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.

 

Starting an Elementary School Speech & Debate Club

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Starting a debate club

Speech and Debate clubs are great ways to boost your child’s confidence and a great way to engage them early on in public speaking, improving speech and vocabulary, as well as encouraging leadership roles. The club teaches them vital life skills like project management, and working to be unbiased and see both sides of a topic.

The easiest way to go about it is to have your child become interested. After taking a tour of at a specialty school, I became interested after reading a poster about a debate club. I asked my mother several questions. Her response to me was, “if you want to start a debate club, then write down the rationale on power point and present it to your principal.” Sure enough, that was what I did. My mother gave me a few suggestions, but off I went with her to a meeting to discuss this after school club I wanted to start. I was surprised that all I needed was a parent or teacher who will be there at every club meeting to supervise and facilitate. My mother wanted me to highlight that she called a few administrators for their support too. Fortunately, since she is a leadership coach, she had experience and skills in the corporate world that all the students leveraged while she facilitated and led our club meetings and events.

After the initial steps of creating a club, you want to connect with some high school debate students that show up on a regular basis and teach the kids the skills of researching, collecting, presentation and portrayal of data. Then put up posters around the front of the school about the club to get new members. We had around eight members regularly and smaller is sometimes better so that all kids can present and argue their points.

Then next step is figuring creating an agenda for the meetings. Keep in mind that speech is a HUGE part of the club, buy a book of tongue twisters and have all the students line up and have them practice saying them in a loud clear voice (after introductions of course). Make sure everyone has a turn and encourage the quieter ones to speak up. Then split the kids into two groups from youngest to oldest. Then have each high school student go to one group and talk with them about what they are interested in and which side of the topic they want to argue; pro or con. It’s vital that the children get to choose their topic so they’re more passionate about it.

Then have the kids work at home on their topic. The more they like it, the more they research! Have at least one club meeting while they are researching so that everyone is on the same page. Have the next meeting be the date of the argument, there should be equal numbers of pros vs. cons and mix in some of the stronger speakers so that the quieter ones feel like they have strong support. While teams are presenting make sure to watch along with the coaches, everyone should take notes. All coaches should point out at least one positive set of feedback from each child’s argument and at least one piece of constructive criticism. Make sure there are no “winners” while you may think one side spoke better, you have to put these children in a growth environment where they are fueled by passion and not by short lived competitiveness. Then start the process over again at the next club meeting, it’s nice for the kids to be able to pick their own topic and feel independent and strong which all funnels into their confidence and individuality as a person.

Then at the end of the year invite teachers, parents, guidance counselors, high school debate coaches, and area administrators to attend the end of the year debate. View this as their grand finale, give them a couple weeks to trim and practice their speech. For this debate it’s best to do something relevant so that everyone can see how the children view a certain issue or topic, their voices aren’t always heard and this is a way that we as parents can help them speak up for what they believe in. It’s important to see the children grow and thrive each week, by the end they become much stronger, confident public speakers—qualities that our youth need to be developing.

Washoe County School District press release article on the Debate Club.

Blog by IRK

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?

HAT Trick for Social Business Strategy

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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.

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.

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.