Experience the Adventure

Reno Tahoe USA has a brand riddled with controversy yet there is in fact ‘more to know’ about the Reno / Tahoe area than what pop culture enjoys poking fun at.

Lake Tahoe Emerald Bay Sunset
Photo courtesy of http://www.visitrenotahoe.com

Instead of focusing on the why, I’m proposing we social brand ambassadors start discussing it openly through storytelling on the web.  For example, we can use a twitter hash tag such #experiencetheadventure to aggregate experiences, stories, adventures and codes to serve as a real time focus group with real time social tools.

Why do it?  You could bump your klout score or just enjoy the journey on a stream.

I believe we need to leverage our differences and similarities to drive brand transformation which will result in new revenue for the region while innovating.

We have great events cultural events; Burning Man, Art Town and exhibits at the Nevada Museum of Art.  Yet we don’t seem to capture the entire web buzz that we could.  We have leaders in the culinary arts field who engage with Nothing To It.  We have popular new musicians like Whitney Meyer who recently was discovered on the Voice .  Hip software companies like; Shortstack, Understand, GotDibbs who are helping bring jobs while re-investing in the region.

In terms of education, the Washoe County School District leader Heath Morrison awas awarded the AASA 2012 Superintendent of the Year and for the entire district beat out all other states for the award in overall Leadership in Communication.  Furthermore, we have great sports teams, a new Discovery Museum and UNR which offer talent, learning and affordable programs.

This is just a very quick list.  Countless numbers of organizations doing great work.  However, we have more to do. We could invest in entrepreneurial thinking, alumni, and young leaders in different approaches than we currently are focused today.  I digress.

Instead of focusing on the why the brand isn’t grounded in reality, I propose that as social brand ambassadors, we start to take the lead to help the region through using key hash tags to facilitate changing the perception.  Through this approach, we can bring help promote job growth, economic stimulus and new possibilities all the while demonstrating new innovative social leadership.

Come on Reno Tahoe Adventurers, start to share the code #ExperiencetheAdventure.   Nothing ventured anything gained, right?

Harmony, Mexico & Ju Ju the Pie Lady

Some may say that it’s the sea breeze, or the Mexican Sol, but I think it’s the culture.  It’s a way in you greet one another with interest, with respect and a grateful heart.  It’s about the harmony of conversation, the fundamentals in connecting and ability to interact with selfless intent.

When one thinks of Mexico, the notion of the perfect pie doesn’t come to mind, right?  Perhaps fresh fish, tacos or lime slices. But pies?  Well, one drifts off to musings of ‘grandma’, or so that is what Julie Barrett has found with her customer base at the Village Square of Harmony.

I always enjoy indulging in fresh squeezed limonada, fish tacos and coconut desserts, but what I find even more fulfilling is when I meet a kindred spirit.  An apprentice in their field with a love for the culinary arts, which is why my recent trip to Mexico I found myself fulfilled when speaking with Ju Ju the pie lady.  She is this gorgeous woman from the inside out.  A Midwesterner at heart that understood the metaphor of my book, Peeled Apart to Find the Heart when I explained to her why I was asking so many detailed questions about her pie and happiness making business.  We discussed lard, magic ingredients in her famous pie crusts and the top secret and most coveted Banana Split pie.  After she learned of my cookbook, she told me about her Mango Raspberry Pie that has just the slightest hint of cinnamon.  It’s like with anything, if you take yourself out of your treadmill of life to peel off that layers of over commitment, anger and  fear to simply listen without intention, you may well be on the thrill ride of your life.  One will never know unless they practice this sacred art of listening.

She imparted the love involved in the process of making pies and the art itself, which in some circles is becoming a lost tradition. This is one of the many lessons that I’ve learned through my book talks workshops over the years.  It underscores the paramount importance of taking time to build relationships, document and transfer knowledge of family traditions.  In many parts of the world, it is essential to listen with humility to what others have to say and find ways to make basic connections.  I was reminded why my work is so important as a communications and communities advisor and coach.  It’s the only way forward.   I would like to thank Ju Ju the Pie Lady whose pie’s I’ve never tasted for practicing this art and willingness to share her story, as it provided the sustenance I needed during a Mexican escapade.

Fine Tuning Health Care Practices, One Note at a Time

I was honored to interview Tracy Dufur, MBA who leads Elite Medical Advisors, an organization that is transforming healthcare practice management one note at a time.  Well, not through song per say, but through their creative strategies, leadership and approach to inspire new possibilities, one conversation at a time.  Yes, I had the honor to meet with the lead singer of Looting in Suburbia, who happens to be one of those talented MBAs and pioneer in healthcare industry who is inviting new practices that allow everyone to go home singing.

