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.

 

Courageous European Community Director

Randi profil
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.

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.

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.