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  • AutorenbildJennifer Victoria Withelm

Folge #16: Working out Loud experience with John Stepper


No worries. We'll start with my John stepper interview in a second. John stepper asked me whether I could add my personal experience with Working out Loud. In this video, before our interview, when I got the confirmation for my interview with John stepper, I was in week five of my working out loud circle including the task with a 50 facts about me. And my first impulse was poor water nonsense. What 50 facts about me? Should I tell strangers? My question in the LinkedIn working out loud group boss has anyone seriously done that yet. And pretty soon, John stepper himself shared his 50 facts list and I was really deeply touched because there were actually facts that I wouldn't put on my resume, and that I wouldn't maybe even tell long term colleagues or even friends. At the same time, I was truly amazed because my sympathy or maybe even an affection for John grew within seconds by reading the list or foe we had never spoken personally before. And I thought to myself, if this is the effect, I'll do that to, at least to also tell my interview partner, a few personal things about me in advance of our video, and to show my respect for him and his work. But I didn't just want to write down a list. I am a visual type and I wanted to give my facts or visual support a further level on which I was able to communicate myself, in addition to the mere facts. I think it took me around about six hours until I had 50 matching pictures. But it was a lot of fun. While creating the presentation I thought about my life, what I had already achieved. And I would even call it a meditative exercise. A treadmill slideshow with a 50 facts publicly on LinkedIn. And yes, I am an introvert. So I was just insanely curious what would happen. Within one week, my post generated around about 10,000 views, countless likes, comments and shares and many great networking contacts. Never before had I had such a response on LinkedIn. And there was not a single negative word. Of course, maybe many people thought they're shared because I shared that much private stuff publicly but somewhat. We are all people who hopefully have experienced a lot in our lives. So why should they pretend to be slick facades. I would love to see more public 50 facts let's because they are a great base to break the ice immediately and get to know real people virtually not just profiles. I'll share the link to my 50 facts presentation in the show notes on their knees this with you so many thanks to jump stepper for the impulse and now enjoy the interview with John stepper, the author of Rocky out loud


Hello everybody my name is Jennifer from Germany and the learning and development professional and the maker and the founder of the block Leyland in Guile which I translate with learn schmuck or learning in cool something like that. And today it's a huge honor for me to speak to the one and only man himself of working out loud, John stepper. And Dear John, it's a huge honor for me. Thank you for taking the time. And you you live in New York City. What is the city like these days during the pandemic?


John stepper: First of all, thanks for the introduction. We're excited. I'm excited to meet this guy. In New York City, it's you can already feel what a difference it is. In terms of the lack of tourists, the number of closed shops, masks everywhere. I mean, like many other places in the world. But what the sense is, is that New York City, it will never be the same. So a lot of the conversation is about that like with no Broadway shows with no theatre or other big events of what will replace it. And, you know, for some people, it could be worse. And for others, it could be better. It could be a more livable city. But it's certainly not going to be the New York that I grew up with.


And what's your prophecy? What will New York City be like?


John stepper: New York, I grew up. I've lived here for 56 years. And I was here when New York City was a very dirty, dangerous place. We defaulted on our loan. So like literally, we didn't pay back our loans, all sorts of bad things happened in the 1970s. And people had written off New York many, many times. I found that it's a very resilient place. It's very resilient people. And my guess is built. There'll be some uncertainty and some maybe some dark times, but that will come out of this as as a fair better, stronger city. And I absolutely believe that


is it a similar feeling like after 911, everyone said New York City will never be the same again, that's a,


John stepper: that's a good if, if not happy comparison, that's a good one. And for very similar reasons I live downtown, I can see the World Trade Center from my window. And even 10 years ago, really gonna live there. It's beautiful. It's downtown is is reimagined. It's a wonderful place to live, beautiful parks. And so out of the out of that tragedy, there was kind of a rebirth. That doesn't mean that you forget what happened and is a memorial that we can also see from our window, but it does mean that you can still move forward and create something positive out of it. Yeah,


yeah. I'm sure. So has the corona crisis been a booster for the working out loud movement? Maybe because after all, working out loud really helps to keep the people collaborating while maybe it's been more important than ever.


John stepper: Yeah. You, you hate to think of how one might benefit from a crisis, which, which is affecting people in very uneven ways. But you're right, and that you may have seen this funny cartoon that made the rounds on LinkedIn, like, who's leading your digital transformation? Is your CEO or CTO? Or is it your No, that's a COVID-19. And, and that it's funny because it's true. The companies where they may have considered working out loud, but weren't sure. Now we're very much actively looking for a way to keep their employees engaged, to help them use digital tools to build connections to to navigate the company to collaborate. And so there's a much greater acceptance and willingness to try working out loud or to spread it.


I don't really want to go too much into detail how Working Cloud works, because there are so many podcasts and so many great videos online, I think it should be easy to find out how working out loud works. So I want to go a little bit behind the scenes. So I would be interested in how come that the method is called working out loud, actually, because I intuitively intuitively always want to call it learning out loud.


