The WOL Membership Network

“For those who’ve felt there could be more to work and life.” That’s who Working Out Loud is dedicated to.

You know you have more to offer, but to whom?

You feel there could be more to work and life, but what?

You believe your company could be more collaborative, but how?

WOL helps you discover answers to these questions. Joining the new WOL Membership Network makes it easy, and gives you access to coaching, support, resources, and new methods you won’t find anywhere else.

Time to Invest in Yourself

For every person who has experienced a WOL Circle, there are dozens more who want to try it but don’t have the time or energy to do everything themselves: finding other Circle members, organizing meetings, registering for materials, and going through the process on their own.

In the new WOL Membership Network, we do it all for you and with you. Once you sign up, we help you get started and get the most from your experience so your time is spent on the most important thing: investing in yourself. 

A Professional, Supported Coaching Experience

Your membership fee gives you access to a professional, supported, curated peer coaching experience. We:

  • Match you with Circle members

  • Get you organized & get you started

  • Offer live coaching sessions

  • Support you along the way.

It’s an annual membership, so for an entire year you can:

  • Join a WOL Circle or the new 8-week WOL Mindfulness Circle

  • Join multiple Circles over the course of your membership

  • Connect with people with similar goals & roles

  • Receive an official certificate for each Circle you complete

The Privileges of Membership 

So far, this kind of coaching and support used to only be available to big companies, with WOL Coaches helping them empower hundreds and even thousands of employees. Now you can experience it for yourself.

Maybe you’re looking for the next steps in your career or small business. Maybe you need coaching and development for your employees. Maybe you want to try WOL before introducing it in your company.

This is an opportunity to take a step you’ve been wanting to take.  

How do you join?

The first Circles will begin in January, including the new WOL Mindfulness Circles. (You can choose which kind of method you’d like to start with.) We will limit the initial group to only 100 people—and I will personally support you along the way.

This is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever worked on. After all that has happened in these past few months, I can’t wait to begin a new year helping 100 people invest in themselves and a better future.

To register your interest and get more details, visit signup.www.africanmango-slim.com?.

“A profound program, the insights & tasks were an inspiring framework to our journey on which

we worked, dreamt & developed all together.”

- Daniela, WOL Circle member in Germany

“We know that for the rest of our lives, all the gains we have achieved through WOL will be with us.

This is more than a 12-week process.”

- G?k?e, WOL Circle member in Turkey

Click on the logo to register for more details

Click on the logo to register for more details

WOL Healthcare: The first pilot

Bettina first wrote to me about the idea almost two years ago, in November of 2018. She had heard about WOL at an event, started a Circle, and wanted to spread it to nurses in a few dozen medical centers. First, though, she needed a few changes. 

“The guides need to become shorter - the nurses do not have 60 minutes a week left, there is too much text, the examples have to refer to the health sector…”

The list went on. 

The Process

Bettina and I talked about it on a call and later in person at the Frankfurt Airport. Gradually, a team formed. Me and four women who each work in different healthcare organizations but share a passion and commitment for improving their workplaces.

Martina Koch

Bettina Jung

Katharina Nolden

Constanze Zeller

For months we talked and debated and wrote together. Eventually, we created a brand new 8-week WOL Circle format that is specially designed for healthcare workers, including those who may be in a frontline role with no access to the internet. 

The Pilot

The first test of the materials will be run by these four smart, creative, determined women, and they will conduct the free pilot in German using their own translation. Here’s a poignant English description of WOL Healthcare that they wrote for an upcoming workshop to enlist participants:

Who, if not you, can make working in the health and social care industry a little better every day? For you personally, for your colleagues, and for an appropriate appreciation in our society.

Because the current situation in particular shows that our accustomed way of working is not sufficient for the challenges we are facing. Together we have to be flexible, innovative and efficient without increasing the already experienced psychological and physical stress.

