Working Out Loud: Week 3

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Working Out Loud Works.

The first week, I set a goal for myself. I wanted to become connected to other people who lead Yammer networks for non-profit organizations.

The second week, I created a relationship list of people I wanted to connect to regarding my goal. I included some people I knew, but then I also added people involved in general communication and social networking roles at various non-profit organizations. Did they use Yammer? Did they do social networking at all? I was not sure, but thought I could possibly connect with them, and then find Yammer professionals from there.

Now I find myself in the third week, and I feel that I am not quite on track. Would these people even respond to me? Did I even have a good sense of who they were? What about organizations I was more familiar with…how do I find people there? I felt like I was hitting a wall. I didn’t feel I was pursuing the right people.

Sadly, I had forgotten about one of the very first lessons of Working Out Loud, the lesson of being generous with your work. Be generous with your information and knowledge, and be transparent with your challenges and frustrations.

I went to the private Yammer group of our Working Out Loud circle, and I made a post asking for help. I got a response right away from one of my colleagues asking me if I had looked for other non-profit Yammer professionals in the Microsoft Tech Community or the Yammer Service Updates group. She was sure that I had, but thought she would mention it anyways.

I am a regular participant in both of these online spaces, and for some reason far beyond my comprehension, it never occurred to me to check there at all. I made a post in the Yammer Service Updates group, and almost immediately suggestions were made, people were tagged in replies, and I was making brand new connections that I could add to my relationship list.

But even beyond the simple recommendations, as a result of the generosity of the people in the Yammer community, I was able to set up an appointment for the very next week with a non-profit Yammer professional who works less than 100 miles from my house. Somebody else sent a Tweet on my behalf tagging organizations and people who might be able to help, and I am already pursuing those relationships.

Because I decided to get involved in Working Out Loud, I was able to share a goal with a colleague. My work colleagues are more closely connected to my goal, and are providing meaningful help in me attaining my goal. I am now connected to people around the world who are helping me make connections and become better at my work.

Now that I am connecting to more people, Week 4 will allow me the luxury of searching for myself online! How do I look? What do people see? Do my various online profiles serve me well?

As they used to say on the old Batman show, “we will learn all that and a lot more, next week. Same Bat time, same Bat station.”

One Perfect Song: If I Had a Boat

“If I Had a Boat”
Written by Lyle Lovett
Performed by Lyle Lovett
Released 1988


Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest basketball player in the history of the sport, announced his retirement from the game on October 6, 1993. He was only 30 years old, and he had just led the Chicago Bulls to three NBA championships in a row.

After only 9 years in the NBA, Jordan’s legacy was solid. The city of Chicago was unified in their support and love of Jordan, and the three championships that the Bulls brought to the city provided an unbridled level of enthusiasm, electricity and joy the city would not see again until the Cubs won the World Series in 2016.

In announcing his retirement, Jordan said he was deeply affected by the murder of his father just three months before. He lost his desire to play the game. He was done. The city felt like they got punched in the gut, but there was also a palpable level of understanding and sympathy. Jordan had experienced unbelievable victory and tragedy. He was famous, he was rich, and he lost his hero and role model. He walked away.

Driving into work the day after Jordan’s retirement announcement, I was listening to WXRT, the finest radio station in the city of Chicago. Morning host Lin Brehmer was reflecting on Jordan’s retirement after the news, and then he played a song in honor of Jordan’s decision. A sweet, picked acoustic guitar melody followed by a wry, wise voice.

“If I had a boat, I’d go out on the ocean.
If I had a pony, I’d ride him on my boat.
And we could altogether, go out on the ocean.
Me up on my pony on my boat.”

351a4906-8429-4ebd-8401-f2eab9480df8If  I Had a Boat” by Lyle Lovett, released in 1988, perfectly captures the sense of peace and serenity only brought about by escape and adventure. Being able to get on your horse and ride out of town, wherever you wanted to go to, even on a boat, where you could ride your pony endlessly at sea.

Lyle Lovett was part of a movement of country based singer-songwriters who found fame in the mid to late 1980’s. Along with Lovett, artists like Steve Earl, Nancy Griffith, John Hiatt and Dwight Yoakam slathered their country music with heavy doses of folk, rock and even jazz and soul to create something completely new. Lyle Lovett found fame with hipsters, yuppies and country traditionalists. Sporting an ungainly tower of curly hair on his head with a mouth jaggedly gashed between his nose and chin, Lovett has a face only radio could love.

Odd looking though he is, he always appears on stage impeccably dressed in a suit and tie with a large multi-racial band of the best musicians in the business behind him, including famed 1970’s studio wiz Russ Kunkel on drums.

But Lovett has always been about more than just a unique look and traditional music in a contemporary style. He is one of the best songwriters of the last 30 years. He is a virtuoso musician, he has a beautiful voice, and everything is firmly grounded in excellent songwriting.

