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.

The flight and importance of communication skills

FlightAs a coach and community leader, I set a myriad of ideas and goals for for flight every day. I look at the end of the year as a time for introspection, gratitude and renewal. What I enjoy most about this new calendar year is the opportunity it brings reconnect with my most meaningful and profound work as I peer out on the calendar year in front of me. I carve out time to think deeply about the impact I can have on my networks and in my case that is social leadership, communication and diplomacy. Cornerstones in my change management and coaching practice. Which is why today when I was drinking my morning coffee and reviewing the opinion from Father Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame in the Wall Street Journal I was delighted to learn about his new book, “Conviction: The Power of Peril of Our Passionate Beliefs” that Random House will publish later, it reinvigorated my senses.

Why? Because so many of my clients and their communities have great ‘conviction’, yet often times they are lacking the talent and tools to harness the power of conviction. It reminded me of the importance to advocate for persuasion as a key behavior we seek in our talent acquisition programs, in our core competencies and performance management programs and our workforce education and performance support offerings. I’ve found that debate and communication courses are critical skills we need to turbo charge our society, yet without these foundational programs, how can prepare labor for the workplace? As organizations, how can we pivot our strategies without it? It is the lifeblood that runs throughout our societies. I will continue my work and hope that together with many of my esteemed colleagues we can impact and drive societal change.

Teens rivaling, but in a healthy way for their communities

This time of year people can get lost with wrapping gifts, buying new outfits or planning events.

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I agree for many people, this time brings excitement and joy, but for others in need or without a voice, it can be a difficult, scary and lonely.  Which is why I thought I’d share the story of teenagers in Reno, Nevada, rivaling, but in the good way.

Cyrus Moassessiand Kienan have been holding their annual food drive fundraiser for several years in Reno.  They donate 100% of their proceeds to the Northern Nevada Food Bank.  In fact, their mother, the grateful foodie told me she will go through twenty pounds of flour this year with all her baking.

Isabela and her sister Maya have been fostering kittens with Nevada Humane Society for a few years.  They have seen how these little kittens through love and socialization get nursed back to health and placed quickly into loving homes.  Yet the foster kitten program isn’t without its expenses, which is why Isabela wanted to give back.  In fact, she created a slide show video on her blog to help document her experience and market the event.

Cyrus and Isabela both student leaders and supporters of the American Lung Association have been friends for years.  They have grown up with both allergies and asthma, so they have witnessed how important nonprofits can be to families through their own struggles and advocacy.  Perhaps this is why Isabela decided this year to hold her fundraiser at the same time as Cyrus and Kienan.  Simply put, nothing like good ole rivalry like boys against the girls to raise the stakes, drive more passion and hopefully donations.

As a parent, there is nothing more satisfying than watching your children blessed with life give back to others while having fun.  I thought it was noteworthy to call out these community heroes in order to highlight that rivalry can be fun, if put to good use.

I hope you join me and Caroline by supporting both these fundraisers.  Better yet setup your own stand for another noble cause during this season of giving.

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.

 

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!

Shoestring budget strategy that works for education – a WCSD case study

Case study on communication strategy that works!

Washoe County School District has been transforming itself over the years through leadership transition within the district and the legislature, not to mention the recession.  Which is why the story of how during the turbulent times a small low budget communications department went back to the basics and focused on what was important, the community.  What I mean by that is that there are a variety of audiences that comprise the districts ecosystem with firm resolve to tie all their efforts into the strategic plan.  Yes, that is right the simple recipe to success is several fold in my opinion:

Laser Focus – they tie everything they do into how it allows their resources to impact realizing the strategic plan.

Talent – they harness great talent in the employees, the physical area or business community.

Value – they value and respect everyone that works in the communications ecosystem.

Transparency – they acknowledge mistakes, they share their plans and they have opened up their storytelling through social tools.

Social – they have embraced leveraging social tools as a way to share information, engage with the communications ecosystem members, foster two way real time conversations and learn.

Diversity – they embrace diversity, welcome and celebrate it.

Fearlessness – they embody living fearlessly in their approaches.  What I mean by this is that they ask for help when they need it, they apply for grants and awards and they don’t take no for an answer.  If a door is closed, they look for a keyhole or another door that may open.

Since original publication of this blog, several of the nation’s top educational and school communications organizations have named the Washoe County School District as the recipient of the 2012 Leadership Through Communication Award.

 

Harnessing Network Power

There has always been power in numbers, right?  Yet I continue to be amazed by this notion of collaborative outcomes buzz.  This warm glow is shining bright for citizens of the world – we are having our moment.  We are connecting through social spaces, engaging in meaningful projects, initiatives and other community work.  I’m forever grateful to those who have paved the way.

It really does take one seed, from one individual tossed in the air can that can nurture and start new possibilities.  It can ignite a team collaboration, foster culture change or even societal transformation. Yes indeed – we are in the ripe era of harnessing the power of our collective network potential.  It is bursting with flavor like a Mango groove in season.  Which is why this model of Collective Ambition by  Douglas A. Ready and Emily Truelove, is noteworthy to mention.  I hope you find this useful within your efforts, organizations or projects to help with any sense making required for your community efforts.