My wife let out a little laugh, grabbed a piece of paper, made a note, and slid the note across the kitchen table to me. “Blog about this!” she said. Baiting me. Daring me.

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Most of us spend a portion of our career convincing people to do things. We want them to work in a certain way, to think a certain way, to perform to a certain level of expectation. For my work, I encourage people to Work Out Loud.

Inspired by John Stepper and his book Working Out Loud, I believe we can be more effective in our work if we are more transparent and collaborative. In order to be more collaborative, we need to sometimes welcome people into our work before our work is done. We need to let their work inform our work, and we want them to be aware of what we are working on so unwelcome surprises can be avoided and we can all be more connected to work in progress.

I want people to work out loud, that is, except when I don’t.

As much as I believe in the concept of Working Out Loud, there are times that even an advocate like me wants to revert to protecting my work, and keeping my work private until it is ready to share. Sitting around the kitchen table on June 19th, I was sharing with my wife how unhappy I was with some feedback I had received about a project I was working on. I was convinced I was right, and I was convinced my colleague was wrong. Sounding like a kid who did not want to share his toys any more, I pouted and said “I worked out loud, and now I’m done.”

I’ve been reflecting on that comment I made (probably only because my wife wrote my comment down!), and my reaction to the negative feedback I received. As much as I wish I could embrace these Working Out Loud concepts of sharing and generosity all the time, I think it’s OK that it remains a goal, something I continue to work towards and strive for rather than something I have fearlessly conquered and always embrace.

Just because I did not like the feedback I got does not necessarily mean I still don’t believe in, and won’t advocate for, a Working Out Loud mindset and approach to work. I believe that everyone should exercise, and yet I do like to sleep in on weekend mornings. I believe that we should all eat a healthy diet, but I did enjoy that banana chocolate milkshake last night. It’s good to have goals, and to try to live a lifestyle that remains a challenge. If something is a challenge, it feels good when we have met the challenge. Some challenges are hard to achieve, but that is when the achievement is so much more rewarding.

So I will continue to advocate for Working Out Loud, and I will still do my best to share my work and welcome critical feedback. Though I may not care for the feedback I receive, at least I will know that my colleague was interested enough in my work to take the time to review what I had done, and share some comments in response. I may be done with Working Out Loud today, but I’ll be back at it tomorrow.

 

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