I’ve been working out loud.
Wikipedia defines working out loud like this:
“Working Out Loud is working in an open, generous, connected way so you can build a purposeful network, become more effective, and access more opportunities.”
From this definition you can see a balanced combination of giving and receiving
I’ve been a passionate believer in this concept since I was introduced to the idea by John Stepper. Like John, my clients tend to work for large multinational organisations where the sheer size and complexity of the business threatens to overwhelm the human connections essential to a fully engaged workforce.
“Working Out Loud…synthesizes a number of vast challenges found in large organisations such as the need for increased transparency…, team productivity and motivation, effective leadership and communication”
Every large company that cares about its people should be working out loud
It seems to me a bit of a no-brainer for large corporates to use internal social networks and collaboration platforms to share ideas, seek feedback and form connected communities.
John identifies five key elements in working out loud:
- Make work more visible
- Make work better
- Lead with generosity
- Build a social network
- Make it purposeful
Of course the major challenge to working like this is that in becoming visible we become vulnerable and in seeking to make our work better we show ourselves as fallible. Feeling vulnerable and appearing fallible carries a huge personal risk in large organisations, especially ones that might have a macho, competitive, blame-driven culture.
Working out loud requires trust
And trust can be in short supply in organisations. At least on the surface.
Every day in my work with clients who want to achieve transformative change, I see people desperate to trust and be trusted. I find it helps to appeal to the very impulse that is holding them back: competition.
Working out loud makes your work better AND it makes you feel better
I wanted these benefits too. But I was struggling to think how I could apply these principles to my work as a small business owner. In addition to being small, my work with clients was necessarily confidential.
How can you work out loud when your work is behind closed doors? And who will listen anyway?
I wrestled with this for a while until I realised that read a lot and I could connect this theory with the myriad experiences I had had working with clients and offer these stories to help others.
Writing as Coach with the Green Hat was my first step in working out loud
It has connected me to other people I would never have known without it. Comments on the post and sent via email – by those who work quietly – tell me my musings have made them think and given them options and ideas.
In return I have received feedback and support that is essential to both my well-being and my effectiveness as a coach.
And writing here has made my work better – it makes me keep reading, thinking, searching and learning which helps me in every conversation I have with clients and brings a richness to my work that I feel was lacking before.
But something was still missing
I didn’t – and couldn’t have – a collaborative platform to work on. A place to log ideas about my business and get feedback. I still didn’t feel connected.
And then I realised that I would add a sixth element to John’s list:
Ask for help
None of us does this often enough. Asking for help is one of the most powerful ways we have of making meaningful connections with other people. It’s powerful because it’s scary – we appear both vulnerable and fallible.
I had a challenge and I asked for help
I want to grow my business so I reached out to the people I trusted and respected. I was nervous about asking for help – not because it would make me appear fallible but because I feared wasting people’s time; of appearing “cheeky”. Most of all I feared they would turn me down.
But they didn’t
Instead of an online space, we met in a private room at a local pub. I invited eight people who are all very different.
I invited them because all are successful in different fields and brought different perspectives to the table. What united them was their willingness to share information about themselves and to share their ideas for my future vision with compassion, creativity and enthusiasm.
I sense that whilst I gained both knowledge and emotional support, the group gained too – we all felt more connected.
Every small company could benefit from working out loud
Small businesses are like departments in large international organisations. They are dependent on others, yet feel disconnected or in competition to those around them. Everyone has vast untapped knowledge and experience that could enrich others, promote repeatable success, or avoid repeated failure.
Working out loud is both the scariest and most rewarding thing I have done
This is what working out loud looked like for me.