Is It Crazy To Think An Online Community Can Succeed?

One of my tasks with Weaving Influence is helping to manage the Lead Change Group community. This is a fairly new role for me, and taking it on has me thinking almost constantly about what makes an online community work.

Although in my opinion the success of an online community boils down to a handful of characteristics that sound very simple, there is something intangible that has to take place between assembling the right “ingredients,” following a trustworthy “recipe,” and “cooking” everything to result in a tasty product. These include:

A Cyber Welcome Mat

Although I believe it is important that there be a cadre of “regulars” who contribute to the community, there should be plenty of acceptance and respect to make someone who is visiting for the first time feel welcome. (Many people probably read your posts frequently before venturing to comment.) I have been active in one of my favorite online communities (more on that later) long enough to know many of the “inside jokes” that would mystify a newcomer. The inside jokes are part of what makes the community fun, but there’s a fine line between inside jokes that make you want to keep coming back in order to “get them” and inside jokes that are so plentiful, pointed, or cryptic that a newbie can feel excluded.

People Keep Showing Up

This is the next part after the welcome mat. People like what they read, how they are treated, and how they feel after interacting with your community. You know you can count on seeing some of the same people week after week, and connections grow deeper roots that way.

Good Writing

This language freak has long ago given up on grammatical perfection in the online world, so I am not referring to a draconian management of spelling and grammar (although consistently sloppy use of language is a turn-off). I am referring to good writing. The kind that makes you laugh at your desk, that makes you stop mid-post and tweet the author saying “I haven’t even gotten through this post but thank you,” the kind of words that stay with you long after you click off of the post. Writing like this Spin Sucks guest post from Cindy King.

Connecting Across Other Channels

As a blogger, I will tell you I will love you forever if you will share my post via your other social media channels (unless you’re a creeper in which case of course I won’t love you forever). There are times when I read a  Spin Sucks post that is quite technical (such as this one) and I have nothing useful to contribute but I know I can trust the content enough to share it via Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and/or Linkedin. If I am going to keep the cooking analogy going, we’ll call the “connecting across other channels” the equivalent of allowing our product’s fragrance to waft into adjoining rooms and make everyone salivate over what we’ve made!

Knowing Your Place

It would be easy as a Spin Sucks Crazy to think that the blog is all that happens at Arment Dietrich. I say that because the activity stream is constant. That’s not because the blog is all they do, though; it’s because they make sure to delegate responsibility for reining in interacting with the community throughout the day to someone on staff. I have to remind myself that the blog is only a part of what they do and respect that, although they would point out that the blog is the entryway for many business leads (80% of new revenue, to be precise — details about that in this post).

Telling Me Specifically How To Get Involved

Tonight’s post is an example of what I mean. Back when Spin Sucks posted this, I said the following:

spin sucks post

(The pigeon is a story for a different post!)

This is not the first time I have commented about doing something, and been encouraged to follow through. The very first time was when Spin Sucks rescued me from weekly habit of #FollowFridaying a long list of people by publishing this post which in addition to convincing me to rethink how I was using Follow Friday, instilled in me a secret little goal to get featured (which I did, here).

Moderating Closely

It is no small task to moderate the comments section of a blog. There is no faster way to lose me as an online community member than to make me wade through a stream of trolls, spam, and other trash. An unadulterated comments section does not happen by accident; it takes work. And I appreciate that.

green pen two cropped

As a new community manager, I can tell you that I am hungry for the people in my community to blend their unique ingredients more thoroughly. There’s so much great content; staring at a comments section with a line of “0’s” on my dashboard makes me sad. There are many times during a week when I utter a little prayer that the Lead Change Group community will acquire some of the attributes that make Spin Sucks great: dynamic people, talking to one another, evolving into something more than a set of comments on a blog.

Want to help me out with whipping up something delectable at the Lead Change Group? Here’s a recent post that provided useful tips for helping people work to their fullest potential. Take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments?

And I would be remiss if I didn’t give a last “thank you” to Spin Sucks for being such a tremendous example of an online community that works. I would also be remiss if I didn’t try to earn some brownie points (because I love brownie points!) by asking you to tweet the following:

tweet

(Click here to tweet!)

101_3367

Yummm…….brownies!