During my interview with Tracy, she shared with me one of the top issues she has seen with her clients is that healthcare practices aren’t being run by people with business skills.  They can be the top plastic surgeon in their field, but that doesn’t mean they can do the following that kills practice margins:

Healthcare Transformation - Music to our Ears!
  • Vendor management
  • Cost structure control
  • Focus on high quality billing
  • Identifying, hiring and training talent

She recommends that you consider outsourcing billing and vendor management and focus on building a practice, one patient conversation at a time.  “The time is now, she tells us, to engage with new practices, or these businesses will soon be out of business.”

Given the prominence of this subject in the news, I asked Tracy to share some strategies and methods so that we can all evolve together.

Q:   What do you think is working and making a difference today in healthcare practice management?

A:   Although it is basic, strategic planning is the number one thing that differentiates a good practice from a great practice and provides struggling practices with a map to success.  The vast majority of practices with which I come in contact have never been exposed to proper strategic planning.  Without a strategic plan, there is no road map.  You wouldn’t set out on a cross-country trip without mapping out your route, but practice owners and managers routinely run their business (and make no mistake, it is a business) without a written plan or goals.  A practice is only as good as its people.  This includes all ancillary and support staff.  The first and last person a patient sees in most practices is the front office staff.  If your staff doesn’t understand how their job fits into the overall success of the organization, what the organization goals are for the year, or even why the practice exits then your staff is simply showing up.  The overall practice should have an in-depth plan and then each department should complete a scaled down version with their department goals.  This ensures that everyone in the practice is moving in the same direction.  A simple model that I like to use when introducing practices to strategic planning is the following:

  • Vision:  Where We Will Be…
    • A description of a future state that embodies the values of the practice, its highest ideas, and hopes for achievement at a future time.
  • Mission: Why We Exist…
    • A statement that covers why the practice exists; what it does; whom it serves; what products and services it provides.
  • Goals:  What Will Get Us There…?
    • Achievements and/or initiatives for major areas of the practice that enable the future Vision to be achieved, while fulfilling the Mission.
  • Objectives:  Major Steps We Will Take…
    • Intended results for each goal that is specific and measureable.  Any one goal may have multiple objectives required to be fully reached.  This is a way of measuring progress toward the goals.
  • Strategies:  How We Will Go About Doing This…
    • A series of activities selected to enable the organization to meet its objectives.  Strategies are very specific.  They deal with the “How”.
  • Tactics (Tasks): Who Will Do What by When…?
    • Specific items to be completed in the near term.
  • Roles:  Ownership of Tasks…
    • The ownership of results.  A collection of “to dos” assigned to each person in the organization, which support the goals and objectives.
  • Relationships:  People Working Toward a Common Goal
  • This is the working level, where the organization’s strategic direction is practiced daily.  This involves the alliances between organization doctors, members, peers, directors, consultants, patients, vendors, regulators, etc.  It is the foundation for all efforts of the organization, which in the end; points back to the patient as the primary focus.

Q:  What do you think we should drop altogether as a practice?

A:  Excuses!  There are always going to be compliance and regulatory changes.  Every industry must work with these issues.  There are always threats and opportunities.  The key is to build on your strengths, identify your challenges and stay one step ahead by anticipating what is coming down the road.  If your receivables are out of line, if your reimbursements are falling, if fewer patients are coming through the door change your course of action.  You would not continue the same treatment on a patient if it wasn’t working, so don’t do it with your business.

Q:  What could make a difference but isn’t today in healthcare practice management?

A:  It is impossible to do everything well in an industry that is in flux and highly regulated.  Practice Managers must consider outsourcing.  Spend your time driving the business strategically not focusing on the tiny details.  There aren’t enough hours in the day and you will definitely miss something.  Surround yourself with vendors that have a proven track record in their core competency.  Learn to look at the big picture and manage to the numbers.  Keep your team focused on how they impact the Vision, Mission and Purpose of the organization.  Outline metrics and hold employees and vendors accountable.  This will allow you to loosen your grip a little, which in the end will give you more control, not less control.

Similar to other community art, it’s a great piece of music, it requires the entire band to come together to create the final cut.  No different in healthcare practices.  You need a composer, skilled musicians and management.

