Week 12 WOL Circle Meeting – The “Final” Meeting


It’s the month of May in Indianapolis, so what better metaphor for celebrating the completion of our circle than a checkered flag!  (Never mind that we actually finished in April…)

Our final meeting was just as inspiring as the first.  I think we all felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment at completing the entire 12 weeks.  While none of us made as much progress toward our goal as we had hoped, we all still felt like we had learned some valuable new techniques and had definitely seen progress.

One of the values of participating in a WOL circle is that it a wonderful learning experience made more impactful by the partnership and support of the other circle members.  I think one thing all of us would have done differently is around setting our goal.  Over the course of the 12 weeks, we all made adjustments to our goals if not changing them completely.

For my next circle I will definitely spend more time with participants on selection of a goal to help them get the most out of the experience.  Here is what I learned both through my own and my circle members’ experiences.

Choose a simple goal.  The point of the circle is to learn a different way of working and building a network.  The goal itself isn’t as important as being able to successfully try out and begin incorporating new techniques into your work style.

Choose a goal where you already have a few connections.  I found that trying to build a network from scratch was a really big undertaking.  It also made it more difficult to practice making contributions.  It’s much easier to feel comfortable approaching someone you know rather than someone who doesn’t know you at all.  The techniques you practice over the 12 weeks can definitely  help you to grow your network and move from an intimacy level of 0 to a level of 1 or 2 and that ‘s definitely progress.  However, I think to really make progress toward a goal it would help to have some people with whom you have an intimacy level of 3+.

Try to give yourself at least 5 hours a week to work through the exercises and work on your relationships.  I know, that sounds like a lot of time, but I found that the weeks where I invested the most time were the weeks where I made the most progress.  Carving out the time really wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be.  I tended to spend some extra time at work at the end of the day.  It was quiet, I didn’t have any distractions and it gave me time to focus.  I know that won’t work for everyone but do try to find some time you can carve out for yourself.

Be willing to experiment and try new things.  Over the course of our 12 weeks, we all had the opportunity to try new things and see what worked.  I really didn’t do much on Twitter before but found ways to use it for both professional as well as personal interests.  Several of our members hadn’t done very much with our internal enterprise social network and became not just converts but advocates.  Use this as an opportunity to move out of your comfort zone and try something different.

So, what comes next?  One of the best things I got out of this experience is the wonderful relationships I’ve developed with my fellow circle members.  We have all agreed that we want to keep in touch.  We will be getting together in a few weeks when our member from Italy is in town on business.  We also want to try to reconnect every couple of months.  I know that these are people I will always feel a special connection to.

I definitely want to start up another circle group.  I just wanted to finish writing up my experiences from this circle first.  (Done and done!)  The only thing I haven’t decided just yet is whether my next circle will be at work or with an outside group.  I’m really looking forward to doing this again with a different group of people.  I’m sure each circle experience is as different as the individuals in the circle.  If you are interested in starting up a circle and looking for a participant or a facilitator, please keep me in mind.

Week 11 WOL Circle Summary – Network = Tribe of People with Shared Interest


To prepare for Week 11 we not only watched Seth Godin’s TED talk “The Tribes We Lead”, but also Derek Siver’s short talk on “How to Start a Movement”.  While we all found both videos very inspiring, our consensus was that it’s much harder to start a true movement than portrayed in either video.

The problem with most movements is not getting started.  There is usually a lot of energy and enthusiasm at the beginning but it’s sometimes hard to maintain that momentum over the long run.  You don’t just need to recruit followers passionate about your mission or idea but also people with the right skill sets to take your idea to the next level.

That being said, we all enjoyed the exercise of listing things we are passionate about.  Our lists included everything from helping people in need, education, social issues, to improving our work environments.  One of our circle members who lives in Italy shared a wonderful story about people in the community who have come together to take care of the grounds and gardens of an abandoned villa.

The lesson we took away, is that even if you aren’t leading a movement, it’s a wonderful experience to be part of a community with a shared interest or mission.  My experience with Working Out Loud is a wonderful example.  Since deciding to launch my own circle, I have truly cherished the opportunity to build and broaden my community.  From the 4 new people I have gotten to know through our circle to the broader WOL community who offered wonderful support through Twitter, Facebook, and comments left on my blog; I feel like this experience has definitely helped me become part of an inspiring movement.

Week 10 WOL Circle Summary – Expanding Your Network


The Week 10 circle guide we used was a bit different than the new one now published on the Working Out Loud site.  So, if you are comparing the new guide to what I describe here, that is why there will be differences.

Leveraging Other Networks

The exercise was to try to find at least 5 organizations related to your goal such as Professional Groups, Conferences, Meet Ups, Online Communities and Vendors.  Making a contribution to one of these networks would be a way to come in contact with more people and possibilities.

Some of us struggled with this exercise.  If working on a work-related goal, it can be tricky to know what you can and can’t share.  It is more than just concerns about sharing proprietary information, some companies have fairly strict policies about endorsing a product or service.

