Sharing Your Story – Amplify Africa

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My trip to South Africa this year was phenomenal. It is hard to put the experience into words; family and friends have seen my non-stop posts online. But I want to try and at least paint the picture of my time there for our Girlmade family. Buckle in, this might be a long read.

As a partner with Amplify Journey I attended the 3rd annual Amplify Africa women’s summit in October. I was there to help women play big all the while learning, connecting and growing. I had the amazing privilege of emceeing the event and throughout it I knew I wasn’t going to leave the same. The theme this year was “Share your story”. It was such an amazing space for women to share of themselves, their ideas on how to improve our businesses and organizations – sharpening one another’s skills through engaged dialogue. Best of all moms got to bring their daughters who watched them be lady bosses in action! I later had the chance to work with these girls on a mini impact project that we presented to everyone.

I was grateful to be included in small but significant ways in the South African culture during my emceeing duties: I wore a beautiful blue doekie throughout the summit. For those who aren’t familiar, a doekie is a traditional head wrap that is common not only in South Africa but on the continent as well. A symbolic apparel that is both timeless and is a symbol of power. Something I know African American women can relate to, as it’s part of their cultural heritage here too. It was an honor.

Our team Amplify Africa stayed at the Sibani Lodge during the summit. A beautiful 2000-hectare game farm where the animals roam freely. We certainly enjoyed the tent camping and a powerful mastermind session facilitated by Miss South Africa 1992, Amy Kleinhans – Curd, an incredible entrepreneur whose wine is amazing.

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I met a number of other incredible women in South Africa. Chef Margot Janse who heads the Isabelo project that aims to nourish the stomachs, hearts and minds of children in the country. Beatrice Deipierre, Executive director of Kidzpositive, an income generation project that creates means for mothers and caregivers of children affected by HIV/AIDS to make a living. We consulted, trained and supported Beatrice and the team of female artisans. I was fortunate to meet, mentor and learn from the GM of Ritsako Game lodge, a female founded game reserve, not too far from the capital city, Tshwane. She’s working on a foundation that will help girls stay in school, read and learn to protect themselves from rape.

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In all these incredible spaces of growth, some fun was definitely had in between. Food is a big part of any culture, so taking part in a food jam (cooking session) allowed me to learn more about South African food and foraging. We had ourselves an Ostrich Braai, what we here call a barbeque.

I know that this is only a small token of what was really an incredible time for me and our team. It’s a privilege I hold dear. With so many lessons it is hard to encapsulate them all into one. Perhaps what I can say is where we can often be tone deaf or come in with our own misconceptions into a space, I have learned over the years that allowing those who own the space to lead you not only helps you communicate your ideas and what you can contribute more effectively, but allows growth in oneself too.

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As our Amplify Journey’s tagline goes: We are stronger together. Sharing our knowledge across our cultures and continents will only serve to make this world a much better place. The future is bright for all of us, regardless of which continent we are on.

 

Believe, Encourage, Listen and Lift

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It doesn’t matter if you are age 6, 12, 25, 39, 51 or 64.  We all need to hear the ring of a bell.  We are reminded of this in Hemmingway’s famous work, For Whom the Bell Tolls  ” No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine”:

Believe.  We must firmly believe in the power of human potential.  It’s surprising how this act has great possibilities and can truly allow another person to fight through a treacherous pathway they were previously unable to pass.  It’s our ability as coaches, mentors and leaders to ensure that our staff, teams and organizations demonstrate through our actions and words those they we ‘believe’ in them.

Encourage.  This word is often over used.  It means different things to different people.  But what I’ve found surprising is that often outsiders in the circles of relationships can spark the fire within individuals in order for them to grasp onto that rope a wee bit longer in order to climb up the long  and difficult ascend to ring the bell at the top of the gym or in life.

Listen.  Take time to truly listen to people.  Allow space for your teams to share their challenges, frustrations and aspirations.  For with our ability to suspend judgment or problem solve for others, there is power in the courtesy and respect of demonstrating how we value them as individuals and what they bring to the table.  More often than not you will be surprised in what you hear if you listen close enough.

Lift upwards.  Do spend time to realize that your staff may be facing an audience of nay-sayers or reminded of their 8th grade nemesis.  They may be experiencing counterproductive thoughts but secretly want to hear the bell in order to realize greatness.    The only way we can allow our team to reach greater heights is through our generosity of time using the BELL concept.

I hope you will join me in making time every day to sound the BELL of leadership.

Creating remarkable customer experiences

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I was reminded by the CEO of Start Human recently that creating remarkable customer experiences is paramount to business success.  I was delighted that her company is focused offers training and services which allow organizations to put the customer first.

Matching your actions and words.  An important business value often overlooked when focusing on short term results.    Laudable goal, but hard to realize unless you invest in people.

From acquisition, learning and development to experience.   Our talent teams need to embody these concepts through their actions and words.  If we as leaders don’t have the courage to request fast feedback and demonstrate active listening, we may find ourselves in a conundrum.  Simply because the world now has multiple channels of interaction and networks that extend beyond what we ever imagined.  Today we must invest in our front line staff.

Sanofi could benefit to embody these concepts.  Their handling of the voluntary Avi-Q recall is being poorly communicated and managed.

WHY I HAVE MENTORS BOTH DEAD AND ALIVE

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Who is your mentor today? Who have your mentors been in the past?  Are they family, community members, business professionals, celebrities, athletes, politicians or historical figures?

I personally have several mentors.  Dead and Alive.  I find that I can draw knowledge and wisdom from my ancestors.  Learning about their struggles, their impacts or their sheer perseverance often helps me ‘fill my watering can’.

