When a working out loud circle ends

Our NYC WOL Circle

Our NYC WOL Circle

We didn’t want it to end. Over 12 meetings, our circle in NYC had been sharing our goals and aspirations, our frustrations and successes, and we had built up trust and respect. By the 9th or 10th meeting, though, we began anticipating that the support we’d grown used to wasn’t going to be there any more. So we did something I never anticipated people doing when circles first started.

We re-committed for another 12 weeks together.

What happens in the first 12 weeks

My original goal in forming circles was to give people a free, self-organizing way to learn the skills and habits of working out loud. After 12 weeks, I figured people would have practiced enough that they would know what to do.

And everyone did improve their skills. Week by week, we got better at identifying connections and contributions, and at building relationships. We got better at helping each other, and we developed the habit of asking ourselves the three main questions:

What am I trying to accomplish?

Who can help me?

How can I contribute to them and deepen our relationship?

But though we knew what to do, each of us felt we still needed help doing it. So at our 12th meeting last week, we reflected on what we learned and what would do differently next time. Over dinner and a few bottles of wine, we celebrated both the ending of our circle and a new beginning.

What’s already happening in our 2nd circle

Like other circles, we learned that logistics and procrastination are some of the biggest barriers to developing new habits. So now we stick to meeting at the same time and place each week, and we're more likely to use our meeting time to do the work instead of just talking about the work.

In our first meeting yesterday, we wanted to each reframe our purpose. So we did a ten-minute exercise in which we each wrote a short “letter from our future self,” capturing what would have happened at the end of our 12 weeks together.

The results were striking. Each of us was clearer on what we wanted to accomplish and how we would measure it.  We  had a firmer grasp on who we would connect with and the contributions we would make, and we were all more systematic about it.

Maybe most importantly, we were more confident. Just as the psychologist Alfred Bandura found in the guided mastery programs that inspired circles, the work we did in the first circle improved our self-efficacy, “the extent or strength of one’s belief in one’s own ability to complete tasks and reach goals.”

If you want to form a circle

The are a few dozen circles now in 5 different countries. It’s early, but the results so far are encouraging and helping us improve the exercises and the circle guides. When those guides are online and the book is available, then anyone can form their own successful circle.

In the meantime, if you want to form your own circle and participate in shaping the process, just leave a comment on this post. I’ll send you draft materials and answer your questions along the way as best I can. The learning from all the early circles will make it easier for circle members in the future, including our circle in NYC when we re-commit for our next 12 weeks together.