Equipping people to make the world a better place

WOL for the planet

WOL for the planet

The first email was from someone in Sierra Leone, and I wondered if it was a mistake. Then a follow-up message came from Tanzania, and now it was clear they had the right guy.

They were interested in working out loud to make the world a better place. And they got my attention.

The notes were from young professionals in a management program at a leading humanitarian organization. It’s a highly selective program, with members located in countries around the world. They work on projects like “confronting the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone” and “defending children’s rights everywhere.” The expectations are high and the stakes are even higher. But it’s difficult work, and they can struggle to find the people and knowledge they need to be effective.

“We have to deliver across our teams at a country level and build networks at a global level…we need to share information, lessons learnt, best practices and communicate across the board — we need to work out loud.“

They need this for their projects as well as for their own careers. “As individuals, these are also skills that we need to master.” So they asked if I would talk with them.

“I am actually hoping that this could be the beginning of a discussion with our organization globally on the WOL concept and its potential for our work.”

I’m hoping for that too, so I said yes right away and sent them electronic copies of the book.

The simple practice of working out loud can help individuals and companies. The greatest benefit would be to equip people in organizations like the one that contacted me, organizations “that have the potential to change the lives of millions,” to help them make the kind of difference they’re aspiring to make.

“Would you talk to our leadership program?”

WOL for the organization

WOL for the organization

I’ll admit to being surprised at being asked. One reason is that I have an aversion to most management programs - talent management, performance management, innovation management. Also, I never expected the Human Resources department of a large global firm to link Working Out Loud with leadership. But they did.

Introducing Working Out Loud via HR and executive development presented a new opportunity. My talk included some of the usual things:

Then I focused on the more senior managers in the room. How would they “contribute to people in their organizations to deepen the relationship"? Why should they?

I started with the universal gifts of appreciation and recognition. And since the firm already had an enterprise social network, each contribution could be visible and ripple through the organization. Coming from an executive, a simple “Follow” can signal I see you and be meaningful. A Like can mean I recognize your work. I described how an “Ask Me Anything” demonstrates openness and accessibility. How a comment shows their interest in listening and a willingness to engage. Small steps to get started.

I showed them how they could do these simple things in 15 minutes a week.

After the talk, one of the executives came up to me and told me that, when he would ask for questions after a talk in front of a big audience, his people were afraid to speak up. He wanted to change that.

He saw how things could be different if people knew it was safe to be open and curious. He wanted and needed an organization where people could share knowledge, solve problems, and innovate without waiting for instructions from the boss. He understood that he could lead by example and model the behaviors he wanted to see.

To make a difference, though, he would need to take a step and develop the habit of working out loud so others would follow, and so he could lead more effectively.

Whether you introduce the practice via HR, via Knowledge Management, or via employee career events, helping even one group to work out loud can make work better. A few groups can form a movement. A few dozen can create an open, generous, connected culture that's good for the organization and all the people in it.

A Vision For Working Out Loud

Note: This is the first day of “International WOL Week” (yes, it’s a grandiose title for a fledgling movement!). So I’m going to try something different and publish a short post each day. Next week, I’ll revert to posting on Wednesday. 

What, really, is the point of working out loud? Why is it a practice worth spreading?

I originally wrote the book for individuals who were searching for something, and I dedicated Working Out Loud to them.

For those who’ve felt there could be more to work and life.

Lately, I’ve been talking with large organizations who see Working Out Loud as a way to become better too. A way to have more effective, digital-savvy employees. To be more agile and make better use of the collective knowledge in the firm. To become learning organizations with open, generous, connected cultures.

And last week, I got a note from a young man in Sierra Leone that made me want to think bigger and more broadly.

My vision for the Working Out Loud movement is this:

Collectively, we will help millions of people develop the practice of Working Out Loud.

We’ll do it to help individuals access a better career and life,

to help the work of organizations be more effective and fulfilling,

and to make the planet feel like a more connected, humane place.

In the next three days, I want to share each of these perspectives - individual, organizational, and global. On Friday I’ll describe a way we can accelerate our progress.

Thank you - for your interest in working out loud, for developing the habit yourself, and for spreading the practice.

The 3 perspectives of WOL

The 3 perspectives of WOL

The first week of the rest of your life

Monday, November 17th, marks the beginning of the 2nd annual working out loud week.  It's meant as an opportunity for people to "take the chance to practice working out loud" and encourage their organizations to embrace it too. Some people will use this week to experiment with new tools or try to share their work in new ways. Some people, though, might use this week to change their lives. Here’s how.