Health and social professions need continued visibility in their professionalism - it must not stop at clapping on balconies. WOL Healthcare should help you to meet these challenges

It is a privilege to work with Bettina, Martina, Constanze, and Katharina. To learn more about the pilot, register for the workshop. You can also reach them at a special email address: healthcare@www.africanmango-slim.com

The Future

Will this new format work? I’m not sure. But I am confident we will discover how to improve the WOL Circle method to reach more people in a wider range of jobs. And I am determined to apply our learning to help those in healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and other environments so they too can make more of all they have to offer.


WOL Podcasts, Interviews, and Events

“Please say yes!” she said, offering me both encouragement and a rebuke at the same time.

It was my publisher, Trena White at Page Two, talking about marketing the new edition of Working Out Loud that came out in May, and the German edition available for pre-order now.  

I had been reluctant to do interviews and podcasts, but Trena made it clear that needed to change. So, I’m saying “yes” a lot more these days, including four times in the past two weeks. (Click on each title to learn more.)

  • Learning Uncut: A conversation with Michelle Ockers & Katharina Krentz. Michelle read one of the earliest drafts of the book and Katha is featured in chapter 21 on “Changing the Culture of Your Company.”

  • The Messiah Community: Although I never expected to be invited to participate in such a community, the host Micheal Lorin is so charming and gracious that our talk is one of my favorites.

  • Lernen In Geil: A video blog with Jennifer Withelm, who is not only a Learning & Development expert but, after Week 5 of a WOL Circle, shared her “50 Facts About Me” in a beautiful post this week.

  • LIVE EVENT TODAY - Xing/New Work Experience: A talk with me and two friends, Michael Trautmann (“On the Way to New Work” podcaster and member of my latest WOL Circle) and Katharina Krentz. You can register for free here

I hope you enjoy one or more of these and find them useful. And if you think Working Out Loud is suitable for your audience, please send me an email at john.stepper@www.africanmango-slim.com. I will be happy to say “Yes!” :-)

Click on the image to register for the free live event

Click on the image to register for the free live event

The first Turkish WOL Coach

Sebnem Maier is the newest WOL Coach. She is a role model for Working Out Loud, leading by her example over the last five years, and now she will be spreading Working Out Loud to companies and communities in Turkey. 

What I love about Sebnem’s story is her long history of contributions. 

  • She was in one of the first Circles at Bosch. 

  • She joined Bosch’s WOL Co-Creation team that has spread WOL to over 6000 colleagues in over 50 countries. (For which the team won a Xing New Work Award in 2019.)

  • She led the translation of the WOL Circle Guides into Turkish (version 5 and soon version 6).

  • She created the WOL Community in Turkey—connecting people, creating social media accounts, organizing events.

  • She’s currently supporting female empowerment networks: Turkish Women’s International Network, Binyaprak, and CIYO (Coming Into Your Own) in Turkey.  

Why do all of this? It started with a positive experience in her first WOL Circle almost 5 years ago. 

Before WOL, I thought that no one would be interested in what I share, as there are definitely better people than me. After WOL, I know I can contribute with what I do. The goal is not to serve the whole world but those who feel connected with you and what you do, and who can benefit or be inspired by it.

Sebnem, seated in the middle, with the first cross-company WOL Circle in Turkey

She felt empowered, and she saw that feeling of empowerment grow in others, too. She saw changes that were good for them and also good for the company:

  • Sharing knowledge is seen as adding value

  • Self-organization becomes a basic skill

  • People become more generous and open

  • They are more comfortable with “digital”

  • They become used to be working in communities and even building communities

But why become a Coach?

After almost 5 years of my WOL journey, in personal and corporate matters, I want to contribute with my experience not only to individuals but to companies, especially in Turkey.

WOL is a mindset and working style. I hope to reach thousands of people to make their own experience and grow. I want to see companies in Turkey implementing WOL to make the work more collaborative, joyful, and fulfilling, while empowering their employees and coming one step closer to what “new work” could be.

I am thrilled at what Sebnem has already accomplished and the potential for what she will do in the future. You can reach our newest WOL Coach at sebnem.maier@www.africanmango-slim.com.

“How can it be done?”

Today, the new edition of Working Out Loud is available, and there are new ways to help you spread the method. These comments from practitioners offer the best reasons for why I keep developing and spreading WOL. 

