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.

Real Family in a Real Community

The Klein family has roots in the Midwest and so when we discovered the National Geographic Wild show called, “the Incredible Dr. Pol”, we immediately felt ‘at home’ because it is. 

1.)   Unscripted

2.)   Real down to earth people

3.)   It’s educational, informative and inspirational and

4.)   Based on real animals, real people and real families

Therefore, when I was visiting my family this week in Michigan, we took a trip over to visit the Pol Vet Clinic to possibly get an opportunity for my daughters to meet the doctor and get behind the scenes.

True to form, this clinic feels inviting as it is swarming with animal owners that are in need of a trusted medical advisor for some type of ailment or preventative service.  From the moment you walk in the door, you feel safe in this haven.  No fancy iPads to review procedures, but traditional smiles, warm personalities and great wall art made up of locals who share their animals for adoption, services available or upcoming events like roller derby.  Yes folks, it was awesome for me to see the real people behind the scenes continue to act normal.  Nothing has changed for them but their ability to expand their reach to more people, drive more connectedness through the show and educate more people.  In fact, I understand that the local television providers don’t carry his show; so many farmers will congregate in homes of folks that happen to have access to the show.   They got the invite through Diane Jr., their Social Media Manager who invites patients through their traditional communication mechanisms to turn into the series.  But otherwise, it’s business as usual.

Employees are encouraged to have wall art, create their workspace to be their own and connect and support one another in the ‘family’ approach to business.  Really not a far cry from what Google tries to do by allowing people to draw on the wall.  As someone who spans a heart from the Midwest but a career in Silicon Valley, I was in awe of this special place.  My daughter wants to become a vet, but perhaps it was just what makes my heart sing

I personally want to thank Dr. Pol and his family for being authentic, for your tireless advocacy for this important science and practice as well as your authentic approach to community.  Additionally, for the executive producer at Nat Geo Wild and team that took the risk to support an important void that has existed in reality based programming.  Send out some tweet love via @natgeo  #drpol or check them out on Facebook.

 

Social Leadership Core Competency – Diplomacy

Spicy Green Salsa
Spicy Green Salsa

Social Leadership is not a new term, rather something we have been doing for years in diplomacy.  We look for ways to create a connection, find a common ground, or thread.  Our desire for social connectivity has been constant over the years, yet now we have a myriad of channels we can harness to amplify, highlight or extend engagement through a core social leadership competency, diplomacy.

How do our educational programs resemble these new trends?   Just wondering out loud how we are increasing the investment in our diplomacy, negotiation, and conflict management?

Basic skills we think when we think about entrepreneurs, leaders and diplomats.  This noble notion of finding common ground is something that we can do as community managers, social artists and marketers.   I don’t mean finding a way to sell or push more rhetoric, rather find a discussion that allows you as an individual to drop into the conversation and connect.  It’s just that simple.  Seek relatedness around a passion whether playing tennis, saving sea turtles, or a joint love for fish tacos.

It really does matter in conversations if we can discuss something of interest to both parties in an authentic manner.  We need to use our active listening, recollection and connectedness skills which cultivate social relationships based on trust, equality and reciprocity.

Nothing like a fiery green salsa as the metaphor for social acumen education programs.

Working with Fear in Community Conversations

Spice it up!

I’m sure you have worked with someone who is resource protective, they operate out of fear or perhaps they just love a good helping of spice in life, like these gorgeous habaneros.  Often times people find themselves working for years to create a position, gain what they perceive to be power, get comfortable or simply don’t want to upset the apple cart.  So the answer is yes, change agents can be perceived as a threat.  However, no need to fret, just be reminded that to enter the conversation, it requires having your tools sharp in your tool belt and ready to get some good use.  Here are a few tips that I’ve seen work in these situations:

  1. Approach the conversation with the business vision as the core
  2. Tie into desired business outcomes
  3. Thank them for the opportunity to talk, share and/or engage
  4. Value them for their role within the organization and their journey
  5. Spend a moment to demonstrate your understanding of their expertise and value to the business
  6. Stand for what you have witnessed and/or experienced and use proposal based language
  7. Share candid and direct feedback to invite new possibilities
  8. Be authentic with your preferred interaction style to honor your needs as an individual
  9. Agree to disagree
  10. Set conversation norms, honor guiding principles and make sure to respect and value one another

Often times in our 140 character and information intense lives we forgot that relationships take a large amount of trust, time and work.  I know, I know, the last thing one wants to do is play with wolves, but often times that can generate the most impactful outcome.  It requires courage, fortitude and resilience.

Placing VALUE in personal networks

Time of the Social Bloom

As a social weaver, I think often about my networks.  I do invest 10% of my time daily into reading, sharing and reaching out via the post office, phone, email, Word Press, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest and other networks to cultivate and nurture them.  Certainly this has become a bit more challenging over the years with the complexity of tools, interfaces and compatibility that makes it more challenging.  So what I try to do is the following:

1.)   Create a system and back it up for you to capture all your key and/or tier one connections in your network.

2.)   Flex your documentation muscles as details matter.  Take time to document key information around your networks preferred interaction styles, preferences and likes so that you can remember names of family members, businesses, awards, alma mater, etc.

3.)   Be authentic.  Take the time to send hand written thank you notes, send flowers, books and/or hand deliver a meal.  All of the personal time investment is going away with the speed the internet has given us, so now is the time to re-invest this savings into things that really matter.

4.)   Give a Hoot.  Personally I’ve found that by allowing the twitter application to connect with LI, FB and vice versa, my social networks get these updates and can customize their personal view as needed.  I currently use Hootsuite to aggregate my twitter streams as it has an easy to use platform and a community based approach to support.

