Adventures in Working Out Loud

19 November 2015

“Working Out Loud starts with making your work visible in such a way that it might help others. When you do that – when you work in a more open, connected way – you can build a purposeful network that makes you more effective and provides access to more opportunities.”~ John Stepper

Earlier in the week I posted a blog about self-awareness, and feeling happy to bring your story to the table as part of being a happy and effective team player.  In International Working Out Loud Week I wanted to follow on from this and share some of how I have been using #WOL to develop my work and networks.  Because I am loving how the #WOL approach is enabling me to reach out, and increasingly share my experiences and ideas to ultimately make them better.

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But then earlier in the week I had a poor experience at a meeting, one that left me considering that perhaps I was not a good leader, and I had somehow done myself and the project a disservice.  I wondered about writing instead about differing leadership styles and cultures, and thinking about the idea of being ‘in’ and ‘out’ of the majority.  When I reflected I discovered that Working Out Loud remains relevant to my experience.

I have in my work always been a strong believer in the power of collaboration and co-creation if you ultimately want to be effective, as my colleague Eve posted on Facebook this week,

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” ~ Ken Blanchard

I went to said meeting considering that ‘we’ were collaborating on a project for which we had shared ambitions.  Therefore, if I shared project progress, main challenges and my opening thoughts on what input would be helpful we would ‘as many’ be able to come up with some much stronger solutions for resolving issues.  I went in to the space on reflection very much in the spirit of ‘Working Out Loud’.

I left in a somewhat less positive mood.  Feeling I had been perceived as anxious about issues, an “over-sharer” and not adequately ‘in-charge’ of my delivery.  I feel what was heard was not my transparent request for input and co-creation, but a catalogue of problems.  Potentially I was viewed as a ‘poor leader’.

Sure, I can see it is naive to not ‘do the check’ of the existing culture and way of working in the space in which I was going.  And I definitely take heed of the advice from Bert Vries to find like-minded people to work with if it is, “not yet seen as a critical employee skill which needs to be developed and supported by the organisation.” 

But mainly, I am taking a massive positive from this experience.  Working Out Loud gives me a framework and a community behind what I have known intuitively for the years I have spent working on change programmes and projects; creating successful change is about people, relationships, collaboration and co-creation.

I am not a poor leader; I am a collaborative leader that was not on this occasion operating in the right environment.  I’m not going to do less of this behaviour as a result of my ‘failure’ but more.  Because it matters if I and the projects I am working on are to succeed at genuinely delivering change,

 “working out loud leaders can change the leadership dynamic from one based in control and expertise to one that leverages networks and collaboration.”     ~ Simon Terry

What I do need to do is go about this slightly differently.  Yes, I need to be more discerning about what, when and with whom I use the approach.  But it chimes with a fundamental part of me so I am also going to share the idea much more deliberately with the people I work with, or I am thinking about working with.  Openness to the idea, will be a factor in me choosing where I work.  Because I do believe that “change itself is changing” and I am going to be taking seriously my ongoing mastery of this approach.

So now, on another day, I will share my reflections on getting to grips with my  #WOL Circle and my first tentative #WOL steps.

Nicola Waterworth,  Associate

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