If you want to spread WOL in your organization, consider this

Bosch & Daimler quickly recognized they would need help. The grassroots WOL movements they built had taken root, leading to support from management including board members. But how could they scale?

One element of their strategy is to train WOL Mentors, internal people who can support and spread Circles. The first certification workshop, which took place over a year ago, was something of an experiment. The training has evolved since then, and now you can participate in the best version yet.

The main idea

The point of WOL Mentor Training is to equip you to build a WOL movement in your organization. That includes giving you insights and material to help you support Circles. What are common challenges? How do you deal with  them? How do you integrate Mentors into your WOL community? The training also includes access to the new WOL Video Library, where you’ll find resources to help you deliver WOL talks and workshops. 

With this “train the trainer” approach, you can develop an internal capability that allows you to scale your WOL movement.

Next Session: March 5-6 in Berlin

This first public two-day workshop is organized and delivered by Kluge Consulting, and will be in German. (Sabine & Alexander Kluge are good friends as well as two of the first WOL Coaches.) Because individuals from multiple companies will join, Mentors will learn from each other too, through exchanging approaches and implementation innovations. You can find information about content, logistics, and costs of the training here.

Of course, you don’t need a Certificate to spread WOL. But as the Working Out Loud community has grown and more companies are spreading Circles, there’s a lot we’ve all learned about how to do it well. Mentor Training is the best way we know to tap into that learning, to accelerate and scale the change you want to deliver to your organization.

A responsibility corporations never imagined they would have

When I saw a video of Simon Sinek keep appearing in my Facebook feed, I refused to click on it. One headline, “This is EXACTLY what’s wrong with this generation!” was enough to put me off.

When my wife recommended it, I watched it.

It’s a fifteen-minute excerpt from a longer interview, and the focus is on millenials (people born after 1984 or so) in the workplace. He describes, for example, how technology and impatience are shaping this generation, making them less happy and less effective at work. 

“Everything you want - instant gratification! 
EXCEPT job satisfaction & strength of relationships - there ain’t no app for that. They are slow, meandering, uncomfortable, messy processes.”

Then, at 10:23, he said something that surprised me: it’s a company’s responsibility to help people develop those relationships, to give them the skills to do so.

“We are putting them in corporate environments that aren’t helping them build their confidence, that aren’t helping them learn the skills of cooperation, that aren’t helping them overcome the challenges of a digital world…”
I hate to say it…It’s the company’s responsibility…we have to work extra hard to find ways to teach them the social skills they’re missing out on.
Trust doesn’t form in a day…It’s the slow steady consistency…We have to create mechanisms where we allow those…interactions to happen.”

You might think teaching “people skills” is the responsibility of parents or schools, or that individuals should just develop them on their own. But if, for whatever reasons, new joiners don’t have these skills - how to build trust and rapport, how to cooperate and collaborate - would’t it benefit the company to help employees develop them?

What do you think? Should organizations be teaching people how to relate to each other?

Update - Feb 1, 2017: Shortly after I posted this, several people pointed out that Simon Sinek recorded a follow-up video (in his kitchen, no less) to respond to some of the strong reactions, both positive and negative, to the things he said in the interview. It's excellent, and clarifies several key points, including the one about corporate responsibility for improving how employees relate to each other.

New WOL courses starting October, 2016

If your organization wants to help people improve their way of working, or wants a more open, collaborative culture, then the new Working Out Loud course is for you. It's designed to help you experience a change in your own habits and mindset, while you learn how to scale those changes across an organization.

In six 90-minute sessions, you’ll go through your own accelerated version of a Working Out Loud circle, and get live coaching from me throughout the process. You’ll see how applying the five elements of Working Out Loud, in small steps with the help of a peer support group, can lead to meaningful personal change and progress towards a goal you care about. You’ll also have two additional sessions to explore the practice further for you and your organization.

I’ll run the course at two different times, one for the US/UK/Europe timezones and one for Asia Pacific. The details are below.

If you’re interested, send email to john.stepper@workingoutloud.com for enrollment. Online registration will be available shortly. 

