A new place for me to Work Out Loud

When was the last time you hesitated about putting something imperfect out into the world?  When you wondered how it would make you look, whether it would expose you as flawed or inadequate in some way?  It’s one thing to talk and write about what stops people from working out loud and the feelings of vulnerability that it can create (I recall my colleague and friend Simon Terry using a phrase along the lines of ‘the quivering finger,’ alluding to the hesitation of hitting the send key to post something you know to be imperfect).  It’s quite another to to experience this vulnerability and hesitation.

I have spent a little time sitting in that space recently – feeling unsure and vulnerable.  I am clear on what I want to do professionally – to help organisations improve the impact of learning on their business and the everyday experience of their people (the tagline I have settled on is ‘Building high impact Learning and Development’).  I want to do this by working with Learning and Development (L&D) teams – to help guide their strategic thinking and implementation planning, and to build their capability to execute on their plan.  My preferred delivery modes are mentoring, facilitating, and training – with a little consulting.  I want to be both a thought leader (yep, that feels like a ‘risky’ label – shall write about that another time) and an action leader (new term I think, not quite the same as a practice leader – wonder if it will catch on).

Here’s one of the things I’m unsure about and that is making me hesitate.  I work for myself.  I need to connect with people who can make a decision to pay for my services and expertise – people who have purchasing authority in organisations.  L&D leaders have some budget and purchasing authority – however, there are business leaders in other parts of organisations that have more.  I want to present myself and my thinking to business leaders in a way that makes them want to engage me – and pay for my services.  I’m concerned that working out loud will undermine this objective, as:

(a) sharing my work in progress, work processes and what I’m learning may make me look unprofessional, and

(b) my working out loud posts will outnumber the opinion pieces I want to write for business leaders and they will not stand out.

Another thing that has been making me hesitate is wondering how best to serve the L&D profession / industry.  I’ve put a lot of energy into speaking with L&D industry colleagues, being part of the conversation that is building an industry-wide aspiration to modernise our practices and have a higher impact in organisations.  I want to continue to be part of that conversation.  Yet, there is another group with whom a conversation about the value of L&D is essential.  That’s senior business leaders.  This conversation is about shifting their perceptions and expectations of L&D and encouraging them to engage L&D differently.

Colourful speech bubbles

I want to participate in both conversations.  I’m much more comfortable in conversation with L&D leaders than with business leaders.  Yet, I feel it’s important to be active in the conversation with business leaders.

This brings me to the point of my first post on this new ‘Michelle Works Out Loud’ blog site.  I want to distinguish between the two conversations to create clarity and cut-though in my conversations with business leaders, and sustain my engagement with others in my network.  I have been trying to use my business website to speak to both groups, to the extent of creating two blog pages on my business site.  But it wasn’t separate enough to give me a sense of freedom with my working out loud.

So, here I am on a new website dedicated to my working out loud posts.  This is my sandpit – my space to reflect, to keep a record of what I’ve been working on and learning, to talk about my work practices, to allow my ideas and insights to unfold and evolve.  I hope that it’s a space that others want to visit, that they find the content useful, and we have some conversations that advance our thinking and help us to improve our practices.

3 thoughts on “A new place for me to Work Out Loud

  1. Great post Michelle! This echoes and resonates with the conversation we had in our Working Out Loud group last week. Should we make public what’s imperfect and then be seen as imperfect failure or conversely be perceived as courageous by those who need that modelled? ‘I was gratified to be able to answer promptly and I did. I said I didn’t know’ (Mark Twain). He was right.

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    • You’re the first person to leave a comment on my new site – thanks Andrew. There are many ways that others could perceive a person who shares their work in progress and evolving thoughts. You’ve identified two. What about ‘curious’ ‘learner’ ‘open’ ‘engaged’ ‘generous’ ‘efficient’ ‘improving’ ‘thinker’ ‘leader.’ At various times I’ve been concerned by how others might perceive me if I worked out loud, especially in settings where others were not doing this (e.g. on Enterprise Social Network in an organisation I was employed at). When this occurs I usually get to a point where I get over this concern and trust that there is value in working out loud for me and others. I find the benefits greatly outweigh any potential downside, and that the response from others is either disinterest or very positive.

      Discrimination is also important – in what you share, when you share it, who you share it with, and how you share it.

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