3 questions to ask this week

The first week of a working out loud circle starts with members asking themselves three questions:

What am I trying to accomplish?

Who can help me?

What can I contribute to these people to deepen our relationships?

They answer these questions in their very first hour together. Then they practice over an additional 11 weeks, refining their relationship lists, gradually making more meaningful contributions, and deepening their relationships with individuals in their growing network.

You too can start answering those three questions, and work towards a better career and life, this week.

1. Pick a simple goal

The first exercise we do in a circle is writing down something you would like to accomplish in 12 weeks. In my first circle, one person was thinking about becoming a financial advisor and wanted to explore that. A woman who was passionate about dangerous toxins in products wanted to raise awareness and suggest alternatives. Another member had started an online fashion consulting business she wanted to grow and one cared about educational issues.

In our circles, the best goals tend to be about learning and exploring. They’re things individuals genuinely care about, are reasonably specific, and are something you could make progress towards in 12 weeks.

Here’s a list of common goals:

  • Learn more about something you care about
  • Find a job in a new company or location
  • Get more recognition at your current job
  • Explore possibilities in a new field
  • Find people with the same interests
  • Get better at what you do

There’s no pressure to get this exactly right. It’s the skills and habits you’re developing in the circle that matter more that this one particular goal.

2. Identify people who can help you

Then we each build our first relationship list, people who can help us with our goal. You start by thinking of people who are already doing what you aspire to do. If you want to explore genealogy or jobs in New Zealand, for example, then you’ll want to know people who are already genealogists or are working in New Zealand. Sometimes you’ll know their name (Sue is the head of New Zealand, Inc) and sometimes just their role (the person who runs a particular genealogy conference).

The list will change over the next 11 weeks. Simply by thinking of people who might help you in some way, you’ll begin generating more ideas. Whatever your goal is, here’s what you might start looking for:

  • People writing about it in blogs, articles, and books
  • Online communities related to it
  • Businesses you admire that are doing it
  • Conferences related to it
  • Organizations that support it

Play Internet detective, conducting searches related to your goal. When the circle members do this for even a few minutes they quickly start discovering people, companies, and ideas they weren’t aware of before. They search, find a lead, follow that with some more searches, and then “Aha! They look interesting!” Over time, your circle members will be another source of ideas and connections.

3. Make your first simple contributions

You could do the first two steps in 20 minutes, though we take some more time in our circles to exchange ideas. Then, before we end our first meeting, we talk about contributions. Dale Carnegie summarized why this topic is so important to building relationships in How to Win Friends and Influence People:

The world is full of people who are grabbing and self-seeking.

So the rare individual who unselfishly tries to serve others

has an enormous advantage. He has little competition.

The initial contributions you make are easy, almost trivial. You start by searching the Internet for the online presence of each of the people on your list.

Look for a Twitter account, a blog, or other online content they’ve produced. If they have a Twitter account, follow them. If you see a website in a person’s Twitter or LinkedIn profile, go to that website, start reading, and hit a Like button if you like any of it. If you want to keep receiving updates, look for a Follow button or the ability to subscribe by email. There’s no need to worry about what to say or write. For now, all you’re looking for is an unobtrusive way to move the relationship from they have no idea who I am to they’ve seen my name.

During the rest of your 11 weeks together, you’ll learn about making more significant contributions, ones that take more effort but have more value both to you and the people in your network. You’ll practice generosity with more people in a wider variety of contexts and you’ll discover other gifts you have to offer.

Congratulations

The changes we want in our careers and our lives can seem so daunting that we don’t even know where to begin. For me, it wasn’t until I was in my mid-forties that I began even thinking about alternatives and that was only because I was forced to.

But you could start this week with three simple steps that take less than an hour. Practicing those steps - What am I trying to accomplish? Who can help me? What can I contribute to these people to deepen our relationships? - creates a powerful mindset. Over time, you develop an open, generous, connected approach to work and life. And that mindset increases your chances of finding meaning and fulfillment in whatever you do.

Take the first step and your mind will mobilize all its forces to your aid.

But the first essential is that you begin.

