch is piloting now. It’s not circle-based, since many senior managers are unlikely to be vulnerable in a circle nor willing to set aside the required time. So the pilot uses different guides and a different peer support structure. Still, it’s designed to help leaders practice “small steps, over time, with feedback and peer support,” so they experience the benefits themselves.

Each step they take signals to other managers and to the broader organization that it’s safe to do so, enabling Working Out Loud to spread more readily.

Other answers. Other questions.

If you know of other ways to get management support for Working Out Loud, please leave a comment or send me email at john.stepper@workingoutloud.com. Over time, I’’ll update this post so it reflects the best answers of our community. 

I’ve been wanting to publish a proper FAQ section on the website, and I’ll put this post and others I intend to write there. (I’ll prepend “FAQ” to the posts and tag them so people can find them more readily. I’ll also include them in the LinkedIn group.) I have a healthy backlog of questions to answer, and if you have one you’d like to add, I’ll happily address it.