Who’s it for?

The new course is ideally suited for people interested in applying Working Out Loud inside their organizations, and who want to experience circles for themselves first. Many participants may come from one of the following areas:

  • Human Resources (e.g., Learning & Development, Talent Development, or Diversity)
  • Digital Transformation
  • Culture Change
  • Innovation

Some participants may ultimately opt for customized materials & training via the Accelerated Development Program. The course allows you to sample how this low-cost, scalable program can help your organization.

What’s included? How much does it cost?

I’ll be working with you directly throughout the course, joined by Moyra Mackie for the sessions in the US/UK/Europe timezones, and by Mara Tolja for the course in Asia Pacific. 

The sessions are all run via Zoom, a fantastic videoconferencing platform, so you can join from anywhere. All other interactions are via Slack, a messaging app that makes it easy for circle members to interact with each other as well as with me, Moyra, and Mara.

To begin, you’ll join a WOL circle with 4 other people, based on your profile. Here’s a complete list of what's included.

  • Six 90-minute sessions (30 minutes of live coaching from me + 60 minutes for your circle meeting)
  • Support for identifying your goal in Week 1
  • 60 minutes additional help after Week 3 
  • 60 minutes “What’s next?” session after the course completes
  • Optional one-on-one consultation for adapting the practice for your organization
  • Online support throughout the six weeks plus one week before and after
  • New 100-page Circle Coach’s Guide (available to course participants only)
  • Working Out Loud: For a Better Career & Life shipped to you
  • Certificate of completion

The cost is $995. (That’s about 895 euros, 745 pounds, or 1300 Australian Dollars.) For those who go on to procure the Accelerated Development Program, the course fees are applied as a credit.

When is it?

The sessions are on six consecutive Wednesdays, beginning on October 5th. The sessions are 90 minutes each. Weeks 3 & 6 have an extra optional hour for getting help and exploring possibilities after the course.

Dates: October 5, 12, 19, 26 & November 2, 9

The US/UK/Europe sessions are scheduled for 10am in NY, which is 3pm in the UK and 4pm in Europe.

The Asia Pacific sessions take place at noon in Sydney. That’s 9am in Singapore & Hong Kong, 10am in Japan, 2pm in New Zealand.

This is the third version of this course

In January, there were five sessions in one week meant for people already familiar with Working Out Loud. In June, I partnered with Helen Sanderson Associates and offered a different format, allowing people to experience a circle for themselves for the first time, and offering coaching on how to make them more effective. Helen and her team, led by Nicola Waterworth and Eve Holt, did a wonderful job. When participants were asked for one word to describe how they were feeling, they responded with this:

challenged; supported; connected; positive; uncomfortable; inspired; connected; encouraged; supported; learning; enthusiastic; helpful; excited; nourished; motivated; emotional; personally interesting; curious; inspired; brave.

This will be the third version of course, and I will be focused even more on live coaching and providing more material on how to adapt and spread the practice in organizations.

To sign up, just send me email at john.stepper@workingoutloud.com and I'll follow up with you directly. 

I am thrilled to be offering this course. I hope you, and ultimately your organizations, will find it useful. 

Working Out Loud: The Accelerated Development Program

I purposefully designed Working Out Loud Circles so that anyone could start one and anyone could spread them. It doesn't require money or training or permission. As a result, WOL Circles have spread widely across countries and companies.

But some organizations want more. Working Out Loud, after all, is a 21st-century skill that all employees would benefit from developing. One company refers to the Circle process as a “guided mastery program for networking and collaboration.” Other firms see it as a way to create a more open, collaborative culture, or as part of their digital transformation. I’ve often described it as “the missing piece.” For firms that have a strategy and technology, Working Out Loud Circles help them change behavior at scale in a way that feels good for employees while providing measurable benefits.

The organic spread of circles is a great way to start. And now there’s an option for organizations that want to accelerate the spread of the practice, scale it to many more employees, and increase the average effectiveness of each Circle.