Ten Minutes of Thankful (The Grateful Challenge)

I love a social media challenge. I especially love a social media challenge that forces me to focus on the good. That’s why when Gini Dietrich posted The Grateful Challenge on Spin Sucks this morning, I was the first (of quite a few) to say “I’m in.”

The point of The Grateful Challenge is to “list as many things that you love in just 10 minutes, with the hopes that you can get to 99.”

Ever the rule-follower, I am setting my timer for ten minutes and proceeding, with a plan to leave the finished product relatively unedited (although I won’t be able to resist a little bit of cleanup!).

The Grateful Challenge

1. My husband. It hasn’t always been easy but 22+ years in, I know I have my best friend on my side.

2. My daughter. I only hope she sees in herself the magic I see in her.

3. My son. He and that “different drummer” keep on marching. For all I know they’ll be the ones to change the world.

4. My crazy cats, Alice Cooper and Bella.

5. A faith that sustains me.

6. Memories of my mother-in-law, Barb, and the echo of her voice in my head every day.

7. My father-in-law, even though he and I argue for a half hour every day about the true meaning of 4:30.

8. A home.

9. This town, which is wonderful, the place where my children were born and raised, but is not New York City.

10. New York City. It will forever and always be where I am most myself.

11. Broadway.

12. A July week this summer that included days in NYC with my daughter.

13. Tenley Albright. Meeting the woman my daughter was named after this July was the culmination of 18 years of hoping on my part. She made it a stellar evening.

14. Estela and Silvia in Guatemala, Stanley in El Salvador – the children we sponsor through Unbound. Meeting each one of them and their families changed me.

15. Toastmasters. I may have to give up on ever having any substantial impact on the world by acting but Toastmasters allows me to perform 5-7 minutes at a time.

16. The ridiculous and overwhelming amount of plenty we have here in the U.S.

17. Related to #16, Publix.

18. All the times a guardian angel has prevented me from having auto accidents.

19. The times I am trusting that same guardian angel will watch my 18 year old driver.

20. Leaning about Camp Gordon Johnston and the men who served there; endlessly fascinating.

21. Books.

22. Specifically, ^^ Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

23. My new part time employment with Weaving Influence. I am still floored every time my boss thanks me for something or asks “how can I serve you?”

24. Blogging.

25. Social media; all the incredible connections I have made that seem a lot more “real” than words and pictures on a screen.

26. That one friend whose phone calls help me stay sane.

27. That one friend who is almost exclusively the reason I am an advocate of gay marriage.

28. Running.

29. Running people.

30. Yoga.

31. Fitness, fitness people, fitness duds.

32. My parents. The ultimate sacrificing people.

33. TURKEYS! RUNNING WITH TURKEYS!

Holy heck, only 33? Well, that’s where my ten minutes went.

ps: running with turkeys is a thing:

Running Turkeys

Gulf Winds Track Club Turkey Trot Tuneup November 23, 2014

 

Unbound And A Touch of Perspective

Last week. It had BIG highs, such as having my first Fitfluential Guest Post published and being featured by Spin Sucks in Friday’s Inquisition Seat.

I also had the opportunity to speak to the local Church Women United group about Unbound on their World Missions Day. Even though I feel that it was me benefiting from the morning rather than them benefiting from my presentation, I hope they were moved by the glimpse into Unbound’s work I gave them.

The purpose of the remainder of my post is two-fold.

Unbound Children Need Sponsors

I messed up. I requested information from Unbound to share with the Church Women United group, including folders of children needing sponsors. Because I requested it too late, I did not receive it until Friday afternoon (after my presentation, sighhhhh). Because I have these five folders, I feel led to share them in my blog. Please pray for these children seeking the support of Unbound, which I can attest will change their lives. If you know of a local Tallahassee (or regional/driving distance) alternative Christmas fair where I could possibly share these stories and how sponsorship ($30 a month) could help them, I’d love to know!

Unbound Edited Avo

Unbound Edited ValerieUnbound Edited OmarUnbound Wesley EditedUnbound Edited SugelyFor information on providing Unbound sponsorship for these children, please contact me at paulakiger (at) gmail (dot) com. For other children, youth, and aging seeking sponsors, please visit this link.

Now that I have shared these five children’s images and stories with you, I have a little more to say.