Active Listening, a Core Competency for Social Business Leaders, featuring: Nick Howe

If you haven’t followed Nick Howe on Twitter, it’s time.  He is a social business champion and hero who just happens to be a genius.   This superhero by day has a key role at Hitachi Data Systems , Vice President of the HDS Academy, yet by night is probably the most humble, coolest, geekiest and happiest guy you will ever meet.  He embodies networked learning in every sense of the word.  He engages his industry through storytelling, like at Jive World.  He is foremost a business leader who challenges himself to think about the disruptive nature of social business through active listening.  LISTENING you say?  How many times has a senior leader in one of your organizations taken the time to really listen and not ‘pander’ to you?  Recall and value your thoughts and ideas, synthesize quickly and give proper attribution?  Well, I certainly hope the answer is yes, but if you are like many people, those rare and inspirational leaders are unusual, which is why it’s noteworthy to celebrate when we find the attenuate.  In fact, his personal philosophy is simple:  “make learning a priority, trust that people will step up to a challenge and acknowledge weakness as an opportunity to learn, versus a threat.”

As a business leader he is constantly validating or examining what he believes his and his organizations’ roles are to achieve company goals as a continuous process. Not just a board room exercise once a year.  Yeah, that’s right – the infinite Loop.  Just like great leaders before him have, he is in constant examination of himself and his impact on the organization, his colleagues and his customers.

Merci, for chocolate, active listening and leadership

What I found the most profound in interviewing him for this blog post was his deep personal commitment to being a collaborative leader, who builds alignment, invites people into possibilities and empowers them.  He engages in detailed community conversations with great detail and critical attention to drive business results, yet humble in his overall approach and demeanor that is exceptional.   To use my food metaphors, like a scarce chocolate with intense and subtle characteristics, rich in flavor and depth.  This type of leadership is commendable, addictive and perhaps will become a contagion that spreads the learning fever.  Active listening and reflection are paramount for social business leadership; in fact I would argue these should be key core competencies for leadership.

People ARE the experience

Secret Ingredient

In talking with Nancy Long, Chief HR Officer at Hitatchi Data Systems, One of FORTUNE’s “100 Best Companies to Work For recently, not only did I get goose bumps,  but found myself going on a journey with her.  Think global amusement park meets data solutions.  Wow, her inspiration is contagious and exhilarating.  Yet I also found it quite humble in that she has an earnest commitment to people as the base ingredient for her success in the people business.

As a foodie, I approach conversations thinking about the ‘secret sauce’.  What she shared with me was that over her career her secret ingredient is/are:  PEOPLE.  People are paramount for this tireless leader in the PEOPLE business who truly embodies this guiding principle.  Wow!  She is onto something to create recipes using PEOPLE in every dish.  She has talent at the forefront of the portfolio in her strategies and how she leads organizations who create winning cultures.  Nancy shared, “our leadership throughout HDS at all levels has done an amazing job rallying, supporting and motivating our people.  We have won several pieces of recognition, locally and globally.  Last year we won “most clued in leadership team in Silicon Valley” which was a HUGE accolade for us!

So how ‘secret’ is this ingredient I asked myself?  Well, after searching Google , I found over 12,590,000,000 results and over 6,839 results when searching Harvard Business Review .  The concept of people isn’t a secret. It’s the ‘art’ of creating the winning cultures that seem to be difficult to realize.  Nancy is like many great collaborative artists, she shares her masterpieces, she invites us to learn from her and receive sustenance we yearn for in the workplace.

In summary, I believe we can all learn from this extraordinary leader to embody the PEOPLE business in every sense of the word.  We must build people talent acquisition strategies that are created by the people, for the people and with the people.  We must use the P ingredient in all our creations, whether they are pastries, pipelines or partnerships.  Indeed this thrilling ride is something you can experience.  All it requires is laser focus on PEOPLE.

Nurturing diversity of thought within communities is an art

Nurturing diversity of thought within communities is an art.  The working title for this blog post occurred to me after reading the article and comments from “Firms Hail New Chiefs (of Diversity)

If you are reading this article, it’s likely because you have interest in the subject of diversity, right?  Ask yourself this question, do you know where your employee or consumer resource groups are today? What topics are being discussed?  What are the key patterns?  Who is discussing with whom about what?  They are a great source of thought and inspiration, so why not engage them?  It’s highly likely you have either been a member or are involved with either formal or informal E2E, B2B or B2C communities online and/or  groups and teams that meet in person, right?  Now think about your diversity of people (membership) and thoughts or outcomes.  Do you seek change or are you wondering how to get more diverse

Just because you now have a social community channel, it doesn’t mean your community is diverse.  Nurturing diversity of thought within communities is an art.  It requires a team of  community weavers with valor, flexibility, inspirational leadership and courage.  These individuals link the unlinkable which isn’t something picked up in a certification class. It’s like an fine aged cheese, it requires an artisan and maturity.  Some of the best weavers that I’ve had the honor to work with build trust, foster diversity, invite dissention and are comfortable with the uncomfortable.  Many of these weavers have the competencies, characteristics or learning plans to:

  1. Risk takers.  I think this is a number one rule – don’t be afraid to go where other community leaders haven’t gone before, because that is exactly where we often find the most satisfaction, by blazing new trails to find new possibilities.  So, go on now, get started, and take a small risk, then a bigger one and so on…
  2. Think like entrepreneurs.  According to Wikipedia, “an Entrepreneur in English is a term applied to a person who is willing to help launch a new venture or enterprise and accept full responsibility for the outcome.”
  3. Can work with a shoe string budget.  It’s important to be scrappy and just figure it out versus going the distance to try to get funding.  I often find that if you cherry pick and take that low hanging fruit, get video testimonials, quotes and in expensive feedback that you incorporate into your on-going conversation or proposal, it is faster.  What I mean is that you can ultimately get funding by using a quickly capturing the story along the way that you are recruiting and identifying community members.  It not only creates a social memory and story – but also becomes the basis for a longer term funding pitch.
  4. Creative.  Use new media to bring people into the conversation; do consider a twitter meet up, a new free hang out tool or even bringing someone into a formal meeting via Skype. Whether they are uncreative to you – they may be creative to others.  I recently learned this through using the www.meet-meme.com cards.  It’s colorful, vintage like and fun.  Think about new ways to bring imagery and tactical into your conversations.
  5. Leverage resources.  Check in with all community managers to see if they have a few people they would propose that join your committee, core team or program.  Check in with your social networks as to whom within their companies could come as a guest presenter to bring outside though into your company.  Consider sharing with a competitor during a conference during an industry event.  Read and read more.  There is so much to find on twitter by just searching hash tags, that you will be lost for days trying to make sense of it all.  Make sure to scan the on-line blogs, tweets and industry magazines to tap into some thought leaders, bloggers or commenter’s to get a sense of others to invite into helping solve your problem.
  6. Know thy problems – speaking of the problem. You must know how to clearly define what your problem is and how this community of diverse thinkers can help solve it.  Aka – community charter – but one common way to get people to rally around a conversation is by starting with a problem.  People instinctively want to help, they enjoy competition, sharing and solving – so why not really understand the problem that exists and share it.  Hard to do if it’s a B2C community or even B2B because it can show your warts – but that is what these tools are made for right now
  7. Politically map – ensure you are asking everyone in your social journey along the way that is nodes they would recommend to talk to within the market, geo, function or ERG.  Through this process you will start to uncover diamonds in the rough.  Linda Linfield taught me this years ago, build relationships with those that you want to influence and leverage the relationship you have with them to influence their thinking.  It’s simple and effective.
  8. Walk the talk – it’s a requirement that along the journey, you embody the collaborative principles– it’s contagious.
  9. Engage SMEs – make sure that you are talking to people that face customers and are experts in their subject matter – they will often have direct contact with customers, suppliers or employees that they rely on for their day job. Often times these people are hard to reach whether they are in the Amazon working on heavy equipment or just really busy loving their day job.  But  the people that are doing the day to day work are resources we must leverage – but be mindful they are highly respected and require kit gloves in handling as they are often hard to reach
  10. Encourage inclusion – make your community a safe and welcoming place for members. Do practice being authentic, warm and embodying the community guiding principles!

Community Engagment Tips

Make time to look in the mirror!

Resources – do you have a community manager assigned to ensure you have focus?  Important to ensure that they have a cultivation plan, charter and are working to perform health checks with members to modify and drive accordingly.

Relevancy – are the content assets relevant to the members?  Do they have click thru’s, links and/or are the appropriate length that will drive user engagement?

Feedback – ensure that you are constantly engaging your members to request insight when engaging to ensure that you are incorporating changes and ideas that are member driven as you evolve the community.

Connectedness – critical factors are living and breathing collaborative approaches whenever you approach social learning – so do make sure that you are warm and offer connectedness in your approach as a leader.

Walking the Talk – make sure that you embody the collaborative principles as you operate – it’s contagious

SMEs – thought leaders, subject matter experts or external guests are important to cycle into your community event planning to switch up the cadence and infuse new perspective into the community.

Games and Fun – make sure that you think about approaching your events with some exercises, games or other fun activities to make it more engaging for participants.

Learning – build social learning principles into all that you do relative to your communities.

Leadership – walk the talk in everything you do as it relates to your community.  Drive the desired outcomes to completion, facilitate conversations on behalf of your members and advocate!

Warmth – make your community a safe and welcoming place for members.  Do practice being authentic, warm and embodying the community bill of rights!