“If I were Roy Rogers
I’d sure enough be single
I couldn’t bring myself to marrying old Dale
It’d just be me and Trigger
We’d go ridin’ through them movies
Then we’d buy a boat and on the sea we’d sail”

It’s as if Michael Jordan is saying “the Chicago Bulls will not keep me tied down, neither will our three championships. I just need my pony, and my boat. Together, we will get out of here.” The songwriting skill continues with what is might be this excellent songwriter’s very best lyric.

“Now the mystery masked man was smart
He got himself a Tonto
‘Cause Tonto did the dirty work for free
But Tonto he was smarter
And one day said Kemosabe
‘Kiss my ass I bought a boat
I’m going out to sea'”

After he left basketball, Michael Jordan played minor league baseball, and then returned to the Bulls and led them to an amazing additional three championships. He retired again, but even as an elder statesman of basketball still talks about maybe one day playing professional basketball again. He probably will, because what Michael Jordan does is always on his terms in his own way.

Kiss my ass, I’m doing what I want to do. I’m going out to sea.

Working Out Loud, Week 2

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“The habit of putting more good things into the world makes for a better world.”

What a gift it has been to watch a group of people become friends. Though we were all acquainted with one another when our Working Out Loud (WOL) circle began last week, participating in only a few exercises and conversations with one another has brought us all much closer together. We are already talking about finding a way to go out to dinner at a time in the future, although we all live in different geographical locations.

We are already seeing participants changing behaviors. One of our participants is getting more used to checking our Yammer network because she knows that this is the place where the meaningful conversation of our group is going to be taking place. Another has gotten her family engaged in pursuing her goal with her, giving her two wonderful support networks.

One of our participants summed up the general feeling of our group, referring to a feeling of “Intellectual Altruism.” Being more generous with information and expertise helps others in their work, and though altruism suggests a lack of self concern, we all agreed that being more generous makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. The feeling of the group was summed up so beautifully by one of our participants who said “The habit of putting more good things into the world makes for a better world.”

Also:
-We started our first circle with 7 participants, and quickly realized this was too many people. So everyone could have time to talk, and to share their feelings and what they are working on, there should absolutely be no more than 6 people in a group, and as John Stepper suggests, 2-5 is ideal. One of our participants could not attend the first week ,and was very cooperative in being switched to another group.
-We meet on Zoom, and found we get so invested in our conversation that we don’t get to the activities as outlined in the circle guides. That is OK, though. We all agreed that, in addition to the suggested readings, we treat the circle guide activities as homework activities between meetings, and discuss how we did on those activities during our WOL circle meetings.
-Many of our participants are having a difficult time with Twitter. “I don’t have time to check one more place.” “I don’t understand what it’s for.” “Do I really have to do this?” I suggested that we give Twitter a few more weeks before people make up their minds, but personally I have found it to be a wonderful networking and learning tool.

Next week we talk about our schedules, and about how although we are all so busy, we can actually find time to “pay ourselves” first.

Working Out Loud, Week 1

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“Did our first WOL circle go as well today as I thought it did?” I asked my colleague.
“Very much so!” was her immediate response.

Whew.

After weeks and weeks of research, approvals, planning and promotion, we finally launched our first Working Out Loud (WOL) circle today. Though I was a bit nervous, and feeling a bit unprepared, we all got online at the scheduled time and began the conversation.

First thing I wanted to do was to make sure everyone understood a few things:
1.  I am not a Working Out Loud expert. This is part experiment, part adventure, and we are all in this together.
2.  I am assuming the role of circle coordinator, but am happy to cede that role to anyone else in the group. Sadly, but understandably, no one took me up on my offer.
3.  Consider our Working Out Loud circle Las Vegas. What we discuss in WOL stays in WOL. We must trust each other, respect each other, and not be concerned we will be gossiped about or judged. Based on what happened next, I have no concern that we are all on the same page.

Our WOL circle is comprised of colleagues all from the same organization, but all six of us work in different geographical locations, so we met on Zoom. Though we all knew one another, we didn’t know each other well.

During Week 1 of WOL, we introduce ourselves by telling how we got to the current stage of our career in 5 steps, and what our WOL out goal is. Through those exercises, those two simple exercises, we learned so much about each other. We shared secrets, we were vulnerable and open with one another, and together we became committed to this process.

Although we got a little lost in conversation along the way and did not get through everything we hoped to, it was really a terrific start. We all enjoyed our time together, we are eager to support one another, and we all are eagerly looking forward to next week when we dive deeper into our relationship lists and start to make our first contributions.

Set The Table for Yammer Success

dinner-packageIf you were having people to your house for dinner, they would most likely arrive to find a beautifully set table, delicious food simmering on the stove, and a warm greeting at the door.

Sadly, too often we neglect to provide this same level of care and planning when sharing information in our Yammer groups. Maybe that is only because sharing information in Yammer feels so incredibly easy.

