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.

 

HAT Trick for Social Business Strategy

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I grew up in Michigan where hockey dominated every day conversation. It snowed most of the year and as soon as the ice froze, skates were pulled out. Which is why I have drawn the parallel for scoring in social business strategy with hockey?
Certainly being persistent, repeating you and being resilient are characteristics we understand. But what I believe we must embody in our actions and words are:

Honest conversation. From strategy model development conversations to actual community conversation. We look in the mirror through social every day and we must be honest with ourselves, with our words, with our actions and our approaches.

Authenticity. We approach our strategy development and social business validation process with authenticity with our peers, our clients and our ecosystem with that top of mind. A shout out to many great thinkers in this area, including: Joe Pine, Brene Brown, Marcia Reynolds and Sally Helgesen.

Trust. If we do the H and A well in our work, the trust comes later. But it is paramount to successful dialogue, strategy development and conversation to establish trust. By the way, it isn’t monetized yet although people are trying to do so. Trust to me is something that is hard to achieve but easily lost.
Just thought I would take a few moments out of a busy day to share some secret sauce.

Courageous European Community Director

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Randi Hognestad directs community and network events in Europe. Based in Norway, this tireless community weaver has deep connections throughout Europe. She has cultural sensitivity and style. She is quick to engender trust, yet is fierce is pursuing business goals. It isn’t every day that you see a community manager resume with her background. She has a law degree and has worked as a journalist with Norway’s leading financial newspaper and with communication in private equity.
Today in celebration of learning on Community Manager Day, I decided to ask her about ‘weaving techniques’ we community managers should consider when developing cultivation and engagement plans.

1.) Demonstrate generosity
2.) Be authentic all the time
3.) Be respectful of the other community members time and efforts
4.) Be mindful that ‘language is powerful’
5.) You get credit for speaking other languages even if not ‘perfect’
6.) Embody cultural diversity
7.) Don’t be turned off if someone comes across not as polite
8.) Remember that not all executives are natural networkers, and may need some TLC to become engaged
9.) Mind the details in all that you do
10.) Be thankful

What I find the most fascinating about her educational background is how her competencies in communication and diplomacy align with those of high powered executives who quickly scale the levels in conversation. She is courageous, has a strong personality, quick wit, emotional intelligence which has faciliated her ability tend her networks. I hope you have the opportunity to meet her in person, because you will feel this great strength in her intense, yet tender presence.

The flight and importance of communication skills

FlightAs a coach and community leader, I set a myriad of ideas and goals for for flight every day. I look at the end of the year as a time for introspection, gratitude and renewal. What I enjoy most about this new calendar year is the opportunity it brings reconnect with my most meaningful and profound work as I peer out on the calendar year in front of me. I carve out time to think deeply about the impact I can have on my networks and in my case that is social leadership, communication and diplomacy. Cornerstones in my change management and coaching practice. Which is why today when I was drinking my morning coffee and reviewing the opinion from Father Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame in the Wall Street Journal I was delighted to learn about his new book, “Conviction: The Power of Peril of Our Passionate Beliefs” that Random House will publish later, it reinvigorated my senses.

Why? Because so many of my clients and their communities have great ‘conviction’, yet often times they are lacking the talent and tools to harness the power of conviction. It reminded me of the importance to advocate for persuasion as a key behavior we seek in our talent acquisition programs, in our core competencies and performance management programs and our workforce education and performance support offerings. I’ve found that debate and communication courses are critical skills we need to turbo charge our society, yet without these foundational programs, how can prepare labor for the workplace? As organizations, how can we pivot our strategies without it? It is the lifeblood that runs throughout our societies. I will continue my work and hope that together with many of my esteemed colleagues we can impact and drive societal change.

Teens rivaling, but in a healthy way for their communities

This time of year people can get lost with wrapping gifts, buying new outfits or planning events.

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I agree for many people, this time brings excitement and joy, but for others in need or without a voice, it can be a difficult, scary and lonely.  Which is why I thought I’d share the story of teenagers in Reno, Nevada, rivaling, but in the good way.

Cyrus Moassessiand Kienan have been holding their annual food drive fundraiser for several years in Reno.  They donate 100% of their proceeds to the Northern Nevada Food Bank.  In fact, their mother, the grateful foodie told me she will go through twenty pounds of flour this year with all her baking.

Isabela and her sister Maya have been fostering kittens with Nevada Humane Society for a few years.  They have seen how these little kittens through love and socialization get nursed back to health and placed quickly into loving homes.  Yet the foster kitten program isn’t without its expenses, which is why Isabela wanted to give back.  In fact, she created a slide show video on her blog to help document her experience and market the event.

