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.

 

The Crimson Rose: Community Leader and Fire Goddess of the BMC

Photo courtesy:  hows-your-burn
Photo courtesy: hows-your-burn

Event: PERSEIDS – Meteor Shower Camp Out August 2013. Location: Black Rock Desert. Subject: Crimson Rose. Official Title: Burning Man Project, Founding Board Member.

I was honored to meet a founding member of the Burning Man Project Community on the Playa. Elation comes to mind as there is nothing more inspiring to me than meeting a passionate community leader in their zone. She is known in the Burning Man Community as the ‘Fire Goddess’. In fact, when I was conversing with her, what was running through my mind were concepts, images and stories of Itzpapalotl, the Aztec Goddess of Fire.

Just insert her name into Google Images and you can see her work. She takes the concentrated rays of the sunlight in a traditional fashion to travel to ‘burn the man’. This ritual starts with lighting of the cauldron “El Diabla”. What happens during the ceremony is a traditional drum beat with dancing and celebration. This act has deep meaning in the community as it represents the ‘birth’ to begin the festivities while serving as inspiration for all community members to remember to keep that ‘light’ burning within ourselves. Whether you are a writer, mother, sister, scientist or actress, this desire to create, refine, sculpt, contour, break down and find inspiration is core to a fulfilling life journey. The strength in ‘fire’ can also be a reminder that we should be allowed, permitted and in fact encouraged to be ‘reborn’. Interesting concept ‘rebirth’ as it’s not often something celebrated, but perhaps should be.

I applaud her profound passion for fire in representing this notion of ‘starting or igniting’ inspiration.
I learned a lot from her during the meteor shower that evening. She helped me to understand there are ten principles of the Burning Man Project:

• Radical Inclusion
• Gifting
• Decommodification
• Radical Self-reliance
• Radical Self-expression
• Communal Effort
• Civic Responsibility
• Leaving No Trace
• Participation
• Immediacy

It was a meeting of minds as we both feel strongly about civic and social innovation and change. We are both women in leadership and communities. For me, it was a great honor to listen to her passion as she describes how the ‘regionals’ are engaged throughout the world. How she personally can host members from Africa, Australia, New Zealand to come experience Black Rock City.

So next time you see a sparkler, roman candle or campfire. Drift off and allow your mind to wander. Allow the physical power to transfer into your mind and ‘ignite’ it.

HAT Trick for Social Business Strategy

HAT

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.

Motoring Community Member Experience

Expectations were in fact exceeded during a recent experience as a member of the MINI community.

Time for a powdered donut!

The synchronous and asynchronous community experience were integrated.  I could hardly believe it.  I found a marketing organization, sales force and customer service ecosystem truly aligned.  Now for someone like me, who is seeped in community. this is noteworthy.  Why you ask?  Because more than anything, MINI approaches the buyer’s journey through building high trust personalized relationships.  What, trust you say?  Yes, they approach the car buying discussion with full disclosure.  They assess quickly asses your needs and personalizet he experience through actions and words.  In fact, Barry Bell, my MINI motoring representative in Reno has 26 years’ experience and shared with me that he believes the car buying experience should be anything BUT complicated.

It becomes obvious that the workforce education, sales process, leadership training and post sales support are aligned. Yes, I love the Mini Owners Lounge. Not to mention their talent acquisition process.    Yes, they hire down to earth people who sell a motoring experience.

From the threads the motoring representatives ‘sport’ to the dealer decor and throughout the web, it’s consistent, fabulous and fun.  They create an experience whereby you can hang out online with likeminded individuals in the owners lounge so brag, swap pics or share stories.  If you prefer the in person experience, ask your dealer or search online to find a local MINI motoring club.    In fact, I’m smacking my lips as I enjoy my MINI chewing gum while I think about warm weather and cranking up the numbers on my top-o-meter.  It’s a gauge that is all about fun.   It keeps track of how many hours you have been ‘driving topless’.   Taking my kids to school should be fun, right?  So this is why MINI was the right choice for me.  Hand gestures, the nice one’s are all about the MINI cult or click.  You keep one thumb hooked under the steering wheel with the other four up to acknolwedge their MINI style and get the same acknolwedgement back.  It is truly about ‘many’ smiles, warm hearts and camaraderie.

Snow angles got alot more fun to make!

As a busy working woman, I appreciated how they infused the process with fun.  They provided me with ‘many’ options which allowed me to customize my ride.  In fact, if you build your car, they simulate the warehouse and virtually allow you to see your car while in production.  You are able to lurk on the manufacturing process, which in and of it psychologically get you more attached to the car pre-delivery.  In fact, you can track it with GPS on the container if needed and soon I imagine FOURSQUARE will allow you to stamp where your ‘vehicle’ is in route and allow others to join your in the brand experience.  From the customer service agent that checks in pre-sale, to the delivery process, it’s integrated, it’s seamless and it’s FUN.

Simply said, if you want to be ‘transported somewhere’ – check out the MINI motoring experience for both the physical and emotional transportation.’’

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.

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.