Why do I use that metaphor?  Well, because I believe knowledge is the lifeblood that blossoms to new growth and learning.  Either way, what I do know is that I draw strength from inspiring and impactful human beings.  They are my water, sustenance, something that’s developed into more of a need than a want. The needs to be not only inspired, but to give you drive, if I had used a different metaphor, I would say fuel to your fire. When I face difficulties in my life, perspective can be the thing that can remind me of what I have, what I lack, and what I can stand to learn and gain. We’ve all had those days; you know the ones where things are disorganized and chaotic.  Where the organizations don’t have solid design structures, lack clarity with regards to the business and division goals, and more importantly lack transparent leaders who are the embodiment of trust and integrity.  Fluffy words, I know, but often times we get into these projects and get lost in the sea of work, life and chaos.

It’s hard to find clarity in strength. Especially if you have management without experience, lean budgets, and /or egomaniacs. It can be simply unbearable.  Often times I find turning on some music (like if you were at the gym) and find an inspirational work space, alongside mentors, you can muster through.  It isn’t so bad, but if you don’t have people who are experienced or trusted advisors you can look to for ‘strength’ it can be cumbersome. This is why I encourage a myriad of sources.

Family is always good, since most of them love unconditionally.  But often times, they don’t understand your field, so you need to seek out people who understand your work culture or industry.  At the same time, you as a mentee must be willing to listen and probe. Try to better understand your shortcomings, blind spots or more importantly opportunity areas.  I also find a lot of strength in reading biographies of people who have carved or blazed their own trails in their lifetimes.  I’ve noticed, reading and art are strong fuels for my own passion.  For example, as a young woman I was introduced to Frida Kahlo, a Mexican artist who overcame several life challenges.  She suffered for many years, but took her suffering and turned it into something she could offer to others, and in turn brought her pride and personal satisfaction.  Since I admire her journey, I enjoy putting up copies of her art to be reminded of her struggle.  It often can trigger me to step back, think through my situation differently or more importantly dig deeper inside myself for new strength and renewal.

Innovation with the letter R

RenoArnold Carbone shared his thought leadership with regards to his R&D experience with Ben and Jerry’s during a recent @AIGARenoTahoe event @theBasementReno which reminded me of the behaviors we must have in order to evolve as we develop products and services.

Mentoring, market research, business plan development, etc. are all critical milestones in our business lives; this talk reminded me that as an entrepreneur or product manager, we must constantly be re-inventing our approaches. It’s no longer about the solid channel strategies and programs, but actually the talent we hire and inspire. We must have talent that innovates with the letter R.

We must have people on our ‘team bus’ who understand the importance of knowing their audience yet can flex in VUCA world to listen, advocate, influence, engage and execute. These are no small tasks. I’ve found these individuals are comfortable to constantly learn, re-invent themselves, seek out fast feedback and incorporate it into their work styles and approaches. Additionally, they have high integrity and are quick to translate the key business objectives through their day to day actions. From the tactical activities such as influencing internal stakeholders or executive sponsors.

As I sat at the Old Post Office inside an art deco building in Reno, Nevada, I was reminded that whether your customer is a high tech executive or a scoop shop owner, we must invest in building skills which start with the letter R in our future leaders if we want to continue to have products such as Phish Food in our lives.

Resourceful, Relentless, Revolutionary Innovation, Resilience and Responsibility

Danell Wilson-Perlman, Female Leader changing the limo transportation world one tread at a time

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She’s a female leader in the state of Nevada who is advocating to keep free enterprise live and well in Las Vegas which is the largest limo network in the world. Las Vegas. And guess what, she’s rocking at it. She is a co-owner of Reno-Tahoe Limousine and has been working with the Pacific Legal Foundation to help advocate on behalf of all the small companies to change legislation that would allow her company to grow and thrive in the Nevada market. Up until now, she has been limited. For the full story, review the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL.

It’s hard not to be impressed by the torque of a woman who’s standing up for local businesses and changing the transportation world one tread at a time. The outside is undoubtedly shiny and ethereal, but man oh man, this woman has depth.

She is in the middle of this legislative process and remembers to thank her staff, buy a gift and attend BREKKIE (Where she continues to support and inspire other women and share hilarious anecdotes—see end of blog). She’s steadfast in her commitment, isn’t wavering, despite all the obstacles that she has been confronted with in these past few months. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to have met such a fierce woman advocating on behalf of many small business people to allow them to realize their own dreams. She wrote a story of hope, and justice. How a small company is pushing back to be permitted to increase their fleets without unfair interference from the massive limo and taxi industries that operate in Las Vegas. Might just be the next major motion picture.

A few of her business traits that make her successful women in business:

Fair, hardworking, resilient, knows when to ask for help and has a strong female vision

Oh, I almost forgot the anecdote; “When I was in typing school, I remember my teacher telling me I was awful and would just end up pouring tea for the boss. As I sipped my tea, I realized my teacher was right.”

It’s like a muscle, if you practice and flex it, it can turn into a way to live.

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A tenant of success in business is relationship nurturing, building, tending and sustaining.  Yet in today’s wired world, it’s easy to spend too much time with surface level interactions.  One of the many skills that we must maintain is the skills of active listening, authentic conversations and integrity.  Easier said than done in today’s world, yet must be a core competency we focus on.

One of my secret ingredients that I share with community managers in my coaching sessions it that of an earnest commitment in your businesses, communities or lives to ensure that people are the base ingredient for your success.

In our practice of daily mantras, meditation or simply during our to do list review, I suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who will you motivate today?
  • Who will you recognize?
  • How many direct customer, partner and employee conversations can you spark?
  • How can you inspire your colleagues, team or company in a new way?
  • How can you make the mundane more ‘fun’?
  • Can you listen in the moment with your customers, partners, employees or prospects today?