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.

 

Trust Your Journey Community

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For every woman that has struggled, questioned, realized, believed, accomplished and triumphed. What a fantastic tag line from the company, Trust Your Journey. This message is put into their products and inspires people to keep on keeping on. It is an inspiring message from two women, a cancer survivor and a young widowed mother, who have dealt with challenging turning points in their lives and discovered along the way that sharing inspiration and stories of hope are an incomparable way to give.

This mighty organization is based in Reno, NV and has for many years supported an American Lung Association, Northern Nevada Stair Climb. They sponsor apparel that the teams sports in ascending 36 flights of stairs. Rather appropriate for such a mighty effort that they would sponsor eradication of lung cancer and clean air advocacy all the while supporting their local parents who deal with lung disease.

I’ve been honored to have met the owner over the years, which embodies her brand in her demeanor, in her character and her integrity. I’m so pleased that I’ve met her on my life journey and therefore felt I should in turn share it with my network. Because it is really about the people as the medium that matters and this inspirational message and business duo sell something that is a vehicle to carry our aspirations, experiences and feelings through their product.
Often in our marketing efforts we find that our campaigns in traditional media lack credibility and these women collect stories and feedback through their communities which gives us a reason to have hope in business and in turn their products provide us with a sheath of protection.

I must brag and tell you that their products recently on QVC sold out in 7 minutes. They are not only ascending the Silver Legacy Stair Climb, but in business also. So, I hope that you find their storytelling in their products laudable.

Change Management, a required work stream in Social Business

The Fremont Troll
The Fremont Troll
Break through results can only be realized in Communities if your social business strategy approach includes this work stream. Often the time and resources needed to do this right are overlooked or perhaps simply nebulous because we have to deliver on today’s results. It is so hard to insert the argument if your company views the effort as another tool rollout. So, just a few thoughts this morning around key activities in the change management work stream:

1. Do engage with HR to create the conditions or the environment for your program or organization to achieve results. Call it culture change or innovation – but do engage with HR.

2. Share key industry research, white papers or blogs with leadership over time so that they can learn from their peers outside of your organization.

3. Do what your mother told you when you were young – LEAD BY EXAMPLE. Requires a lot of effort, but do work across the organization and departments to encourage cross pollination.

4. Document, post, comment and work out loud in an open forum so that anyone in the organization can find your work at their moment of need. Yes, work out loud.

5. Invite, extend, flex and don’t let the trolls get you down.

As leaders of change programs, we must be continuous learners ourselves. What this means is that we should always ask for feedback, modify, pivot and adjust and adapt along the way. We extend invitations for new conversations and possibilities along the way, while making sure we don’t let any turkeys get us down. Most importantly, work across the organization with your approach so that this new social business program encompasses people, process and technology. If you hire vendors, encourage them to partner alongside the strategy, design, build and engagement work stream so that you can create the conditions that will allow you to realize the business objectives outlined as a part of your effort. And yes do consider thinking about Digital Disruption and Leapfrogging as concepts in your approaches.

Social Leaders must invite change, ambiguity and resiliency

HBR published on their blog an outstanding article titled, “This is Your Brain on Organizational Change” that inspired me as a coach as it relates to the ‘human resistance to change’ that is being discussed in New York this week called the NeuroLeadership Summit.

I appreciate that Walter’s blog post and mention of the SCARF model and I have experienced in countless organizations the need for a common understanding of what could enable them to realize new potential as ‘leaders/managers’.

Countless organizations continue to use high potential frameworks recognize and reward individuals that don’t embody these constructs.  I believe the leaders in People/HR and Learning along with partners in Talent Management have an opportunity to be courageous with new models, test them out and hold ourselves accountable to embody new possibilities for the 21stcentury workplace dynamics.  What is the worse that could happen?  An effort fails? Well, if we continue to work in a paradigm that is proven to not work, we have arrived already to that destination.  So what do we have to lose?

Foodie Art

I see it as a chance to invite change like this glorious image of a sunglasses soaked in milk chocolate.  With all the richness ambiguity offers plus a dash of resiliency, now there is a tasty dish we courageous leaders should order up now.

I love the idea to start by breaking things down into something people can digest, like the 4 domains the NeuroLeadership Institute highlighted around:

  • Decision making and problem solving
  • Emotion regulation
  • Collaboration
  • Facilitating change

As a change agent, facilitator and coach, I thought many of you would appreciate need to focus in these areas as we plunge into these unchartered waters and learn together, so please, do share your learning’s and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

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.

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!

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.