John stepper: That phrase has been around for a while, okay, first blog post might have been 2006, you could do a lot of things out loud, you could love out loud, you can party out loud, you can all sorts of things out loud. The reason why I embraced that particular term was that everybody works. So I felt that this this approach of saying, whatever it is I'm trying to accomplish. There are people out there who could help me in some way. They have knowledge, they have experienced, they've got resources, they've got ideas. And if I could develop some kind of relationship with them, then that would increase the chances that we'd exchange information or cooperate. So it was a, it was a mindset more than anything about how I could approach getting something done. And do it in a way that felt good. If you call it Learning Allowance, like people don't have time for that at busy. But in the workplace, everyone's there for 10 hours. And if I could use the workplace as a way for people, as an environment where people could develop this mindset, then I could reach a lot more people that way. And I think that's turning out to be the case.


So the development of the method working out that was not something which happened from one day to the other underneath a shower, some insight. So that's


John stepper: I was in I was in the bath and this you know, bolt of lightning hit me. Alright. It was it was really a series of experiments that started 10 years ago. And then gradually changed. I continue to experiment. So at first was this idea that for me, I was looking for ways to take a bit more control over my career. All it takes is for you to get a bad performance review and or reorganization or a budget cut, and you realize how little control you have. So I was looking for what can I do that? It wasn't just about me and my balls for my particular project. But there's a big company out there I worked at Deutsche Bank so 100,000 people, so how can I take advantage of that shaped my own reputation earn access to my own Network my own opportunities. And my first instinct was that we would introduce a social network inside the company a tool. And that would be, that would be the thing. That turned out to be important, but not enough. And so experiment after experiment led to me coaching people, one on one, lead to circles lead the circle guides. And then 10 years later, we're on version six of a method.


Did anyone inspire you for this whole approach? I read about Bryce Williams and Wikipedia, or are there any other people who inspired you like Adam Grant, Carol Dweck? Are these people interesting or important for you?


John stepper: They're all interesting. And they were there. There's plenty of researchers who've who've done work. You mentioned Carol Dweck and Adam grounds. Plenty of researchers who've said like, here's a better approach you'd like, here's some science, this is why this would help you be more effective, or be happier. So yes, there are all sorts of input Keith Ferrazzi, was another one who had written a lot of important books for me about relationship building. But there was one in particular that I read pi 2008. called The Art of Possibility, by Benjamin Zander and his wife, Rossmann, and this beautiful book, if you haven't read it, I totally recommend reading the Art of Possibility, beautiful yellow cover it, it was such a joyful human book that said, there is so much more that that you could realize both for yourself and with other people, if you take a different approach to them, if you see them in a different way, if you're more open to possibilities. And that book, I think, made me feel, you know, whatever I see inside a company in the org chart and kind of a systems that we had, it didn't have to be that way like there were there were other ways that collectively, we could realize more of our potential. And that sparked me


Are you currently member in the working out circle?


John stepper: No, but I had my earlier this year is in my 10th, one, with someone you may know Mikhail Troutman who does the on the way to new work, podcast, and has become a friend. And also two ladies at Beiersdorf. Christina and Catherine. We strangers like we hadn't met each other, we met at a Beiersdorf event in Hamburg. And they were going to form a circle, I invited myself, which was odd. And by the end, I mean, we felt close. And I like their friends. And that may sound strange, because, you know, we only met a few times, because most of it was virtual. But it was this giving and receiving over this 12 weeks, that really led us to trust each other and feel connected. And so we're still connected well, after our circle,


what would be a topic that you would like to learn these days, if you would be part of working on Cloud circle or in general,


John stepper: four years ago, I published something on the internet for free, and it spread, and then it continued to refine it. And then it continues to spread. And now it's well, how would you scale that in a sustainable way? So in week 11, of the latest version of the circle, guys, it talks about, about leadership, and how you influence people, and examples of people who have reached millions of others, they've helped millions of people, somebody with a method and an idea. And a network actually unleashed something positive in the world that helped a few million people or more. That would be my goal, which is to learn from them in a structured way, in support of my circle, how could I explore who's done this before? What can I learn from answer I could, I could avoid some mistakes and go faster and be more effective, right? That would be my goal,


when will you start this project?


John stepper: So it's one of those things where, you know, I'm working on and that that was the goal in my last circle, I'd probably build on that now. or refine it in some way. And that's, that's why you may want to like, why would you be in 10 circles? I should know my own method by now. Because, and I do. But it's not just about some set of techniques that I understand, right? It's the idea that Hey, the circle gives me the structure, the shared accountability and support to actually do it like to actually put in the time in the work at least an hour a week towards this goal that I care about. Because if I don't have that, then there'll be a lot of other things on my to do list that will squeeze out that time, and I may never get to it. And so that's why I would form another circle, I probably refine my goal a bit based on what I learned last time. And that'll help me make progress. You know, people are like,


right now you're associated with the method working, I'd love very, very much. And I mean, sometimes I think you could have nightmares already about working out loud or something like that. But I'm sure you do other stuff as well. So I'm interested in what a typical jump stepper week looks like.