Building trust

Ricarda joined a Circle in a technology company and wrote that, “In these challenging times I read a lot and talked to different people about networking and building trust in the digital space. Is it possible at all? How can it be done?”

“Although I haven‘t met my Circle mates in person, they know more about me, my personal life and my work than most of my direct colleagues. Although we come from different fields of study and work on different projects, we created a space where we can grow and where we absolutely trust and support each other in reaching our goals. 

For me this is a really eye-opening experience and it shows me that creating trust and team spirit is definitely possible in the digital environment.”

Ricarda’s Circle at Voith

Humanizing the workplace

Christyl is in a Circle in a bank in New York City, and she shared how they use it to cultivate meaningful, purposeful connections. 

“How Do You Nurture Real Connectivity at a 250,000+ Firm? I  LoVe how the VP Academy Family breaks our Alumni into small “Working Out Loud” groups who Meet Virtually weekly.....to Connect, Learn and Grow TOGETHER!”

Christyl’s Circle at JP Morgan Chase

Surfing the uncertainty

Aneliya emigrated from Bulgaria and joined a Circle in her new company. She said, “We are constantly surrounded by change in our world. Who helps us to build our safety net in a life of uncertainties?” She decided to try and spread Circles in her company and they shared it on their official LinkedIn account:

The Working out Loud method combines many principles of agile work. It makes agility tangible. But it is also a mindset and a way to collaborate by building and using a reliable network.

Aneliya’s Circle at Metronom

Making the most of what we have

Building trust and connections. Navigating uncertainty. These are good reasons to Work Out Loud. One more reason—perhaps the one that most inspires me to do what I do—is that WOL can liberate people. It can, as Elisabeth writes, help them “develop more of that they have to offer.” 

That feeling of self-determination is powerful and freeing. My friend Daniella from Brazil describes it beautifully: “WOL gave me back my wings ?????♀?????”

To help more people have this experience

As of today, there are new web pages in English & German where you can schedule a conversation, download information on WOL Programs, and register for the free Corporate Starter Kit. Please go ahead and try them!

Next week, I will announce the best version of the Circle Guides yet, one that makes the method even more effective and easier to practice.

Who will you share it with? (100 free copies of the all-new WOL ebook edition)

Some of the gifts I treasure most are books I’ve received from friends. Cookbooks, good stories, interesting non-fiction. There’s an initial spark of joy I feel when I first get it and read their note. Then another spark and another each time I see the book or use what I learned from it.

I hope you and a friend can have that same experience with the new edition of Working Out Loud

To get your free ebook

The book launches on Tuesday. May 12th. If you pre-order a copy before then, we will send you a code for a free digital copy of the book that you can forward to a friend.

To receive your code, be one of the first 100 people to send any proof of purchase to support@www.africanmango-slim.com. (Please send it before May 12th. One code per person.)

Which friend will you give it to? What will you say? Maybe you can share how WOL helped you and why you thought they might find it useful too. Maybe it’s a chance to tell them how wonderful they are, and how WOL can help them explore more possibilities or realize more of all they have to offer. (Share your ideas with us in your request for the ebook and we will compile them in a future blog post.)

I hope you and your friend enjoy the new edition. Thank you for ordering the book, and for your support and encouragement over the years.

Click to see pre-order options

Click to see pre-order options

Especially in these times

There is no manual for this. For when you’re suddenly in a world where a well-intentioned handshake can feel like a threat. When you’re aware that every door handle is a connection to hundreds of other people. When you start to wonder, both for yourself and your company, “How will we ever get anything done?”

At this point, we’re all making it up as we go along.

There are already many excellent posts on remote work, on staying healthy, and slowing the spread of the virus. What I hope to contribute is to make it a bit easier for you to feel connected and also productive, whether that’s learning about a topic, developing a skill, or accomplishing something with others. 

For you

Yesterday, I noticed posts on LinkedIn that mentioned that WOL could strengthen our sense of belonging “especially in times of forced home office” and how “the current global situation is what WOL was made for.”:

A lovely “Monday Morning Inspiration” by Victor Mahler. (We worked together at Deutsche Bank.)