It’s the Accelerated Development Program.


The program differs from traditional training in three important ways:

  1. It’s based on custom material created specifically for your organization.
  2. Employees learn by doing, building relationships related to a goal they care about and getting coached along the way.
  3. It’s sustainable. By the end of the program, the organization has developed a new learning and development capability, having materials and trained coaches that enable them to continue spreading the practice on their own.

It’s often the Learning & Development group that sponsors this program, although the impetus for change can come from other areas. The process can vary by organization, but it generally includes the same three simple phases.

Phase 1: Customize material

The public Circle Guides are aimed squarely at individuals and mostly refer to public technology platforms. So in this first phase, I work with an organization to rewrite the guides specifically for them. By incorporating language and examples that are familiar to members of the organization - stories, goals, technology, and more - it becomes easier for people to understand it and see how it relates to work and their career.

I’ll typically do some of this work on-site with a small core team of employees. That gives me a chance to train them on all aspects of what’s about to come in the next two phases and to prepare for those phases.

Time: 2 - 3 weeks

Phase 2: Train up to 50 Circle Coaches

In addition to custom material, the best way to make Circles even more effective and consistent is to train Circle Coaches. The training equips up to 50 people to handle practically any issue or challenge that comes up in a Circle so people can keep making progress. 

Here’s how it works. The training is all done live by video, so it’s flexible and location-independent. The group goes through a 6-week condensed version of the Circle process. Each week, they receive an hour of coaching from me and then break out into their Circle meetings of 4 to 5 people. Each person receives a step-by-step Coach’s Guide with tips and techniques, and has access to online support between sessions. 

This train-the-trainer technique is what make the process both more effective and scalable.

Time: 6 - 8 weeks

Phase 3: Spread the practice to 250 people

Now, each of the 50 trained Circle Coaches forms a new Circle with up to four new people, for a total of up to 250 people that will go through the Circle process. Circles are still peer support groups in which the Circle Coach is just another member, albeit one who can handle any issues that come up. In this phase, Circles go through the full 12-week process using the custom material, and the Circles meet independently.

This wave of Circles reinforces the training of the Circle Coaches and gives them a chance to practice. Throughout their time together, all participants have online support from me and the core team of employees, and there are regularly-scheduled Q&A sessions for further help and coaching.

Time: 12 - 18 weeks

A scalable, low-cost development program

By the time the program ends, the organization has custom material, a small army of trained coaches, and up to 250 people who have gone through the process. Everyone has books and workbooks, Coaches have a reference guide, and the core team has on-going access to other practitioners around the world. 

Your organization now has a scalable, low-cost development program you can continue spreading yourself. Larger firms may choose to keep training more Circle Coaches in other locations or divisions. The more people who develop the habit of Working Out Loud, the closer you’ll get to a more agile, collaborative, engaged workplace. 

If you would like more information or want to discuss the program for your organization, please contact me at john.stepper@workingoutloud.com

New Circle Guides Available!

The new guides are based on feedback from hundreds of circles and practitioners around the world. They’re simpler and easier than ever.

If you haven’t formed a circle yet, now is a perfect time to invest in yourself.

What’s changed?

The last version was published in August 2015, and since then circles have spread to 17 countries. (This week alone I heard from people looking to form them in Austria and Israel.) We’ve learned a lot over the past nine months and put that learning into the new guides.

Here are some of the improvements:

  • A simpler progression from week to week that makes each step easier and provides positive reinforcement sooner.
  • A two-page summary of the 12 weeks and a short “What to expect this week” section at the beginning of each guide. 
  • Introduction of “spiral learning” (revisiting core concepts in different ways) to reinforce the fundamental elements of the practice.  
  • No “homework.” The optional exercises and related reading were chosen so you can put in as much or as little effort as feels right for you.
  • New exercises for helping with time challenges.
  • The Facilitator role has been replaced with a simpler “Circle Coordinator” role which can be rotated among members.

How to get help

The guides are designed so anyone can form a circle, download the free guides, and make progress towards a goal they care about while they develop a new habit and mindset.