John stepper: One of my 50 facts that you know, is that I got five kids. So like, there's usually a lot to keep you busy. But when it comes to working out, you know, when I first wrote the book, have friends, and people still gonna care about this two years from now, like, how long can you go with this idea. And it turns out forever, because it isn't about some method so much as it is about people. And I'm getting tired of people, every circle is different. Every use case is different. Last week, I wrote about a woman who got diagnosed with autism and her story and how she used this to change her life. That's cool, you don't get tired of that. So what a typical week now is something my time I spend, I spend trying to spread it like reach more people. And then other time I spend developing new formats, this. So if working out loud, helps you with a certain set of behaviors like building your network relating to people, there's a new mindfulness format that helps you with a different set of behaviors. There's a personal productivity and purpose format, to help you with other behaviors, and so on. And so it's a nice balance of spreading, enabling other people to use what I've already made, and also making new things. And I'm gonna do this for the rest of my life.


Glad you glad to hear that. And I'm very sure that the method working out loud is something forever. But when you look into the future of learning, what's your prophecy apart from working out loud as a method? How will you learn in the year 2030


John stepper: predictions are fraught with risk. But there are some things that are clear. A friend of mine, she works at Merck, she's the chief learning officer. And I think she's got it right when she says the future of corporate learning at least, is much more self directed, and social, or experiential. So the era of certainly learning in the classroom feels dated, may not be over. But it's declining. The idea of even the workshops are like, oh, we'll take 10 managers, we'll put them in a workshop. It's not leading to sustainable change, it's not leading to behavior change or new habits. And so what that's going to happen. Now working out as one example, there are many, you're going to put people who can do things at their own pace, and with other people. And they're going to learn with small steps over time, until it becomes a new set of behaviors. And then it'll be much more flexible, it'll be a hell of a lot cheaper, and more fun. And it'll give control back to the employee about what they're learn how they're learning with whom they'll learn, it'll be much more practical, because they'll be able to do it at work, and do it using skills that they can apply every day.


Really looking forward to this. So no more boring classrooms and so on.


John stepper: Change come slow. So we've we've we've predicted lots of new work kinds of changes that we haven't really seen, like, we see evidence of them, we may know that they're better. But you find the old ways of working, have been incredibly resilient or resistant to change. And I think that's because it's what we know, like habits die hard. It takes repeated deliberate practice over time, ideally, in a psychologically safe space where you can just try things not have to worry about being judged. That's what it takes to change habits. And that's been hard to do in the workplace. What I hope to have offers one way that we can help people experience a new and better way of working now, so that they can use it every day in their own career in life.


So yeah, as you said, change happens. And I'm sure that your new book, which is, which will be released in German, in a few days, will help to make this change happen. So my question is, apart from the language, which of course is different to the English one? Is there anything else which is different from your other books?


John stepper: No, it's the same. It's the same book. It's also in Chinese later this year, which is a miracle I could not have anticipated. I think so. How that was received in Germany is different. I think in Germany, there might be an even stronger adherence to professionalism, to hierarchy. And the companies that I work with in Germany, they're not better or worse. They're certainly very capable, they get things done. But they're conservative. And no one talks about it. But it's hard to change that. If it's even baked into the language, right, we have to have campaigns that just do it, just call me by my first name. So I think the way it's received in Germany will be, ah, here's a way that that we can, that we can change things in the workplace, that we can humanize the workplace, even in Germany, in a way that really is still about work. That's good. It's about us being better, realizing more of our potential being more effective, it's work, right. But it's working in a way that's more suited to our kind of natural condition as human beings. I think the Germans, hopefully will appreciate that, that they're, they're being given the permission to do this at work, knowing that it's good for them as individuals, and also good for a company.


Sometimes I wonder whether there are certain German challenges to implement working out loud. I've heard of colleagues who are struggling with a works council or other restrictions. Are there any experiences by yourself to give advice to learning and development professionals how to manage these challenges? Caterina Krantz


John stepper: a good example, at Bosch or Lucas at Daimler when they started as a grassroots campaign, and they're volunteers, Hey, we should try this. Let's do it. Well, he said, Don't work hours. You know, who told you you could do that, etc. And that's true for kind of any grassroots initiative. What, what happened though, both those companies is they went from grassroots to institutionalizing it, they started to put it in onboarding programs, they got sponsorship from HR. So you had the head of HR at Bosch say, Macbeth. This is the kind of mindset we need for a connected company, where they hadn't Mikael Brecht, who's the head of the works council at Daimler say, this makes work more humane. And it's that shift instead of a group staying a grassroots movement that was fighting against the company that was like, fighting against the the org chart in the machine. They leveraged it, they got their support. And that enabled it to spread. And all those challenges went away.


Thank you for this advice. Dear John, and it was a huge pleasure for me to speak with you, and all the best.


John stepper: Thank you very much. I love meeting you. It was really a pleasure.


I hope that we will meet one day in New York City and all we are all happy and safe and sound.


John stepper: I would love to share glass wine. That'd be great.


I come back to this. And I would be very happy if you subscribe to my YouTube channel or you subscribe to my podcast which is available via Google podcasts, iTunes or Spotify. My name is Jennifer Withelm. I would be very happy if he would contact me via LinkedIn on my homepage. This is


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