The way I have used these larger organizations is to identify individuals that I might be able to connect with and develop a relationship.  I look at agendas and speaker lists for conferences to try to identify people who have presented on topics where I have an interest.  I then try to find that individual on line through other channels – LinkedIn, Twitter, a blog, etc.  If I can find them, then I will try to reach out and make an individual contribution.


Identifying Influencers: Who’s Your Kimmel?

This exercise starts with the example of Paul “Yosemite Bear” Vasquez.  Paul posted a video of a double rainbow that went viral after Jimmy Kimmel tweeted about it.  The point of this exercise is that some people have more influence than others.  How can we identify the people in our networks who can help us to reach a larger audience.

I think what most of us struggled with in this exercise is how to reach out to an influencer in a way that it is a genuine contribution.  The example of Paul Vasquez is really one of serendipity.  He didn’t seek out Jimmy Kimmel, he simply benefited from the fact that his video was shared with Jimmy’s millions of followers.  It’s far different to seek out someone because they have an extensive network.  For it to be a genuine contribution, you would have to go in with no expectations that this individual will share your contribution.

Maintaining and Growing Your Network:

In this exercise we each shared what we are doing to maintain our relationship lists.  We each had very different approaches from systematic to sporadic.  I think the key is that everyone has adopted an approach that works for him or her.

Since most of the people in my relationship list are people I’ve not met in person, I feel like I need to walk a fine line between being a helpful contributor and being a pest.  For people with an online presence, I try to monitor their posts and at the very least click “like” or add a comment if I feel I have something worthwhile to contribute.  I have also been working on using some of the features on LinkedIn such as tagging my connections and trying to reach out to the people who are important to me on a more regular basis.

One person in our circle said that he doubts that he will ever get in the habit of doing a regular check in.  Rather, he will be more opportunistic in his approach reaching out when he has something useful to contribute, sees an opportunity for recognition or has another specific need.  However he does see the value of a relationship list especially one related to a specific topic of interest.

Another member of our circle is a role model for maintaining relationships.  She has the philosophy of keeping her relationships “warm”.  She uses a variety of tools to keep in touch with her network, from LinkedIn updates to direct messages on Twitter.  She has also become a big fan of our internal enterprise social network.  She has gone from being somewhat skeptical of its value to a regular contributor.

I think one of our big take-aways from this past week is that we can all see the value of becoming more systematic in our approach.  Having a relationship list and being more strategic in our interactions with people in our network has shown benefits for all of us.

Week 9 – Original Contributions


(After a delay during which I chose to focus on other priorities, I’m finally publishing our insights from our final few weeks from our WOL circle.  Yes, we did finish all 12 weeks!)

The focus of Week 9 is original contributions.  We began by sharing some of our favorite self-published content.

Seth Godin’s Blog Innovation, Spreading Ideas, Changing Everything Seth’s Blog
Working Out Loud John Stepper’s site – articles & resources related to WOL Working Out Loud | For a better career and life
Cake Wrecks Cakes gone wrong Cake Wrecks – Home
Dorrie Clark’s Blog Personal Branding http://dorieclark.com/blog/
GoodThink Is to make you happier http://goodthinkinc.com/
Richard Branson’s blog Provoking positive change in the world topics https://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/one-size-doesn%E2%80%99t-fit-all
Teds Talk Various talks / video thoughtful talks the inspiring and thoughtful talks Browse TED Talks | TED.com
Indexed (shared by Carole) This site is a little project that lets me make fun of some things and sense of others. I use it to think a little more relationally without resorting to doing actual math. Indexed – PUBLISHED WEEKDAY MORNINGS AS THE COFFEE BREWS
TheBrycesWrite Bryce Williams blog about working out loud and social business https://thebryceswrite.com/author/thebryceswrite/
Junk Charts Visualization critic discusses graphics and offers suggestions to make them better Junk Charts

Some of our favorite sites were related to our goals, some provided food for thought, and some were just for fun.  The variety of the sites we shared speaks to the fact that anyone can publish.  All it takes is a desire to share a unique viewpoint.

In the Lists & Profiles exercise we each created a list of 10 people who we admire and are relevant to our goals.  As we discussed the exercise, it was enlightening to think about how this simple exercise could be a wonderful contribution.  Now only would it be a tribute to the individuals we profile, but it could also introduce others to their work.  I see some future blog posts coming out of this for me.  (Once I get caught up on publishing the final few weeks from our WOL circle.)

So, what is it that prevents us from publishing and sharing our work/ideas/process/learning?  There’s the classic reasons – too busy and competing priorities.  Then there is the self doubt – is what I’m publishing “good enough”?  Will I be criticized?  Will anyone even care?  It does take a leap of faith to put yourself out there and be willing to share.  Hopefully, the act of sharing will help us to learn, grow, and improve from the comments and feedback from others.