Yet many people would like help forming a circle and advice on how to handle challenges and issues that come up. Such help can make the difference between success and never making it to the first meeting. 

The best way to get that help is with a new online course we’re piloting

When? Six Thursdays in a row, June 9 through July 14 

How long? 90 minutes via live, interactive video.

What’s included? We’ll place each person in a circle and you’ll go through a condensed version of the 12-week circle process in an hour each week, along with 30 minutes of coaching from me. You'll also have online access to coaches. That will help make your experience a success and better equip you to coach more circles in the future.

Organizations who want additional help have additional options. For example, I’m working with a wide range of companies to customize all the materials and train Circle Coaches. For HR, it’’s a distributed, peer-to-peer development program tailored for their organization.

If you have any questions - about the guides, the course, or helping your organization - contact me at john.stepper@workingoutloud.com. You can also join the Facebook community or LinkedIn community and ask for advice from practitioners around the world.

Do you wish you had already spent more time investing in yourself and in your relationships? As the saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”

Form a circle or sign up for the course today.


p.s. If you’re asking someone to join a circle, the simplest way might be to send them a link to this TEDx talk “Working Out Loud: The making of a movement.” It provides a simple description of circles and how they’re spreading, and the stories of individuals and companies bring it all to life. 

All you need to add is: “Would you like to try this with me?”

A new 6-week course to help you Work Out Loud

It starts on Thursday, June 9th, and it will answer two of the most common questions people ask about Working Out Loud circles:

“How can I start one?”

“How can I learn to facilitate them?”

So far, most circles have formed in large organizations, where you can host an event to form circles and there are options for customizing materials and training people. 

Now, if you’re independent or otherwise looking for a smaller step, this course provides an easy way to experience a circle yourself and get coaching on how to facilitate them.


The course runs over 6 consecutive Thursdays for 90 minutes. We picked a starting time that could be convenient in a wide range of cities. 

  • US Pacific Time(e.g., San Francisco): 8am
  • US Eastern (e.g., New York): 11am
  • GMT+1 (e.g., London): 4pm
  • GMT+2 (e.g., Germany): 5pm


I’ll be delivering the course with Helen Sanderson Associates and Mara Tolja. HSA is based in the UK and their business is supporting organizations to deliver person-centered change. Mara is in the book and formed one of the very first circles. All the people working on the course went through a certification course together in January.

This first course can accommodate up to 50 people, who will be grouped into circles with four or five members. To participate, all you need is a computer with Internet access and a camera so you can join via video.

How it works

Each Thursday we’ll cover two weeks of the 12-week circle guides. The 90 minutes will be divided into coaching time, circle time, and Q&A. 

In the first session on June 9th, for example, we’ll begin as one large group. I’ll open with what you can anticipate in Weeks 1 & 2 of the guides, and how best to prepare for your first circle meeting. Then each circle will form via video, to work their way through an accelerated version of the guides developed specifically for the course.

Throughout the course, circle members also interact with each other and with coaches using Slack, a free team messaging app you can use on your smart phone or computer. The Slack group will be open for eight weeks - a week before the course to meet people, and for a week after the course ends.

After about an hour, the entire group comes back together for facilitation training - things to watch out for and how to deal with them. We’ll end each session with a short open Q&A.

After six sessions, you’ll have completed the process and deepened relationships towards a goal you care about. For some of you that will be enough. Others will choose to form another circle right away, perhaps with the same people. Some will want to take what they’ve learned about facilitating circles to spread more of them.

The why

Combined, the elements of Working Out Loud are like a superpower, but it’s one that most people don’t know they have or aren’t comfortable using. 

The reason for creating this course is to help more people take a step and experience the benefits I’ve seen and experienced myself. It’s a first attempt at creating something truly scalable, something we can replicate around the world, so that many, many more people discover their superpower and unlock a better career and life.

The WOL Pilot Program: 25 People in 6 Countries

It was much more intense than I expected. For five days in a row, 25 of us from places as far apart as Auckland, Stuttgart, and Palo Alto worked on how to spread the practice of working out loud.

