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.

 

Coloring outside the lines in marketing programs

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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?

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.

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.

The Matterhorn of Significance

It’s a great summit we aspire to ascend in a lifetime.  Finding peace, understanding our purpose or our significance in this short timeframe in which we inhabit this planet.   Countless individuals struggle around their definition of success.  Fighting to gain spotlight, to feel worthy, to realize legitimacy, or perhaps simply to not be forgotten.  These are questions I had to ask Terri Casady.  She is someone with presence, someone who clearly embodies resilience and resolve.  She embodies characteristics that are laudable in our leadership society.  I was mesmerized by her mind and journey, so when I asked this fearless woman in leadership about her ‘mojo’ she was quick to share her recipe.

Terri has struggled with the construct personally.  In a way none of us ever want to struggle.  Her son died when he was only 20 years old.  She fought her way out of grief and has since dedicated her life journey to invest in others, ensuring they feel significant and recognizing that it’s about being in the back light that really matters.

1.)    Find ways to allow people to be their best

2.)    Guide, open doors and introduce people to your personal networks

3.)    Transfer your knowledge through teaching, modeling and enabling

4.)    Advocate on behalf of someone doing the right thing, tell their story, lift them up

5.)    Go with your intuition

6.)    Grant trust

7.)    Take risks

8.)    Be courageous

9.)    Live without fear

10.) Lead and live with integrity

Did you feel those goose bumps?  Well I did, right up my arm.  I was honored that she shared her tree of life story and personal credo.  These guiding principles are appropriate as we enter autumn.  Whether we change leaves, colors or behavior, we need to remember the importance of doing what is right when no one is looking, because that after all is realizing significance.

Social Leadership Core Competency – Diplomacy

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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.

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!