A lovely “Monday Morning Inspiration” by Victor Mahler. (We worked together at Deutsche Bank.)

To make it easier for individuals to practice Working Out Loud, I’m accelerating the rollout of some new resources:

  • FAQ videos to answer the most common questions. You can see the first ones on youtube.com/workingoutloud today, and I’ll be publishing 30+ videos in the next few weeks.

  • Version 6 of the Circle Guides: I’m in the final stages of getting this improved version ready, and should be able to make them available in English & German next month, along with a new means of distributing the Guides that allows me to provide helpful tips throughout the 12 weeks. (More details in a future post.)

For your organization

In the past few days I’ve also spoken to HR managers looking for virtual training. All the workshops are canceled, they say, and there’s a limit to what you can learn with online videos. These HR managers want to help their colleagues thrive in the “new work environment” that has been thrust upon them, while also giving newly-isolated employees a feeling that they’re not alone.

My friend Alexander Kluge summed it up nicely.

In response to a tweet by Winfried Felser asking, “How can we use WOL to fight Corona?”

In response to a tweet by Winfried Felser asking, “How can we use WOL to fight Corona?”

To help organizations, I’ve created two resources to make it easier for HR to use WOL Circles as a virtual training method.

  • Version 2 of the Corporate Starter Kit: These are free resources to help you form WOL Circles in your organization. The first version came out in November. This new version includes use cases, case studies, and much more. (If you already registered, you’ll be receiving these updates via a new email series.)

To help you register for the free Corporate Starter Kit or to arrange a call about a WOL program, there is a new chatbot on the website. We’ll expand the use of this tool when I introduce the new version of the Circle Guides.

The new WOL chatbot. Try it!

The new WOL chatbot. Try it!

The important things

A member of my WOL Circle said that now is the time for doing important things, the kind that you might normally put off because you’re usually too busy. 

Maybe for you that means playing with your children or helping your neighbors. Maybe it means contributing to members of your community whose businesses are hit hard by the pandemic. If you’re lucky, maybe it means you have time to invest in yourself and your colleagues, and work on new ways of getting things done.

Whatever your situation, the most important thing is to take good care of yourself and those around you. Especially in these times. 

***

Note: As part of a virtual celebration of the WOL Community on Thursday, March 26th at 2pm EST/ 7pm CET., we will hear stories from community members who are featured in the new edition of Working Out Loud. 

Over 350+ people have registered so far. Here is a registration link for the event. I hope you will join us.

“A great way to strengthen the feeling of belonging together.” (PHOTO CREDIT: KATHARINA KRENTZ & BOSCH EMPLOYEES)

New: Version 5 of the WOL Circle Guides

She said it in such a serious, deadpan way that I knew she wasn’t kidding. “Please,” she told me, “don’t change the guides.”

That was Katharina Krentz from Bosch. She had created materials related to each of the 12 weeks, and changes would mean a lot of extra work. The translations, now in eight other languages, would also have to change. Besides, she pointed out, with more than 500 Circles at Bosch and over 5000 members in their internal WOL Group, there was no need to change anything.

“Yes, and…,” I thought. Since the last update, there have been so many useful resources I’ve wanted to add. And the new, professionally-designed materials - videos, a journal, and soon a workbook - made the old version of the Guides look like, well, like I designed them myself. 

So I tried to modify the material in a way that won’t cause undo work for people already using them, and yet will still be a significant improvement. The result is version 5 of the WOL Circle Guides.

What’s new?

The biggest change is that I added a new section to the website: www.africanmango-slim.com/resources. I removed the lists of links in the PDFs, and created a webpage for each week that includes a wider range of resources - media, examples, more exercises, more FAQs. This is much more flexible, and makes it possible for me to regularly add new resources that the WOL community finds useful. (I especially enjoyed creating a new photo gallery in Week 12.)

The guides have also been professionally redesigned, using a new style and layout that matches the journal and the other materials I’m working on. I find the new design much cleaner and easier to read. 

The final change is to the licensing language that was on each section of the guides. Older versions used a restrictive Creative Commons license that confused some people, especially the "non-commercial" part. That has been replaced with standard copyright language that’s more precise about what companies can and can’t do. To me, it doesn't change what organizations have already been doing. My intention is just to make it clearer.