It was intended as a pilot for a course and certification program, but it may turn out to be something more.

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 5.05.03 PM

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 5.05.03 PM

The planned program

The original idea for the program included training, support, and certification.

Training would be delivered via video over a week, with new content prepared specifically for it. Support would last for 6 months after the training, and participants would join monthly calls and get support from me via email. Certification meant recognition on workingoutloud.com for those who completed the training, participated in a circle, and had experience spreading it.

It seemed pretty straightforward. Over the last few months, I prepared for the training, offered it for free, and spent last week delivering it.

What actually happened

Like any course, there was an agenda and material for each day. The technology, thankfully, worked beautifully. But the best part of the week were the things I didn’t expect.

The learning came from everywhere. People didn’t just learn from me or the material. We all learned from each other. Every day,different people presented what they were doing inside their organizations, and we all learned about ways to start, scale, and adapt the practice. This included, for example, detailed techniques for collecting data on circle effectiveness and for nurturing circles as they spread.

It was personal. We got to know each other, and the stories of how people were applying the practice were incredibly varied and inspiring. On listening to people share their personal motivations, one person said, “I sat there with my ears and mouth open, listening to their stories. I am just beginning to realize where WOL can take me.”

New possibilities already appeared. Perhaps most surprising was how several participants already created new possibilities for themselves as a direct result of spreading working out loud. We heard stories of people who spread the practice and gained influence or responsibility. Several participants proposed spreading it and got new jobs or projects. Independent consultants created new opportunities with big clients.

The next 6 months

As one person said during the week, it felt like a community of practice, people who came together to advance the state of a practice we care about.

Now it’s time for all of us to take some steps. That will include the monthly meetings and other support for the next six months, and we’ll expand both ideas. Each month, we’ll feature presentations from other organizations and work through specific coaching examples. We’ll use several collaboration platforms to stay connected, and we’ll expand a common library of material. Some of that will be public, and some will be private within the community so we can share a broader range of examples and content.

The key is that as each of us tries something - spreading working out loud in an organization, adapting it for a client, advancing our individual practice - we’ll know we can rely on the community and a wealth of resources to help us.

The next time the program will be offered

Everyone who participated in the pilot made a contribution that will make future offerings even better. I’m deeply grateful for that and for the entire experience last week.

At the end of the training, I asked people for anonymous feedback as to whether they would recommend the program when it is offered for a fee. They all said yes. My favorite response was “Absolutely, fundamentally, unequivocally, without hesitation….Yes."

They all see that Working Out Loud helps people access more opportunities and feel better each day. Increasingly, they’re seeing that more organizations want to spread the practice - and the benefits of increased engagement, digital literacy, ability to collaborate, and more.

Some organizations will hire people to deliver customized programs for them. Some will try it on their own. And now some will have an option of sending one or more of their employees to become part of a community that will help them and their organization succeed at a fraction of the cost of traditional development or change programs.

I’ll send out an announcement when the next session will take place. In the meantime, you can register your interest with a comment below.

I’m looking forward to our community of practice getting bigger and better.

UPDATE: The First Course & Certification Program for Working Out Loud

Last month, I announced a pilot program for people wanting to spread the practice of working out loud inside their organizations and for consultants who want to help their clients.

Over 70 people signed up for the 10 spots I had planned to offer.

That’s a great response but presents the problem of saying no to most of the people who expressed an interest. Here’s a quick update on who I selected and what to do next.

WOL Training and Certification

WOL Training and Certification

The program

For those of you who may have missed it, here’s a short summary of the program:

The program I plan on offering includes three elements:

The training will be delivered online over the course of a week, with live instruction from me for two hours each day. There will be new material and exercises prepared specifically for the course.

The certification requires that, beyond completing the training, you’ve participated in a circle and have already had experience spreading it (e.g., by delivering this presentation). People who are certified will be listed on workingoutloud.com.