Shoestring budget strategy that works for education – a WCSD case study

Case study on communication strategy that works!

Washoe County School District has been transforming itself over the years through leadership transition within the district and the legislature, not to mention the recession.  Which is why the story of how during the turbulent times a small low budget communications department went back to the basics and focused on what was important, the community.  What I mean by that is that there are a variety of audiences that comprise the districts ecosystem with firm resolve to tie all their efforts into the strategic plan.  Yes, that is right the simple recipe to success is several fold in my opinion:

Laser Focus – they tie everything they do into how it allows their resources to impact realizing the strategic plan.

Talent – they harness great talent in the employees, the physical area or business community.

Value – they value and respect everyone that works in the communications ecosystem.

Transparency – they acknowledge mistakes, they share their plans and they have opened up their storytelling through social tools.

Social – they have embraced leveraging social tools as a way to share information, engage with the communications ecosystem members, foster two way real time conversations and learn.

Diversity – they embrace diversity, welcome and celebrate it.

Fearlessness – they embody living fearlessly in their approaches.  What I mean by this is that they ask for help when they need it, they apply for grants and awards and they don’t take no for an answer.  If a door is closed, they look for a keyhole or another door that may open.

Since original publication of this blog, several of the nation’s top educational and school communications organizations have named the Washoe County School District as the recipient of the 2012 Leadership Through Communication Award.

 

Harnessing Network Power

There has always been power in numbers, right?  Yet I continue to be amazed by this notion of collaborative outcomes buzz.  This warm glow is shining bright for citizens of the world – we are having our moment.  We are connecting through social spaces, engaging in meaningful projects, initiatives and other community work.  I’m forever grateful to those who have paved the way.

It really does take one seed, from one individual tossed in the air can that can nurture and start new possibilities.  It can ignite a team collaboration, foster culture change or even societal transformation. Yes indeed – we are in the ripe era of harnessing the power of our collective network potential.  It is bursting with flavor like a Mango groove in season.  Which is why this model of Collective Ambition by  Douglas A. Ready and Emily Truelove, is noteworthy to mention.  I hope you find this useful within your efforts, organizations or projects to help with any sense making required for your community efforts.

Community Manners

Etiquette basics such as you’ll find in Miss Manners, Debrett’s and Emily Post apply in online communities also – yet it’s easy to forget about manners when we are saturated in a day to day online community environment, so we thought we could share a few manners we have found most helpful to guide our daily online community lives.

Understand people are different and don’t assume.

Do you like to have your mobile phone beep at you with new status notifications?  How about listening to the noise of a colleague who has sound play for each tweet or instant message that arrives?  The first question is about how you manage your preferences.  The second is about how other’s preferences are important.  Both are part of good manners.  Language is also important – we may think we are being clear when we post a comment on within a community, but often they require clarification, explanation and/or further context.  So, don’t be offended if someone comes across short, unclear or frustrated.  Remember to be understanding, apologize and try to find another way to approach the topic.  So don’t assume that everyone has your experiences, cultural understanding, knowledge or common language – because we don’t.  Do assume positive intent and just invest in deepening meaning and understanding through dialogue and inquiry.

Invite! 

With corporations, individuals may play a role formally, but do have many competencies outside of their current role.  Don’t assume that an individual can’t or won’t contribute simply due to their role, title, etc.  Often times you can miss great contributors if you aren’t trying to assume how and/or what role they play.  Simply extend invitations and offers and allow members to determine where, what or when they will engage with the community.

The old adage that if we build it they will come simply doesn’t work.  We can turn on facebook pages, twitter lists and linked in groups – but that doesn’t mean they will come.  You need to understand your audience first and what is in it for them (WIFM) so that we are building a true ‘community’ where people are connecting over a product, service, business problem, or support issue.  It’s important to be spending time to tend and nurture this community in a non heavy handed way and marketing is NOT equal to community.  If you are approaching the communities as simply the same old marketing materials but in a new medium – that won’t work either, so make sure that you are bringing real conversations that are authentic, open and transparent into the social sphere.

Be honest.

If you don’t have an answer – quickly turn around and use your network within the organization or escalate through your management chain.  The most important thing we can do as knowledge brokers is to find the information quickly and share it back with the requestor and then teach them what we learned.  Was there a broken link?  Then tell them and thank them for highlighting this oversight but tell them you fixed it.  Then share feedback intra organization about this and/or think about how you can influence shoring up any broken processes in the meantime.

Jump in – walk the talk.  You will get more credibility in a commuity if you are active in another networks–don’t limit yourself, consider joining other communities and post interesting research information, good videos and/or other content that isn’t just marketing focused.

by Lauren Klein & Sharon Crost