What’s next?

Today, I published the English version of the new Guides, and German will be available soon. (I’ll be sure to create German versions of the Resources pages too.) Then I’ll apply the new design to all the translations.

With the maturity of the Circle Guides comes the chance to develop new products and new practices. Here are a few I’m working on:

  • The WOL Circle Video Series & companion journal are being used in company pilots now. They’re part of a new WOL Library that includes assets that make Circles more effective and help companies spread them. (The new “What is Working Out Loud?” video will give you a feel for what the videos look like. It’s also subtitled in German and Turkish, with more languages coming soon.)

  • A beautiful new workbook is under development, and will be for sale via the website. It will be a hardcover book that includes the guides, extra content, and the chance to do the exercises and capture your progress in one place. 

  • The WOL: Self-Care pilot is coming to an end. I’m grateful to the 100 people who participated, and will incorporate what we learned into a next version of the WOL:SC guides that I’ll publish in May. 

  • WOL: Purpose, another new practice, and experiments in healthcare and manufacturing are all just beginning. I’m extremely excited about each of them.

The only reason any of this work is possible is because of you and the WOL Community. I’m grateful to all of you who’ve tried a Circle and those who’ve generously spread the word.

I hope you like the new Guides. If you’re in the middle of a Circle, you can begin using them right away. If you have a resource you think should be included in the new section on the website, please send me an email at john.stepper@www.africanmango-slim.com. I’ll be glad to hear from you.

Clink on the image to see the new Getting Started section

Clink on the image to see the new Getting Started section

Celebrating 5 WOL Coaches

Back in February, in a post about how WOL could scale, I announced the first people I was working with in a formal way to deliver talks, workshops, and other training related to Working Out Loud. It was an experiment at the time, but it has worked so well that it’s now grown into something much more.

The new site for Certified WOL Coaches refers to them as “A global network of highly-skilled facilitators.” The five people listed have all contributed to the WOL Community for years. I work closely with each of them, and am inspired both by what they do and how they do it.

Sabine Kluge

Alexander Kluge

Katharina Krentz

Barbara Schmidt

Mara Tolja

I want to thank Sabine, Alexander, Katharina, Barbara, and Mara for their trust, and for the many ways they have made Working Out Loud better. In the future there will be other coaches in other places, and it will be hard to match the experience and commitment of these five people. 

www.africanmango-slim.com now in German

It’s fitting that I’m writing this on a train from Bonn to Stuttgart. I’m heading to #WOLCON18, a joint event organized by Bosch and Daimler for 400 of their employees.

It’s a good time to announce the newly bi-lingual version of www.africanmango-slim.com. You can now toggle between German and English by using the new language switcher in the upper right-hand corner, and it should work on your phone as well. (There are still a few pages being translated, and more content I intend to add.)

I’m often asked, “Why is WOL big in Germany?” I usually respond that there’s nothing particularly German about the method. It’s just that Bosch, based in Stuttgart, was the first company to embrace it. That was three years ago, and they ignited a trend in their home country. Since then, they spread it to employees in over 45 countries, and WOL is now in a wide range of organizations around the world, from corporations and non-profits to schools and governmental groups.

Almost from the beginning, local communities sprang up where people would share their experiences with WOL or look for Circle members. (These are in addition to the WOL groups I created on Facebook and LinkedIn.) There’s a Yammer group in German, and a @WOL_de Twitter account. There was also an early attempt at a German website that proved difficult to maintain, and having up-to-date information was my main reason for finally making www.africanmango-slim.com bi-lingual.  

For sure, these groups help raise awareness and create a sense of connection for German speakers, and I’m grateful for that. I’m also grateful to Claudia Kaspereit for her translation work on the website, and to the Bosch team for the first-ever WOL translation of the Circle Guides a few years ago. 

Having the website available in another language is just a small, long-overdue step. But each time WOL content is translated into other languages - the Circle Guides, journals, book, subtitles on videos - we are able to reach more people. That makes each step worth it.