Sharing Your Story – Amplify Africa

76179138_10220700037997579_5039057868792266752_o

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.

73399956_10220621711719471_584601837043187712_o

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.

76174828_10220740450927877_4518258320686972928_o

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.

73515613_10220693520114636_988386560242089984_o.jpg

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.

 

Cultivating Athletic Communities: CrossFit Regulus use case

CrossFitWOD

This is a quick scratch pad post to share a few community concepts to help you build healthy athletic communities.

  • Mission and charter that extend beyond driving sales or renewing members.
  • Guiding principles
  • Experienced, certified and competent coaches on the community leadership team
  • Games, leveling, rewards and leader boards
  • Fast feedback
  • Diverse membership
  • Technology Enabled (Data and Apps)

For example, CrossFit Regulus, a gym in Northern Nevada has a charter to be the ‘Happiest CrossFit Gym in the World”.     The gym owner, a former UNR wide receiver is determined to leave his legacy by executing on this concept. He believes his gift is to light the path for all types of people on their healthy journey.   He invests time to meet each member personally, he remembers their names, he inquires and probes as a part of their on-boarding process at Regulus in order to help fine tune his coaching methods for the CrossFit daily ‘WOD’ – or workout of the day.

Opening exercise at his gym starts during warm up when he and all his coaches form a circle and each introduce themselves and answer a question, such as, ‘what you ate for dinner’. Simple, right? Doesn’t require props or complicated supplies, yet is a subtle way that allows everyone to focus on each other, practice active listening and think about their own health decisions or perhaps other fuel decisions they could make to accompany their fitness regime. Not quite the corporate team meeting experience, right? Behind this ‘question’ is a change management technique that calls you to action to be accountable for what you ate and/or what you could consider consuming that very day. Additionally, it allows people to connect with one another on a first name basis and slowly start to form an affiliation and relatedness with other humans, the coaches and the gym.

Co-owner, Jamie Thomas, who is currently a criminal justice student and UNR cheerleader, is constantly weaving across the gym to provide adjustments, coaching and technique feedback. There is no ‘sandwich technique’ – it’ simple. You get input on your approach, your form and/or inspiration to dig deeper to find a new level that you could realize.

Technology and applications allow members to easily connect with one another online, get alerts, connect with your fellow members and track your progress against others on the leaderboard. The application has a concept for fast feedback through a ‘fist pump’ in sugarwod or more active engagement through a comment. These tools allow you to capture the data associated with your ‘FGB- Fight Gone Bad’ or ‘AMRAP’ as many reps. They provide you with different levels in which you can scale your WOD and also incentives to reach the RX – or prescribed work out. Those of us who thrive on data enjoy this number chasing game which fuels some people to strive for a  personal record (PR) or simply a journal which shares trends over time.

What an impressive result that within 14 short years, the CrossFit exercise program which combines Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics and aerobic exercises into a workout routine grounded in community principles has driven societal culture change. Hats off to Greg Glassman former gymnast who trademarked and founded these phenomena according to the Los Angeles Times.

 

Running group for everyone- take all comers attitude not just for elite runners

IMG_4529 

When living life to the fullest, we all aim to be as healthy–and consequently happy, as possible. The Reno Running Company tries to help with the fitness aspect of it, by hosting weekly Sunday runs where all ages and ability levels are encouraged to run with fellow community members. They aim to get you out the door running so that you can start your Sunday having accomplished before 10 am the sometimes difficult, yet important self-care that often slips away from our busy lives. This small investment of time is so much more than exercise and a complimentary Starbucks coffee at the end, it is somewhat of a rarity in busy communities in that it is connecting not only like-minded runners, but people to inspiration to healthy lifestyle choices. Usually you can find people talking about not only running kicks, favorite fuels and trails, but also eateries, schools and favorite healthy hangouts.

It takes a community leader, business owner and athlete to create this genuine healthy lifestyle running club, which is exactly what Matt Balzer, a dedicated triathlete has fostered. If you join us sometime you will experience that Matt always has time for customers along with the staff, who are always eager to help. Furthermore, you will find small business supporting other emerging healthy fuel lines such as Nature’s Bakery, a local company, whose philosophy is all about providing GMO free, healthy, delicious fig bars.

The Reno Running Company and Nature’s Bakery partnership is what all company relationships should be about, supporting a local market and fellow businesses. They aren’t competing, they are collaborating. It’s about partnering to sufficiently meet their clients’ needs– which in this case are top of the line running gear and fuel. In their recently launched running club, RRC and Nature’s Bakery, partner together as local businesses to energize us in the pursuit of happiness. They don’t continually look over their shoulders to compete with other brands. They keep their eyes ahead on how they can provide both the tools for a health journey, along with the inspiration, coaching and energy to get there.

