- What is a Working Out Loud Circle
- How Circles Work
- Resources to Help You
- Who’s in Your Circle?
- Before Your Circle’s First Meeting
- Guidelines for Every Meeting
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Circle Guides
What is a Working Out Loud Circle
A Working Out Loud circle is a small peer support group in which you pick a goal and build a network of relationships that can help you with that goal. Groups meet for an hour a week for 12 weeks. By the end of your 12 weeks in a circle, you’ll have developed a larger, more diverse network and a set of habits you can apply toward any goal.
How Circles Work
There are five important things to know about circles:
- Circles are confidential. Members of a circle will learn better when they’re in a supportive environment and don’t need to fear being judged or gossiped about. What happens in the circle stays in the circle unless members explicitly agree otherwise.
- Circles include 2 - 5 people. More than five people means there’s too much free-form discussion and not enough time to provide detailed feedback on each individual’s goals and progress. The more diverse the circle is, the better.
- Circles meet for one hour a week for 12 weeks. After an initial meeting to get to know the other people and their goals, group members are asked to commit to 11 additional meetings. 12 weeks is long enough for people to develop new habits, and short enough so the effort is focused and sustainable.
- There’s a simple, structured curriculum. The 12 weeks are meant to be a guided mastery program. That means you take small steps, get feedback, and make progress at your own pace. There are specific exercises, but there is no test and no judgment. Any progress you make will help you build your network and increase your chances of reaching your goal.
- One member is the facilitator. Groups work best when one individual takes it upon themselves to care more and is willing and able to keep things organized, positive, and productive. You're not managing the group as much as serving them: inviting members, organizing meetings, facilitating discussions in the meetings, and nudging people who need to be nudged. Importantly, you also make sure no one gets left behind. Being the facilitator doesn't require much extra effort, but it's nonetheless an important role.
Resources to Help You
The Circle Guide is a synthesis of exercises from the book, Working Out Loud. While you don’t have to read the book to take part in a circle, the techniques, stories and examples in the book will greatly improve your chances of realizing your goal and working out loud effectively.
In addition to this overview, the Circle Guide has a section for each of the 12 weeks that includes a suggested agenda, exercises, and answers to frequently asked questions. There’s more information on workingoutloud.com, including additional exercises, techniques, and stories of people who work out loud.
Who’s in Your Circle?
Since circles are peer support groups, it’s important that members can be open about their goals, their learning, and their struggles without fear of judgment or rejection. For some, that means close friends are a good choice for their circle. Others might prefer strangers. Generally, more diverse circles lead to more creativity and ideas. Whomever you choose, make sure you’ll be comfortable being open and vulnerable in front of them.
Before Your Circle’s First Meeting
Once you’ve selected people you would like to include in your circle, it’s time to invite them to the first meeting. Pick a place that’s comfortable and conducive to a small group having a conversation for an hour. The best preparation for your meeting is to read the book. If you don’t have time to finish it, read the beginning of Part III Your Own Guided Mastery Program, including Chapter 10 - A practical goal & your first relationship list.
Everyone in the circle should read this overview and Working Out Loud Circle Guide - Week 1.
Guidelines for Every Meeting
Here are basic rules that apply to every meeting. The facilitator should feel free to gently remind people of the rules occasionally.
The facilitator should:
- Read the material relevant for that week. Not everyone will read the book, so it helps if the facilitator has read it.
- Have the material handy at the meeting. This allows circle members to refer to it during the meeting and allows those who haven’t read it to quickly skim it.
- Choose a suitable location for a group discussion. Pick a place that’s comfortable and not too loud.
- Keep the discussion moving. Check the agenda before and throughout the meeting and keep discussions moving along by gently remind people of the agenda for the meeting.
- Help everyone participate. That sometimes means drawing out people who are quiet or gently helping someone bring their input to a close.
Every member should:
- Read the material relevant for that week.
- Be on time. The hour will go by quickly. When people are late, they’ll miss out themselves and will break up the flow of the meeting for everyone else.
- Be prepared to take notes. You could use pen and paper or a tablet but try and avoid laptops. You should be actively listening and participating
- Focus. Don’t use your phone as it distracts you as well as the other circle members. It also signals that you’re not listening and don’t care, making it difficult for the group to share openly and trust each other. If you do get interrupted, excuse yourself and step away from the table.
Most importantly, relax and enjoy yourself. Any time you spend investing in yourself - thinking about goals and ways of deepening relationships to accomplish them - is time well spent. Enjoy it.
More tips can be found here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What’s so special about twelve weeks?
Practice, practice, practice. The only way to develop new habits is through repetition over time. How long till something becomes a habit? Studies show that your brain physically changes in three to eight weeks depending on the activity. Through repetition, the activity becomes more automatic and, combined with feedback, you become more proficient. To be conservative, and to account
for latency involved when interacting with others in your network, I extended the
program to twelve weeks.
Q: What if I don’t really click with my group. What should I do?
You needn’t be friends with the people in your circle, but liking them helps. If you feel uncomfortable or otherwise don’t want to spend time with the people in the circle, just let the facilitator know before the second meeting.
Q: Is it better if we have the same or similar goals?
Some of the most interesting and effective circles are when people have different backgrounds and goals. They tend to bring different perspectives and insights to the exercises and the group as a whole will learn more.
Q: One person can’t make it. Should we go ahead anyway?
You need to balance accommodating individual schedule changes with the needs of the group to meet regularly and build trust. When someone can’t attend, the best approach is for the facilitator to check with that person and with other members on what to do. Whether you decide as a group to go ahead anyway or to defer the meeting, make an extra effort to help everyone stay
connected to the group.
Q. Where can I find answers to other questions?
There are Frequently Asked Questions in each section of the circle guide. If you don’t find your question there, you might find your answer in the book or on workingoutloud.com (under “Resources—> FAQ”). Or, you can always ask a question in the Jive Working Out Loud community.