- Robert Collier

The first week of the rest of your life

Monday, November 17th, marks the beginning of the 2nd annual working out loud week.  It's meant as an opportunity for people to "take the chance to practice working out loud" and encourage their organizations to embrace it too. Some people will use this week to experiment with new tools or try to share their work in new ways. Some people, though, might use this week to change their lives. Here’s how.

3 questions to ask this week

Art by @kazumikoyama of 8works Consulting

The first week of a working out loud circle starts with members asking themselves three questions:

What am I trying to accomplish?

Who can help me?

What can I contribute to these people to deepen our relationships?

They answer these questions in their very first hour together. Then they practice over an additional 11 weeks, refining their relationship lists, gradually making more meaningful contributions, and deepening their relationships with individuals in their growing network.

You too can start answering those three questions, and work towards a better career and life, this week.

1. Pick a simple goal

The first exercise we do in a circle is writing down something you would like to accomplish in 12 weeks. In my first circle, one person was thinking about becoming a financial advisor and wanted to explore that. A woman who was passionate about dangerous toxins in products wanted to raise awareness and suggest alternatives. Another member had started an online fashion consulting business she wanted to grow and one cared about educational issues.

In our circles, the best goals tend to be about learning and exploring. They’re things individuals genuinely care about, are reasonably specific, and are something you could make progress towards in 12 weeks.

Here’s a list of common goals:

  • Learn more about something you care about
  • Find a job in a new company or location
  • Get more recognition at your current job
  • Explore possibilities in a new field
  • Find people with the same interests
  • Get better at what you do

There’s no pressure to get this exactly right. It’s the skills and habits you’re developing in the circle that matter more that this one particular goal.

2. Identify people who can help you

Then we each build our first relationship list, people who can help us with our goal. You start by thinking of people who are already doing what you aspire to do. If you want to explore genealogy or jobs in New Zealand, for example, then you’ll want to know people who are already genealogists or are working in New Zealand. Sometimes you’ll know their name (Sue is the head of New Zealand, Inc) and sometimes just their role (the person who runs a particular genealogy conference).

The list will change over the next 11 weeks. Simply by thinking of people who might help you in some way, you’ll begin generating more ideas. Whatever your goal is, here’s what you might start looking for:

  • People writing about it in blogs, articles, and books
  • Online communities related to it
  • Businesses you admire that are doing it
  • Conferences related to it
  • Organizations that support it

Play Internet detective, conducting searches related to your goal. When the circle members do this for even a few minutes they quickly start discovering people, companies, and ideas they weren’t aware of before. They search, find a lead, follow that with some more searches, and then “Aha! They look interesting!” Over time, your circle members will be another source of ideas and connections.

3. Make your first simple contributions

You could do the first two steps in 20 minutes, though we take some more time in our circles to exchange ideas. Then, before we end our first meeting, we talk about contributions. Dale Carnegie summarized why this topic is so important to building relationships in How to Win Friends and Influence People:

The world is full of people who are grabbing and self-seeking.

So the rare individual who unselfishly tries to serve others

has an enormous advantage. He has little competition.

The initial contributions you make are easy, almost trivial. You start by searching the Internet for the online presence of each of the people on your list.

Look for a Twitter account, a blog, or other online content they’ve produced. If they have a Twitter account, follow them. If you see a website in a person’s Twitter or LinkedIn profile, go to that website, start reading, and hit a Like button if you like any of it. If you want to keep receiving updates, look for a Follow button or the ability to subscribe by email. There’s no need to worry about what to say or write. For now, all you’re looking for is an unobtrusive way to move the relationship from they have no idea who I am to they’ve seen my name.

During the rest of your 11 weeks together, you’ll learn about making more significant contributions, ones that take more effort but have more value both to you and the people in your network. You’ll practice generosity with more people in a wider variety of contexts and you’ll discover other gifts you have to offer.

Congratulations

The changes we want in our careers and our lives can seem so daunting that we don’t even know where to begin. For me, it wasn’t until I was in my mid-forties that I began even thinking about alternatives and that was only because I was forced to.

But you could start this week with three simple steps that take less than an hour. Practicing those steps - What am I trying to accomplish? Who can help me? What can I contribute to these people to deepen our relationships? - creates a powerful mindset. Over time, you develop an open, generous, connected approach to work and life. And that mindset increases your chances of finding meaning and fulfillment in whatever you do.

Take the first step and your mind will mobilize all its forces to your aid.

But the first essential is that you begin.

- Robert Collier