Making Local Connections: Working Out Loud Week

This is the best week all year to identify a goal you'd like to achieve, then tap into your network for help! Why this week, you ask? It's International Working Out Loud Week, a unique strategy to increase the effectiveness of people and organizations. #WOLweek!

Based on work by author John Stepper, Working Out Loud starts with asking three basic questions. The first two are found frequently in business networking advice columns, but the key is in the third step, which is different.

  1. What am I trying to accomplish?  Identify a goal you want to achieve.
  2. Who can help me?  Look for individuals who can help you achieve that goal.
  3. How can I contribute to THEM to deepen our relationship?

This third question is the surprise, like the plot twist right at the end of a great story. How does contributing to others help you accomplish your own goal? Wouldn't you want them to contribute to your effort, rather than the other way around?

The key to accomplishing your goal is identifying a purposeful network of individuals, then helping others in this network first. Called "leading with generosity," John Stepper believes that investing in these relationships--by making a visible contribution--will lead to benefits you may not foresee. These deeper relationships can bring new knowledge, unlock potential, and connect you with people you would never have met had you utilized the typical "me first" networking orientation.

This month I've focused on a goal of increasing the quantity and quality of connections in my local area. I live in Norristown, PA, about half an hour northwest of Philadelphia. I quickly identified the people related to my goal: employees of my municipality, community leaders in local businesses and nonprofits, and educators and staff of the nearby community college. BOOM, done.

The third question has been more challenging. To discover how I could contribute, I had to learn more about what was important to them. To do this, I started scouring the websites of organizations with a role in the municipality. I attended a public meeting about Norristown's Capital Improvement Plan. I went to hear an amazing poet discuss her work at the community college. I even went to a locally owned restaurant I had heard about, but never visited--oh my goodness, you must try the mac-n-cheese at Temeka Murray's restaurant, Diva's Kitchen!

I've just begun to make contributions in hopes of deepening these relationships. I've shared municipal news on social media. At the poetry discussion, I introduced myself to a community college staff member and told her about a women's initiative I thought she would be interested in. I provided input via a survey about the priorities in the Capital Improvement Plan.

So, how has this "leading with generosity" thing worked out so far? It's a little early to tell, but I've gotten quite a few new followers on my Twitter account due to my recent activity. The community college staffer will be a great contact for a future workshop I'm giving on that campus. To top it off, I have a new favorite source for mac-n-cheese (thanks, Temeka!)

To learn more about Working Out Loud, visit and follow John Stepper on Twitter @johnstepper. Give this strategy a try, and then post a comment or message me via LinkedIn to share your results. You are invited to sign up for my weekly "Career Authentically" newsletter as well.

Happy #WOLweek, and remember--lead with generosity!

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