5.)   Invest in your purpose per network.  Take the time invest in yourself, your brand or simply hire a social media advisor to partner on your purpose and plan.

Someone recently asked me about the ‘size of my current network’?  I wasn’t sure how to answer this question at first since it really depends, right?  Immediately, I then started to analyze how social has changed the dialogue, the language and currency we use.

This notion of a social net worth is an akin to a financial portfolio.

In the future, perhaps we will be asked when applying for either a loan, credit card or job what the range of a ‘social value’ score that not only help them determine risk, but perhaps what someone views as a social investment.  Truly fascinating how these social analytics are becoming game changers.  As with anything, the public verus private ‘number’ will be something people yearn to acquire.

People, Pull and the Possibilities

With all the new tools that foster serendipity and real time feedback, do we really need HR? 

It will be curious to see how HR organizations use their charter to further contour and shape cultures by partnering with functions within organizations.

I recently shared how I believe that if we in the field of “People” don’t invest more in acceleration versus deceleration in the field of HR, we will work ourselves right out of a job.

The purpose of organizations in some cultures is to connect them to their societies and physical communities.  This is more true today than ever with the powerful social networking tools sprouting up all over the HRIS ecosystem.  Which is why I am advocating HR becoming an accelerator and do hope that they will become an enabler versus something that is slow, behemoth and/or an engine that protects and creates more silos.

The danger is certainly real to use these tools to create more silos and inadvertantly focus less on people.

Recently I saw a demo of an HR vendor who told me they have ‘communities’ and when I asked several foundational questions about what the charter, purpose and cultivation plans?  The sales representative responded with a retort that took me back to the ole’ client/server days where the value was in the ‘push’ information.

Which is why I believethe time is now to think about the People, the PULL and Possibilities.  With the new social tools, we have an opportunity to harness the power of real time peer feedback and accountability all the while fostering candor, transparency and honesty.  If we empower people to be courageous, provide the with processes and tools along with a culture that embraces asking tough questions of one another and management, imagine where could we be?

Lastly, as someone who thinks about social learning and culture, I believe we have a a huge charter ahead of us, with  much work to do especially with the advent of texting and such with our youth.  We must not take our foot off the importance of in person communications that are foundational to healthy feedback, debate and sharing.

The time is now.  So let us POUNCE together!

Engaging HR in the community

Trying to get those HR ‘types’ to engage with your community program?  Feeling frustrated as they are always too busy with annual review, performance planning, executive meetings or leadership programs?  Tired of feeling left out if you don’t fit into those activities or timeframes?  I personally have worked with HR organizations that have traditional cycles that are like clockwork.  They are hard wired into their brains indeed.  It can feel hopeless if you need their connector or link to a formalized Employee Resource Group if you are launching, for example a Women in Leadership Network.  If they are too busy working on the Executive Bonus, don’t fret.  Here are some lessons learned that you may find helpful in your journey with HR.

1.)     Know the HR program calendar and cadence.  What I mean by this is that you ask someone in that organization directly that question or you infer this through the calendar and programmatic activities that you are aware they work on, such as annual holidays, compensation and benefits, end of year bonus, review and new leadership programs.  Just to name a few.

2.)    Clarify their KPI and CSFs.  It’s important to understand what key performance indicators and critical success factors are for their organization.    These will be important nuances and openings for you to align with in the future.

3.)    Build relationships.  If you have been at your company for a zillion years or just don’t respect HR.  Think again, they have a very tall order to get you paid, ensure you have benefits, incentive programs, training and a myriad of other areas in their portfolio.  They are actually way busier than you could ever imagine.  So, start to have empathy and look to understand all the facets of work they do.  For example, if you are in IT and love analytics.  Why not volunteer to attend one of their Lunch and Learns or IT meetings to help them define key data elements and challenges.  Perhaps you could simply ask someone in the department to lunch and ask questions about what keep them up at night.  Their top programs.  Listen and learn.

4.)    Ask questions.  Taking someone out to lunch is brilliant so that you can ask questions either you wonder about that may be tactical or strategic.  Either way, they generally are open to this and will either point you to a lunch or learn event, an open door event or perhaps another person better skilled to answer your query.  Don’t get frustrated, just keep opening doors.  Eventually you will get your answer and learn about your organizational culture and structure more intimately along the way.

5.)    Provide an Offer.  No we aren’t talking about making an offer on a house, what I mean is that after all your ‘listening’ to understand the breadth of their portfolio and challenges, you may hear they have a need to identify a way to get our a program message through an online community.  Now we are talking.  You could offer to either setup the community, be a core team member, leader or better yet, just a facilitator.  Perhaps you could even do the business analysis for a site migration.  Who knows, but there is likely a need for your passion and competencies for communities hitching up with HR.  It just may not be the linear path you originally envisioned.

6.)    Keep an open mind.  This is why it’s so important to suspend judgment and keep an open mind.  I know most of us in the community business are fast talking, fast paced balls of passion.  But there is purpose in stepping back to listen, learn, be strategic, let our minds wander, wait and offer with an eye to being open to new possibilities.  This will only happen if we sit quietly and wait.  Our timeframe may be urgent, but there are other organizations that are building blocks to running the larger business so we must stop and think about not pouring more sugar into the pot, but rather consider a slow teaspoon of sugar in the different batches we cook.

7.)    Show Empathy.  This is an absolute must in our field and is critical to social business as Bill Cripe outlines in this article.

8.)    Feedback.  The only way we evolve is to provide it in small doses.  Be thoughtful in presenting the feedback, consider using one of many feedback methodologies, but don’t settle on not sharing your input.  It’s just not worth it to NOT give it.  We don’t evolve if we don’t give it.

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.

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.