Work Out Loud (WOL) – a term I came across for the first time via my Coach John Stepper on the internal collaboration platform at work.
When I started following him there and read his contributions I was hugely impressed by his enthusiasm and his spirit (still am btw). I wanted to know more about this “Work Out Loud” thing so I followed his fantastic public blog (which you can find here), read almost every blog entry and waited every Saturday for new “brain food”.
And when I saw the chance to become one of his “guinea pig” for his WOL coaching, I quickly raised my hand and screamed “here”… virtually of course.
Working Out Loud – what does it mean?
When I told my family and some friends of this coaching, some of them wondered out loud “But aren’t you doing that anyway?”.
Others rolled their eyes “Geeze another one who loves to talk about himself” or “What? Bragging about what you are doing?”.
And I started thinking (yes you are totally right, I should have done that BEFORE accepting the coaching offer – but hey we are talking about me here) – I could understand why they thought this way about me and the topic.
I definitely had the “work” part covered; and for sure the “loud” one too. But somehow I didn’t get the two things connected. My network was huge and worked really well on the operational level but somehow I couldn’t get myself to take it one step further.
“Let’s see where this takes me”
In my first call we tried sorting out what I wanted from this coaching. It was a time I deliberately detached myself from being totally focused on my job. I wanted to go somewhere else. We touched my tax background, but no.. not anymore. That might have been a dream 20 years ago… a dream I grew out of.
But there was this one thing I wanted to know where it could lead me – a hobby-turned-into-obsession I had for the last 20 years, something I thought if I could turn it into even more. Maybe even make a living out of it? Who knows..
So my objective was “Genealogy – let’s see where it takes me”.
Some of you might think “Genea-what? What is she talking about?
Family Research. I am working on my family tree. And just working on mine wasn’t enough anymore. I started this blog shortly before starting my WOL coaching, I irregularly helped others with their research but somehow it didn’t feel enough anymore.
John was great! He took on this subject of which he didn’t know anything or at least not a lot of and went on this journey with me.
My homework for our second call: start putting together my list of 10 people, either by name or kind whom I would like to know or to get in contact with. No how, no when, just the names.
If you will ever work with him or join one of the WOL circles offered, you will get to know those two words “THE LIST”. I’d have to say, sitting in front of a blank sheet (which in my case was an Evernote document) was pure horror. Where do I start? What do I want? Who do I want? I have no idea! I hate it already!
It took me a couple of days to come up with the first six or seven names. They are mostly genealogy bloggers I admired and I remember I had “the team that organizes Rootstech” on it. One of the objectives I have yet to achieve
The further we went on the more detailed this list got. Okay, you want to be connected to them. Why? And How? And by when?
I cannot tell you how often I reworked this list. I added people, I greyed out people I had on there from the beginning because I refocused during the coaching. I didn’t want to delete them, so I re-ordered the list and greyed them.
I added topics, ideas for blogposts (most of them I still work on), outlets for my content, I sorted it, re-prioritized, new people or found names to replace the “kind of” people.
Another word you would hear in a WOL coaching over and over again: what is your contribution to them? How, what channel – blog, tweet, recommendation – how often? Do you know anyone they know? Leverage your network, my favourite line.
Just to give you two examples: there is this video from a company back home called Draeger (I bet John can’t hear it anymore – his ears must be bleeding by now since this gave me such a hard time). They are big in medical technology and stuff and they celebrate their 125th birthday this year. I read the autobiography of the company founder a while back and somehow ended up on their homepage where I found this wonderful video regarding their company history.
The only thing I wanted to do is to let the creators know how beautiful I thought it was and to compliment them. I think it took me until week six that I got this email written AND sent! It never really felt right. Every week John asked and every week I said “not yet”. Very embarrassing, I have to admit but I had to get over whatever held me back by myself.
The other example is an internal one from my employer. We have this Historical Association and I love the work they are doing. I think it is a great effort to conserve the history of the company and its employees. Of course the assocation was on my list but I wasn’t really sure on how to approach it. Week by week I struggled with what I could say or write without sounding like a “beggar”. And again, one day it felt right to write an email telling them how much I appreciate what they are doing and just in case if they would ever have the idea to come to my location, I would be happy to be of any help. Outcome? Almost immediately I received a very nice thank-you-note. They were really grateful for this appreciation especially by an employee. And further outcome? I will organize an event with the Historical Assocation in my location this fall.
Sometimes I wished for a plain “Barbara do exactly this” or “No Barbara, not THAT!”. But no, that is not the way it works. The coaching is about ideas and exploring the way together. I had to find it on my own not being told what to do.
To come back to the Initial question “Working Out Loud – what does it mean”? I can only give you my interpretation:
It is about working on your network with a purpose. To make yourself visible. To know what your contributions are. What was I able to give? You have to give to your network before you can take something out of it. We’ve all heard those sentences before but it is necessary to make a habit out of them.
My 12 weeks of coaching are over… and now? Well, first of all, I still wait for my “Working Out Loud Graduate certificate”… lol …
Am I the “Oprah Winfrey of genealogy”? Ehem.. NO! No talkshow, no cable network, not even a bit of merchandising .. darn, mission not accomplished :)
“Working Out Loud changed my life”
Okay, seriously now. What did I achieve?
I’m more visible because of my blog. I’m often asked to provide input for other bloggers. I got profiled by myheritage. I found a new topic of interest which is corporate history. I have a regular exchange with historians (inside and outside of my company). I started the history group on our internal collaboration platform to bring my whole self to work.
I don’t want to sound too pathetic, but WOL really changed my life. How I approach work and life. How I do things. I’ve always been a connector of people and topics.
But this coaching took me to the next level. Now I do it with a purpose.. not only for me, but for others too. I think even more about “who could participate in this” or “who could benefit out of it”.
Thank you, John, for taking this journey with me! I’ll always be grateful for that.. you rock!
And one other big achievement? I’m still working on “THE LIST” ;)