Starting an Elementary School Speech & Debate Club

IMG_5543

 

Starting a debate club

Speech and Debate clubs are great ways to boost your child’s confidence and a great way to engage them early on in public speaking, improving speech and vocabulary, as well as encouraging leadership roles. The club teaches them vital life skills like project management, and working to be unbiased and see both sides of a topic.

The easiest way to go about it is to have your child become interested. After taking a tour of at a specialty school, I became interested after reading a poster about a debate club. I asked my mother several questions. Her response to me was, “if you want to start a debate club, then write down the rationale on power point and present it to your principal.” Sure enough, that was what I did. My mother gave me a few suggestions, but off I went with her to a meeting to discuss this after school club I wanted to start. I was surprised that all I needed was a parent or teacher who will be there at every club meeting to supervise and facilitate. My mother wanted me to highlight that she called a few administrators for their support too. Fortunately, since she is a leadership coach, she had experience and skills in the corporate world that all the students leveraged while she facilitated and led our club meetings and events.

After the initial steps of creating a club, you want to connect with some high school debate students that show up on a regular basis and teach the kids the skills of researching, collecting, presentation and portrayal of data. Then put up posters around the front of the school about the club to get new members. We had around eight members regularly and smaller is sometimes better so that all kids can present and argue their points.

Then next step is figuring creating an agenda for the meetings. Keep in mind that speech is a HUGE part of the club, buy a book of tongue twisters and have all the students line up and have them practice saying them in a loud clear voice (after introductions of course). Make sure everyone has a turn and encourage the quieter ones to speak up. Then split the kids into two groups from youngest to oldest. Then have each high school student go to one group and talk with them about what they are interested in and which side of the topic they want to argue; pro or con. It’s vital that the children get to choose their topic so they’re more passionate about it.

Then have the kids work at home on their topic. The more they like it, the more they research! Have at least one club meeting while they are researching so that everyone is on the same page. Have the next meeting be the date of the argument, there should be equal numbers of pros vs. cons and mix in some of the stronger speakers so that the quieter ones feel like they have strong support. While teams are presenting make sure to watch along with the coaches, everyone should take notes. All coaches should point out at least one positive set of feedback from each child’s argument and at least one piece of constructive criticism. Make sure there are no “winners” while you may think one side spoke better, you have to put these children in a growth environment where they are fueled by passion and not by short lived competitiveness. Then start the process over again at the next club meeting, it’s nice for the kids to be able to pick their own topic and feel independent and strong which all funnels into their confidence and individuality as a person.

Then at the end of the year invite teachers, parents, guidance counselors, high school debate coaches, and area administrators to attend the end of the year debate. View this as their grand finale, give them a couple weeks to trim and practice their speech. For this debate it’s best to do something relevant so that everyone can see how the children view a certain issue or topic, their voices aren’t always heard and this is a way that we as parents can help them speak up for what they believe in. It’s important to see the children grow and thrive each week, by the end they become much stronger, confident public speakers—qualities that our youth need to be developing.

Washoe County School District press release article on the Debate Club.

Blog by IRK

The Crimson Rose: Community Leader and Fire Goddess of the BMC

Photo courtesy:  hows-your-burn
Photo courtesy: hows-your-burn

Event: PERSEIDS – Meteor Shower Camp Out August 2013. Location: Black Rock Desert. Subject: Crimson Rose. Official Title: Burning Man Project, Founding Board Member.

I was honored to meet a founding member of the Burning Man Project Community on the Playa. Elation comes to mind as there is nothing more inspiring to me than meeting a passionate community leader in their zone. She is known in the Burning Man Community as the ‘Fire Goddess’. In fact, when I was conversing with her, what was running through my mind were concepts, images and stories of Itzpapalotl, the Aztec Goddess of Fire.

Just insert her name into Google Images and you can see her work. She takes the concentrated rays of the sunlight in a traditional fashion to travel to ‘burn the man’. This ritual starts with lighting of the cauldron “El Diabla”. What happens during the ceremony is a traditional drum beat with dancing and celebration. This act has deep meaning in the community as it represents the ‘birth’ to begin the festivities while serving as inspiration for all community members to remember to keep that ‘light’ burning within ourselves. Whether you are a writer, mother, sister, scientist or actress, this desire to create, refine, sculpt, contour, break down and find inspiration is core to a fulfilling life journey. The strength in ‘fire’ can also be a reminder that we should be allowed, permitted and in fact encouraged to be ‘reborn’. Interesting concept ‘rebirth’ as it’s not often something celebrated, but perhaps should be.

