The Convoluted Paths of the Greater Good of Working Out Loud

Helping doubters to see the value of working out loud involves not just enabling them to experience others differently but helping them to see the value of the greater good. A challenge we face is that the value that flows from giving of ourselves travels along a convoluted path.

Reciprocal Benefits: Stories of the Paths of Referrals

Almost all my consulting work comes through referrals. Working out loud is a key foundation for that flow of referrals. However, there’s no linear process, no response rate to track and no measure that can capture the paths through which these come. I don’t work out loud for referrals.

I don’t work out loud for referrals. I work out loud to better understand lessons from the work I have each day and to benefit from the insights of others on that work. I also enjoy that others can share these lessons. However, generating business value is a lovely side benefit.

That benefit is not predictable because it is a function of reputation, relationships and work that’s ongoing, not a transactional exchange. Here are some examples:

  • I post on Linkedin about working out loud week and the post is shared widely. The post reminds a former colleague of mine about me and some work we did together. My friend refers me to a friend of their as a potential solution for an unrelated topic.
  • I agree to have coffee with a friend of a friend who is running a small business to discuss a business challenge. After a number of conversations where I offer some advice, things go quiet as we both return to our work. Months later, the small business owner refers me to another friend of theirs. Eventually, a colleague of that person retains me for some work.
  • I collaborate with a small group of partners and competitors over four years. We share insights, ideas, and approaches even when we occasionally come up head to head competing against each other for work. After a number of years, there’s a flow of great referral opportunities between members of the network. We like working with each other. We understand each other’s relative expertise. We know we can’t do everything.

I see each of those examples of referrals to my consulting practice as an indirect outcome of reputation, relationships and work done out loud over many years. I have faith that if I continue to work in this way the benefits will keep flowing. Try explaining it to a doubter and they will explain it away as a result of hidden strategy, luck, reputation, or expertise.

The Greater Benefit of Altruism

Even harder for the doubter to grasp is that I would still work out loud, if none of these or other examples had happened. I enjoy helping others. Seeing others succeed in their work because you were able to assist is amazing. Having the ability to help others is a privilege.

I knew the power of help and generosity. However, I had not seen the specific power of working out loud until I started blogging consistently at work.  Each day I shared a post on some lesson from my work and career. The posts were short and the audience was small as they were shared only inside the organisation. I realised the value to others one day when walking into the building a stranger enthusiastically rushed up to me and thanked me for a recent post. Speaking like a close friend, they explained that the post had enabled them to solve a problem and they now used that technique consistently. One person’s work had been made easier by my blogpost and they were extraordinarily grateful. Even more remarkable, a person I had never met felt they knew me well enough to forget to even introduce themselves.

Work today is hard, competitive, and it can be alienating for people. Creating just one moment of human connection founded in generosity can make a wonderful difference to others. It can also be a great reminder that those who give receive the greatest rewards, even if nothing ever comes back but thanks.

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