For instance, to create a new group, simply click on the “Create a New Group” link in the lower left hand corner of the page, give the group a name, indicate whether you want the group to be public to everyone in the network, or private to a smaller team, click OK, and you are all set to go. To share information in Yammer, just make a post, or upload a file to a group file library, and that information is visible for everyone to see.

It’s easy! It’s very easy. OK, maybe it’s too easy.

Making a website is much harder. We must first learn the technology (Joomla, Drupal, WordPress), then we must consider the information we want to share. How many pages should we create? What should be on each page? How will people navigate around? Where will resources be found? How will the search capability work? What will the branding of the site look like? Even a small website can require months and months of planning. Difficult though creating a website may be, meaningful benefit is realized because how information will be made easily available to site visitors must be carefully planned.

Too often, when information is shared in Yammer, it is done without a well considered communication plan. A group is created, a post is made, and frustration ensues when people are not engaging in conversation and resources are not being downloaded.

However, if before that information is shared, just a little thought is given to how that information will be presented, our chances for success will increase exponentially.

1. Don’t formally launch your group unless there is a group image, a group description, helpful information in the Info box, files and links listed in Network Resources, related groups, resources in the file library, and a few posts to inspire conversation.

2. Take a close look at the files in the file library. Are the files named clearly? Does the name of the file you really want people to read look something like “LG Health Eval. – 2017V2b no edits.docx?” If so, change it. Change it now so it is shorter, easier to read, and easier for people to determine what information they will find when they click on the file name. Perhaps the file could instead be called “Health Insurance Evaluation.docx.”

3. While we are talking about files, be sure to attach topics (hashtags). This may feel like an unnecessary step. but having a well thought out taxonomy for topics will make the information easier to find, organize and share. Planning topics is often easier if they are thought of in terms of file folders. If Yammer offered file folders, what would be the names of the folders the file would be stored in? Those might make for good topics. For our “Health Insurance Evaluation.docx” file, maybe use the topics #HealthInsurance, #PlanEvaluation, and #2017.

4. When your group is open for people to join, make sure people are aware the group exists. When people are invited into the group, tag them in conversations and resources. Send an email out with a direct link to the group. Make sure they understand what is being shared and discussed, and why.

5. Don’t be discouraged by a lack of activity. A new space takes time. Trust needs to be built, and the platform needs to be learned. Give it time, nurture your group and nurture your users.

Plan your dinner party well, and enjoy the meal. By the time the night is over, everyone will have had a good meal, and they will want to come back for more.

 

 

One Perfect Song: Just My Imagination

“Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)”
Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong
Performed by The Temptations
Released 1987


1373828383_220px-classic_5_temptations_circa_1965The song begins with just a simple, quiet guitar that sounds like a lonely man slowly shaking his head back and forth, maybe in disbelief. The bass line provides the heartbeat followed by the strings, adding color and sadness. High pitched harmonies with a hint of vibraphone culminate in the scene being set.

“Each day through my window I watch her as she passes by.”

And then the fantasy begins. “I say to myself, you’re such a lucky guy. To have a girl like her, is truly a dream come true. Out of all the fellas in the world, she belongs to you.”

Suddenly, the fantasy is over and reality sets in. “But it was just my imagination, running away with me.” Still alone. Staring out his window. Watching.

This was The Temptations at their very best. Eddie Kendricks taking the gentle lead vocal with lush harmonies behind him. Ironically, this would be their last number 1 hit. Health and personnel conflicts had begun to plague the group and would soon tear them apart. But, before the inevitable end of the group, they recorded this; a perfectly tragic opus.

The fantasy continues. In perfect harmony, the entire group hits the first word as they tell the rest of the story. “Soon…”

“Soon we’ll be married and raise a family. A cozy little home, out in the country, with two children, maybe three.” Another chorus, and then the music builds in anticipation to perhaps the best bridge in popular music. Reality crashes in on the fantasy with anger, with frustration, with confession. Temptation Paul Williams sings the first line, followed by Kendricks.

“Every night, on my knees I pray. Dear Lord, hear my plea. Don’t ever let another take her love from me, or I will surely die. Her love is heavenly. When her arms enfold me. I hear a tender rhapsody. But in reality, she doesn’t even know me…”

The orchestration and harmonies are lush and beautiful, with a slight speed up to a triplet under “tender rhapsody” only to slow down as Kendricks painfully draws out “she doesn’t even know me” as the rest of the group comes in to remind him, “but it was just my imagination, once again…”

Brilliant.

For the careful listener, there are subtle orchestral and harmonic treats throughout the song, and what could have been a simple tale of jealousy and longing becomes something so much more.

One by one, original members of The Temptations dropped out of the group, replaced by others who mimicked the original recordings on stage. For decades, faint copies of The Temptations performed hits like “My Girl,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and “I Can’t Get Next to You.” But the performances were rushed, and rote. There is nothing to suggest the heart, and the heartbreak, that can be heard in original recordings like “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me).”

“I tell you I can visualize it all
This couldn’t be a dream,
for too real it all seems.”