A great opening for the Employee Engagement and Communications track at JiveWorld was the session "Working Out Loud: Driving Adoption While Tapping into Employees' Intrinsic Motivation to Make Work Better" by John Stepper and Catherine Shinners. John also handed out 100 free copies of his book, Working Out Loud: For a Better Career and Life.
John kicked off the session by describing how Working Out Loud (WOL) can be one thing that can change you and your company. He told how, while attending JiveWorld several years ago, he was energized seeing other people changing their companies and wanted to be like them, but then going home and struggling to get people just to click a follow button or fill out a profile.
What was missing? His conclusion was that there was no emotional resonance with people. Knowing that everyone wants to feel connected and be part of a bigger purpose, he came up with the idea of WOL circles. The WOL circle concept is a kind of "Dale Carnegie meets the internet."
The essence of WOL Circles is that they consist of 4-5 people, meeting in a safe, confidential environment sharing:
- What is my goal?
- Who can help me?
- Who can I help?
Catherine shared her experience working with Cisco to introduce WOL circles into that company. Cisco had rolled out Jive to the entire company over the past year, but learned that even if you are adept at personal social tools such as Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin, that doesn't necessarily translate to using social tools for doing work inside a corporate environment. WOL circles help overcome that.
Steps she took to ensure success:
- Had John do a video conference inside Cisco
- Made sure that people who worked together were not in the same circle, to ensure that network connection formation was maximized
- Created a WOL newsletter for Cisco circle members to let them know what was going on in WOL circles at other companies like Bosch or Australian Tax Department
Some of the more interesting results were that two Cisco employees working at opposite ends of the spectrum on supporting government customers discovered each other, and one employee even took the idea home to his wife and kids and the kids, who are now holding their own circles!
John pointed out that there are five basic elements to working out loud:
- creating relationships, building a social network
- leading with generosity
- making your work visible to others
- purposeful discovery, not just serendipity or random sharing
- having a growth mindset, with an attitude of constantly getting better
People tend to think way too narrowly about their contributions, so it's best to start with simple acts of appreciation, recognition, gratitude, and empathy. Your activity should be tied to the intimacy level you have with the other person, little step by little step. Once people get a sense of empowerment, it changes how they look at their goals.
Simple steps taken to create a single circle can often easily scale to having multiple circles with or across organizations, leading to organizational benefits as well as individual ones. For example, Bosch now reports that 83% of their employees also became more effective at using their enterprise social network as a result of being in a WOL circle, and 97% would recommend it to someone else.
If you want to get started with WOL circles in your own organization, In addition to the book there are lots of free materials on the WOL web site. Some tips on getting started:
- Offer some structure and how you will support people through the process
- Don't go after everybody -- focus on the people who self-select
- Often a good place to start is with your organization's diversity groups
- It's important to do it weekly in order to build in time for practice, repetition, and feedback
Later in the afternoon, we held a meet-up where John led an informal discussion on WOL for those who were interested in starting their own circles. A good time, thought-provoking discussion, and mojitos were had by all.