I applaud her profound passion for fire in representing this notion of ‘starting or igniting’ inspiration.
I learned a lot from her during the meteor shower that evening. She helped me to understand there are ten principles of the Burning Man Project:

• Radical Inclusion
• Gifting
• Decommodification
• Radical Self-reliance
• Radical Self-expression
• Communal Effort
• Civic Responsibility
• Leaving No Trace
• Participation
• Immediacy

It was a meeting of minds as we both feel strongly about civic and social innovation and change. We are both women in leadership and communities. For me, it was a great honor to listen to her passion as she describes how the ‘regionals’ are engaged throughout the world. How she personally can host members from Africa, Australia, New Zealand to come experience Black Rock City.

So next time you see a sparkler, roman candle or campfire. Drift off and allow your mind to wander. Allow the physical power to transfer into your mind and ‘ignite’ it.

Blogging – how to get started?

Join the pad!
Several people have asked me how to blog and get a style, so this is a brief attempt to share a few thoughts around see one, do one, and be one.

• Consider reading and searching around the internet, on-line resources, books, magazines or libraries. What I mean by that is: simply spend a few minutes reading content from industry experts, peers or your mentors. This can give you context on styles you relate to and/or inspire you.

• Secondly. Just do it. Most organizations encourage learning. If you are reading this, you can look into wordpress to post a blog, so all you need to do is create a blog title, write down a paragraph, run spell check and post. Don’t over think it. Just do it. Take a few moments to share something you have recently shared over the telephone with a family member, customer, business associate or partner and try to ‘capture it’ in words. If you can’t do that. Record yourself or ask someone else to do it. Actually I find it is a good opportunity to self-reflect and learn about your communication in general if you listen to yourself speak or present.

• Seek peer input. I often find that if I ask for feedback that I will get it. What I mean, is be explicit with your friends, family, staff, peers or your management. Ask them to carve out time to give you their candid feedback on what they would do if they were you, who influences their communication approaches and/or areas they see as ‘development opportunities’ for you to consider.

Coloring outside the lines in marketing programs

coloringpage
Coloring inside the lines sounds familiar, right?

Whether in the office, at home or in preschool, we often find ourselves being encouraged to keep ourselves focused, on track in results-orientated organizations. Especially for people working in global knowledge intensive organizations where there is a multitude of cultures, markets and relationships. Why? Because it is complicated. Information is rampant and often can cause angst if taken out of context and/or misconstrued. Which is why recently when I had the opportunity to discuss a Community Launch plan with Kelly Shelburne she immediately made the inference that with fresh thinking around integrated communications and leadership, anything is possible. She believes with the creation of innovative communication programs we need to work as if we are ‘coloring outside the lines’.

Her perspective and leadership communications philosophy was refreshing. She is one of these people grounded in ethical standards with a heavy emphasis on employee engagement because her philosophy looks at the audience, their maturity to the communication theme and any additional organizational context that drives business results. She has a keen eye to culture and patterns. She thinks about harnessing leadership acumen and the notion that people are part of an organization unit or family who all are in varying stages in their relationship with the organization. In a nutshell, she believes there is real power in engagement, and that when that’s truly and effectively harnessed, the possibilities are limitless. She believes in the power of people and of unity – and in the power of ‘One’ – both the ability for a single person to influence great change and the ability for many to come together as one to do the same, when they are engaged and aligned with purpose.

It was so fulfilling to me to hear someone talk about the importance to communicate openly in a manner to engage employees. Especially with an eye to fostering collaboration through blending traditional content streams with video with an eye for a well aligned strategy that enhances internal communications that allow organizations to reach goals. It then occurred to me that she is absolutely right. We as social business leaders need to look for ways that we can color outside the lines. People won’t judge you because you draw inside the lines. We have to be able to go outside the boundaries of the ‘lines’ and yes, there is some risk in that, but in both cases- you can make it look amazing in your own by infusing your style, your color choice or person voice. In fact, we also discussed a recipe for success to color outside the lines with change programs:

• Build alignment
• Invest in wide organizational relationships
• Build integrated communication programs
• Be intentional with activities
• Harness the power of the network
• Be consistent
• Repeat

Makes sense to me. Think about intentional activities that can feed into the larger plan which leverages nodes and leaders in the organization to help with messaging and understanding. Be rigorous, timely and generous with your time. The rest will come. Besides, who doesn’t want to go back to the sandbox and build creative castles like we did when we were five years old in the office?