Posts Tagged Working Out Loud

Working Out Loud Circle Reflection – Trust, Psychological Safety and Courage

I finished a Working Out Loud Circle* this week.  Twelve weeks of meeting for an hour with three industry colleagues scattered across three Australian states.  Three people I did not know at the start of the year.  Now I have a close bond to each of them – as individuals and a group.  I’ve also made significant progress on a goal that mattered to me, through a process of purposeful discovery and building relationships.

In mid-2018 I facilitated a Social and Collaborative Learning course which runs over eight weeks.  A handful of the participants were very active in both the core course platform and on a Slack forum and public social media.  One of them commented that she felt she had found her tribe. I felt energised by my interaction with these people and the progress they were making with social learning in their organisations.  At the time I was in the midst of an extended period of travel, which can be a little isolating.  I felt that continuing our connection would be helpful for me both socially and in my work.  A WOL Circle was an obvious and appropriate pathway to achieve this.  Two of the group agreed to join the Circle.  Our fourth member was someone I had begun interacting with online that was interested in building her network.

We are complete humans

I was going to title this section of the blog ‘psychological safety.’  While spot on as a descriptor of the space we created in our group, it seems too clinical.  Although we each set a work-related goal, our experience in this Circle was highly personal.  We each brought our complete being as humans to the Circle.  There is an exercise in week 5 that can be pivotal to the group dynamics.  The Week 5 guide is aptly titled ‘Make it personal.’  In the activity, ’So much to offer,’ each person makes a list of 50 facts about themselves.  While it’s not required, we chose to share our lists with each other.  Boom!  All of a sudden I knew so much more about my Circle buddies.  Interesting stuff, things to start new conversations over.  My sense of intimacy, trust, respect and empathy for my Circle buddies increased dramatically.  It had been over a year since I’d done a Circle – I’d forgotten about this magical point.  Or perhaps I had just never experienced it to this degree in prior Circles.  One of my Circle buddies, Penny Liddington, created and shared the sketch below on social media after our Week 5 meeting.  It captures the joy of our connection.  (Bella is my puppy dog, who occasionally dropped into our meetings.)

Our WOL Circle. Sketch by Penny Liddington

That week we spoke a lot about how we felt about sharing aspects of our personal life at work.  We each had different levels of comfort with this.  It reminded me of Google’s Project Aristotle research into what made teams effective.  They discovered that psychological safety was the key.  This article about the research includes the story of an engineer at Google, Matt Sakaguchi, who wanted to improve how his team ‘jelled.’  One thing that shifted how the team interacted was Sakaguchi telling the team he had cancer, something he had not disclosed for many years.  It opened the way for others to share more about themselves and to have more honest discussions about work.

One of our Circle members started experimenting with sharing a little more about herself with work colleagues.  In our final meeting she reflected that this was not what she had expected from the Circle process.  Others agreed that the Circle process had led them down unexpected pathways – and that this had been valuable.

A WOL Circle can Expand Your World

A common misperception of those who haven’t done a WOL Circle is that you are only building relationships with those in your group.  The intent is that your peers in your Circle are there for support and to amplify your learning and building of good habits to support you as you engage with others beyond the Circle.  A good Circle is a space to look outward from.  It’s a set of people who encourage and empower you to build relationships and a network outside of the Circle. 

Building intimacy, trust, and psychological safety in our Working Out Loud Circle did not make us insular – it made us bolder, more courageous in the world, more likely to connect with others. 

I have more I’d like to share about this Circle, especially about how it supported me to make significant progress on an important goal.  However, I will do this in another post.  I just want to leave you to sit with the power of having a trusted group of people who help you be bold, courageous and build better relationships with others.

* If you are unfamiliar with Working Out Loud Circles go to www.workingoutloud.com for information and free resources to run your own Circle.

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Michelle Works Out Loud

I’m back!  It’s time for me to get back into Working Out Loud on my website.  I haven’t posted much on my site since leaving my job eight months ago to resume working independently.  I’ve given myself all sorts of ‘reasons’ (excuses?) for this.  The shift to working for myself has pushed me to rethink a lot of things.  One of these was my approach to blogging.  Since starting my blog in early 2014 my primary goal has been to Work Out Loud.  Now I also want to use my website as a marketing tool.  This shift has thrown up some fears/considerations for me.

I was afraid that if I Worked Out Loud about things I am learning or processes that I am improving (aka things that aren’t going as well as I’d like), that people might think that I didn’t know what I was doing or lacked expertise. I didn’t want to look unpolished or unprofessional.

I was afraid that it might allow people to apply my approaches without engaging me to work with them.  Would I be ‘giving away’ what I know and how I work?  I have discussed this concern with others who work independently and have grappled with it, endeavouring to find a balance with how much they share about how they work.

I was also concerned about whether people might respond differently to my Working Out Loud as an independent than they did when I was an employee.  Would they perceive that my posts were all about marketing rather making a contribution?  How might they judge me?

It’s time to move on from these considerations and fears.  During the recent International Working Out Loud (WOL) Week it struck me that it’s poor form for me to be advocating WOL and not role modeling it.  It lacks integrity.  So, I’ve set up two blog pages on my website.  This post is on my ‘Michelle Works Out Loud’ page.  This is my sandpit.  My posts on this page will be about what I’m working on and learning, and how I’m doing it.  I will also write about things that are on my mind – topics that I’m thinking about.  They will generally be written in less than 30 minutes, and may not be very polished.  They may ramble a little and jump around a bit.  That’s okay when I’m working out loud.  I’ll use theses posts to reflect and learn.  I’ll share them via Twitter – but generally not on LinkedIn (where I’m more concerned with how I present myself).  It would be great to get some comments and input from others with an interest in the things I’m working on and learning, to generate conversation.

My formal blog page (the ‘Blog’ tab) is where I will publish more mature and well thought-out posts.  They will be a mix of opinion pieces and show-casing my work more coherently that the WOL posts.

Regardless of which page my posts are published on I aim to write with courage and authenticity.  I’m pushing beyond  my fears and relishing the learning and opportunities that Working Out Loud more frequently will create.

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