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By: Jessica Beckendorf

The final installment of the Building Networks for Resilience Learning Experience wrapped up on April 10, 2018 with a lively conversation, connecting participants through meaningful sense-making and sharing. The agenda was co-created by participants, and everyone that signed up for the podcasts and webinars was able to take advantage of sharing their thoughts and insights before, during, and after the learning experience through email, voicemail, social media, and BoardThing. Using John Stepper’s Working Out Loud process, we learned to apply network building principles aimed at building personal and professional resilience.

Woking out loud elements: "1. Relationships are the heart of WOL. The path to knowledge is via others. 2. Generosity. We are wired for reciprocal altruism. The currency of real networking is generosity. 3. Visible Work. Amplify who you are & what you do - it extends your reach. 4. Purposeful Discovery. Having a learning goal in mind orients your activities. 5. Growth Mindset. Develop and open, curious approach to work & life."

People from across the United States and in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba joined us in learning and teaching each other about their experiences with building their own networks. They discussed successes, barriers, what they’d like to practice more, how they will use elements of the Working Out Loud (WOL) process with their clients and military families, and how to best continue to engage with each other to support their network-building efforts.

The result of this discussion highlighted 5 ways this kind of practice can impact our lives and our work:

1 – Making Connections and Cultivating Curiosity

Many of the successes participants shared centered on the connections they were able to make, as well as focusing on growth and curiosity:

  • WOL reminded me how important it is to connect with others and build relationships when embarking on a new learning adventure. (I) Also learned that resilience is related to the health of one’s networks.
  • In the last couple of weeks I have started a new teaching opportunity that has pushed my growth mindset like nothing ever has professionally. I am grateful for this framework as I continue to embark on this teaching!
  • Through networking and speaking with other (military) spouses, I have met so many people that work for various military and veteran organizations that I know will help me in my new position.
  • Developing an open curious approach to work and life has also allowed me to remember that I don’t have to have all the answers. (This) Definitely takes the pressure off and reduces anxiety and stress.

2 – Understanding and Overcoming Barriers to Network Building

Participants shared the barriers they noticed as they practiced the Working Out Loud principles. Being aware of barriers is essential to overcoming them:

  • Ironically, working as service providers to military families, we often forget to practice what we teach … what we share.
  • Looking back, I think I came up being encouraged to compete – to be competitive. And that for me translated into a general attitude that to be vulnerable wasn’t an adaptive risk.
  • Making assumptions is a big challenge. We assume people “KNOW.”
  • I’ve had a lot of internal barriers… I’ve found that I am most definitely my own worst enemy when it comes to overthinking networking, in regards to what will I have to offer to others, whether it be in sessions or with building those working relationships.
  • Some want you to have a leadership presence and others a stewardship presence.
  • Maybe some external barriers are actually internal barriers.

3 – Establishment of New Habits Through Regular Practice

Participants shared which elements of the Working Out Loud process they’d like to place their time and attention on via practice:

  • I’d like to get to a place where I’m more comfortable being “out there.”
  • I think the greatest barrier I have is time to keep this at the top of my list. I want to practice (all of the elements of WOL) more, but as busy as we all are, it’s hard to stop and find the time to keep up this mindset. It’s truly a mindset and I need to post this graphic up in several place to continue to frame it continuously.
  • I’d like to develop a more open approach to work, and I have started doing that in the last few months.  I’d also like to develop a much more open approach to life.  I find myself being very quiet and “closed off” in my regular life, but the exact opposite with my work.
  • Purposeful discovery can be a motivator in itself.  It can fill voids. It can make one feel empowered and focused, and creative, flexible, etc.

4 – Community-building through Co-creation, Co-learning, Co-teaching

Participants co-created the agenda, and were encouraged to learn and teach together. Following are a few of the insights and questions that came up during the April 10 event:

  • I’m curious to know if the first 3 questions (from webinar 1) were helpful for framing the experience? The questions were: What lights you up? What do you care most about? What are you an advocate for?  I was curious if these questions helped frame the experience for others — or which questions might be most helpful.
  • I would like to hear about strategies others use to make this ‘way of being/working’ a priority in their work …I seem to get ‘stuck’ in my to-do list
    • How can you add some of these ideas to your list? Also – add things to your planner as appointments – like calling or texting someone orsending them an email. Or schedule some time for you to become an internet detective on a topic of interest.
  • I am extremely visual so I just printed this visual and added “How have you stepped on the treadmill today?” to hang it up right next to my desk and on my fridge.

5 – Helping Military Families and Other Clients

Once participants learned how to build their own resilience through the network-building principles of Working Out Loud, they shared how they might use WOL with their clients. We have shared a few of their ideas here:

  • The Touching the Treadmill notion is something I can see being helpful for some of my clients. Just getting started can sometimes feel overwhelming and this might help some of them to overcome the inertia.
  • I would definitely encourage my clients to amplify who they are and what they do…I have found that a lot of them are constantly engaging in negative self-talk, saying they don’t do anything positive.  So I tend to discuss with them that even the smallest success, like getting out of bed, or brushing their teeth that day, is a success and an accomplishment. Once they start to recognize small goals as successful and positive, it begins to amplify what they want to accomplish with their day, then their week, and so on.  So starting with small , accomplish-able goals can help clients amplify that success in their work and their personal lives
  • I would encourage my clients and staff to use (the element of) “Generosity.” We never know what a person is going through , so Just be nice!
  • Volunteering in the community is a great way to thank others, and to also help build our networks and FEEL better ourselves because we’re helping others.
  • I want to focus on Altruism- being selfless. By helping others, we help ourselves. But also be mindful that sometimes we need to take care of ourselves before taking care of others.
  • Consider how this approach can be applied in my community work…maybe with or without the circle guides.

Where to go from here

The Building Your Networks for Resilience Learning Experience may have officially wrapped up on April 10, but the participants expressed a desire to continue practicing the Working Out Loud process. The Network Literacy team intends to support this continued learning and will be sharing more details about that within the next week. Thank you to everyone that participated in this experience – it has been a pleasure and an honor to put it together!

If you did not get the chance to participate, you can still do that by accessing the webinars and podcast episodes. The Building Networks For Resilience Learning Experience was a partnership of the Network Literacy and Family Transitions teams of OneOp.

What questions do YOU have of the Working Out Loud process and how you can use it to build your resilience or the resilience of your clients? Please share in the comments section.

Sketchnote by Tanmay Vora, CC BY-NC-SA