Cyrus and Isabela both student leaders and supporters of the American Lung Association have been friends for years.  They have grown up with both allergies and asthma, so they have witnessed how important nonprofits can be to families through their own struggles and advocacy.  Perhaps this is why Isabela decided this year to hold her fundraiser at the same time as Cyrus and Kienan.  Simply put, nothing like good ole rivalry like boys against the girls to raise the stakes, drive more passion and hopefully donations.

As a parent, there is nothing more satisfying than watching your children blessed with life give back to others while having fun.  I thought it was noteworthy to call out these community heroes in order to highlight that rivalry can be fun, if put to good use.

I hope you join me and Caroline by supporting both these fundraisers.  Better yet setup your own stand for another noble cause during this season of giving.

Born Leadership Legacy

Nothing more fulfilling than reading about how universities, organizations and community leaders are seeking out key qualities that resonate with those of us who learned as toddlers, that we MUST share.  It’s no longer just about the test scores, but rather a candidate or talent’s ability to demonstrate:

Passion   Creativity   Accountability   Flexibility   Focus   Resilience Gratitude

In fact, as the first born of two university professors, these were mandatory skills that I had to demonstrate consistently throughout my youth.  Our family structure valued rigor in an approach to education, peppered with the freedom to fail.  All the while, emphasis on re-invention and repetition.

Now several decades later, I’ve found that this foundation was the basis for my career success in that I learned to value active listening, collaborating, risk taking, and persistence.  In fact, I’ve found that through sharing, I personally have more to gain than loose.  Which is what brings me to the following question?  Why are we still talking about embracing business models which encourage enterprise mentoring, collaboration and connections to talent and learning development programs?

Leadership, it boils down to this simple word.  Whether you talk about leadership on the scale of a billion dollar company, or via deep and lasting impacts a home maker / leader has on their brood or a tribal leader.  We in leadership every single day are putting into motion these ‘systems’ through our actions and words.  Which is why we often see much ado about: Amazon, Zappos, Mary McNevin healthcare as the industry sweethearts who are daring to lead, making laudable investments in people, or is charging forward with drastic strategy pivots?

At a cursory level, you can read about handfuls of leaders who have a burning imperative for being performance enablers.  These individuals have clarity of vision and ensure their teams collaborate and have what they need to deliver results.

So don’t be the ‘tractor in the swamp’.  Be bold and take on the wide-ranging malaise surrounding organizational design structures and performance management systems through your born leadership legacy.

Learning rooted in outdoor science

Michael Ismari is a man all about the roots in every sense of the word.  He spends his time thinking about sustainability, education and deepening roots figuratively and literally.  He is fastidious in how he approaches science as he connects students through experiential learning in the real world.  In fact, what started out as a garden club has taken off so quickly, they can’t keep up with the wiki page the students created to compliment the program a few years ago.  Simply put, they are too busy learning in real spaces which have replaced any time spent in cyberspaces.

Michael like many tireless leaders has spent time thinking about his practice area, his network in order to identify new possibilities through conversations and a thoughtful grant application process.  The seeds he is sowing extend far beyond this school program, but rather serves as a model for other organizations to engage in new approaches to outdoor science.  In fact, he won the award for Excellence in Environmental Education.

He is opening hearts and minds for our inner city youth who can now do more than just read text books to learn about seeds, roots and the true meaning of ‘taking hold’.  Instead, he is instilling the countless value lessons that use the real world laboratories involving dirt, hard work, nurturing, recycling and the importance of resilience as important attributes for success in life.  Now that is practical science we can all rally around.

It’s a story of schools supporting schools, which is commonplace in tight knit communities such as the Reno Tahoe Area school called Smithridge Elementary, which is right across the street from Pine Junior High School.  A mutually beneficial program that resulted in a $12,000 grant from the CSA to build a school garden initially.  Today this Outdoor Science Learning Center has gained recognition through being awarded the distinguished DRI Environmental Award.  Currently the Pine Garden is involved with the Northern Nevada Food Bank and the Team-Up 21st Century Learning Program to produce a fundraiser to insure school garden sustainability.   In fact, the Edible Classroom at the Washoe County School District, Washoe County School District Team Up, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, UNR 4-H Mentoring and the Food Bank are allowing kids to learn great life lessons and have fun way in a delicious way through the program.  Also, check out their upcoming event at La Vecchia at:  http://goo.gl/6tKCF.  Thank you.