The program includes 6 months of support after the training. Thiswill include, at a minimum, monthly live calls and email support,

How I selected people

Being chosen for the pilot wasn’t intended to be a contest or competition of any kind. The reason for keeping the pilot so small is that it’s so new and untested. I largely selected people who are already spreading the practice in some way and thus in a good position to shape the program.

The pilot program will be held the week of January 25th, Monday through Friday, from 10a - Noon NY time so it overlaps with European timezones. I’ve contacted the people selected to attend. Some of them care so much they’ll join from Australia and New Zealand despite the very inconvenient hours for them.

If you weren’t selected yet

Even without the course, you can still spread the practice for free by using the circle guides and by participating in the practitioners’ community. If you’re trying to spread the practice in your organization, I’ll also help you wherever I can.

If the program proves to be useful, I expect to offer it again in 2016 for a fee. If there’s enough interest, I’ll add a session for APAC timezones as well.

In the meantime, the single best thing you can do is to form a Working Out Loud circle. Even if you’ve done it before, the more experience you have with different people, goals, and challenges, the better you’ll be prepared to spread the practice.

If you want to get experience hosting an event at your organization, contact me and I’ll help you.

The next steps

The next step is preparing material specific to the course, coordinating logistics and technology, and getting ready for January 25th. I’m hoping and expecting that the people in the program will shape it. Some already have.

Based on the pilot, we may well learn the course doesn’t work or we need to adjust the format significantly. Or as participation grows, we may also add additional elements like in-person meet-ups, or even a conference.

This is just one small step in scaling the Working Out Loud movement. The more trained and certified people we have, the more we can adapt this simple practice to all sorts of organizations and all kinds of work.

Thank you for all you’ve done to make Working Out Loud spread as far as it has, and for helping even more people in the future.

The First Course & Certification Program For Working Out Loud

Update: Registration for the free pilot program will be open till the end of November so more people have a chance to comment. At that time, we'll fill the few spots we have open and I'll notify everyone. Thank you for your interest! If we want to help millions of people work out loud - individuals, companies, and organizations that make the planet better - we’re going to need more people who can spread the practice.

Here’s something that will help.

Helping people help themselves

It’s important to me that anyone can readily develop the practice themselves. That’s why the circle guides and online community are free and the book is inexpensive.

But what if you want more help than that? Perhaps you’re an independent consultant trying to help your clients work out loud. Or you’re inside an organization and trying to spread the practice there. What if you want to customize everything for your specific organization’s tools, culture, and kind of work?

I’ve helped some companies directly and will continue to do more of that. With some training and support, though, more people could take what’s available, build on it, and spread working out loud as a practice.

The program

The program I plan on offering includes three elements: training, certification, and support.

The training will be delivered online over the course of a week, with live instruction from me for two hours each day. There will be new material and exercises prepared specifically for the course.

The certification requires that, beyond completing the training, you’ve participated in a circle and have already made an effort to spread the practice (e.g., by delivering this presentation) People who are certified will be listed on workingoutloud.com.

There will also be 6 months of support after the training. This will include, at a minimum, monthly live calls and email support. It’s important that practitioners (and their organizations) know they can get ongoing help as they are implementing their own Working Out Loud programs.

WOL Training and Certification

WOL Training and Certification

Testing the idea

I intend to test this idea by offering the course and certification program for free in January. If it works, we’ll offer it again later in the year, perhaps May and October, for a fee. The tentative date is the week of January 25th, and the times 10a - noon NY time so it overlaps with Europe in the late afternoon. If there’s enough interest, I’ll add a session for APAC timezones later in the year.

Based on this pilot, we may add additional elements like in-person meet-ups, a private community (where people can be more open about work in their organizations), and ways practitioners can contribute by sharing their work and evolving the practice. We may well learn we need to adjust the format significantly.

If you’re interested in joining and shaping this program, please leave a comment below. Given it’s an initial offering, there may only be ten or so openings, and I apologize if we can’t include everyone who wants to participate.

Thank you in advance for your interest and any suggestions you'd like to offer.