About Perspective, Helping Others, and Yoga

I started off this post noting three wonderful things that happened to me last week. Friday evening, I had one minor (in the big scheme of things) bit of news that brought with it major disappointment, far out of proportion to the importance of the news. For the rest of Friday evening, much of yesterday, and even part of today I have been really struggling to figure out how my usual recipe of 1) help someone else and 2) do yoga was going to help me through this emotional bump.

As Saturday dawned, I ran my second annual virtual 5K for PFC Matthew J England. He was killed in combat in Iraq in June 2008. Here is his Killed In Action Commemorative Flag, displayed on the route of the Missouri 5K yesterday. Thinking of Matthew’s sacrifice and his mother’s determination to honor his memory gives me perspective:

10712987_10152888292279381_6338545368034511170_n

Also what a great example of having a thick skin and a sense of humor is Ginger Zee? I don’t watch Good Morning America any longer but I still think she rocks. My thin skin and I can take some pointers from her perspective:

Ginger Zee

 (Side note: not every tv weather person is a meteorologist; there’s an academic and credentialing difference. Props to Ginger for everything in this screen shot (okay, maybe not the typo but we’ll blame autocorrect for that!)).

I also found this post helpful, especially the admonition “Be [Darn] Open to the Good” (admonition edited slightly for my audience but click through and read Reason Number 5 for the full effect!).

Right after I had finished the first draft of this post, a friend messaged me on Facebook. It turns out she and I were each feeling a little emotionally tender. When my phone rang, it was her and we had an opportunity to catch up. We did some processing of her issue and then we talked through mine. I cried the tears that needed to be shed, the ones from the deepest part of me that simply wants to belong and was feeling quite the opposite, the part of me that sometimes feels the “insecure” of 15 when I’d rather be embracing the hard-won confidence of almost-50.

As I head out to outdoors night yoga, I am grateful for the restorative power of helping others, for the fact that my emotions may very well become unbound while in bound angle pose, and for the grace of friendship that calms the disquieted heart.

edited sunrise

 

Top Ten Tips for New Bloggers

The Blogoverse has a new citizen and that is a very good thing. Since March, Pam has been blogging at Pass The Honey. pass the honey Pam and I recently started a Facebook conversation about blogging and how to make the most out of a blog. As I started my response to her, I decided to share my thoughts as a blog post.  Pam does have some specific questions, but I am going to share some “basics” first with my top ten tips for new bloggers and save my answers to the specifics for a later post.

Make A Date With The Page

This is the single best piece of advice I have ever been given about blogging. All of the credit goes to Nametag Scott. He advised me to “pick a frequency and stick to it, whether you feel like writing or not.” I prefer a less ambitious frequency to a more ambitious. For example, I blog every Sunday and occasionally create a post on an additional day. If I felt pressure to post three times a week, however, it would be difficult for me to keep that up. “Perspicacity will post every Sunday” also helps readers know what to expect.

Choose A Platform

I began blogging on Blogger and eventually changed to WordPress. For me, the move has been for the better in several key areas. My spam problems (and “anonymous commenter” problems) have been virtually eliminated by the use of Akismet. My ability to use Google Analytics has been enhanced (maybe it’s just as easy with Blogger but I did not start using Google Analytics until I had switched to WordPress).  I find it easier to work with images in WordPress than Blogger.

Quality Writing Matters

No matter how you write (or how widely you distribute your blog), poor writing will hurt your blog and your audience’s receptiveness to future content. Do you want to read mediocre writing? (That said, the main reason I blog is to flex my writing muscle, so I know that some of my writing will be better than other pieces. As with anything else in life, take the time to pay attention to your content rather than posting just to post. (Conversely, I can paralyze myself with worrying about a piece of writing’s readiness. There are times we you just have to press “publish.”))

Think About Images

Different bloggers have different thoughts about images, but for me a post feels almost incomplete without at least one image. I know as a reader I prefer to have a visual to accompany the words. One source of visual content is (wait for it…) our own lives! Here is a post that presents some great tips for creating your own visual content for your blog. Sources of free photo content that does not require permission from the creator are plentiful. I like Morgue File and a WordPress Plugin called PhotoDropper which literally drops in a photo you choose from its collection and attaches the appropriate credit to the post (it is only available for WordPress, though).

A favorite image taken with my iPhone.

A favorite image taken with my iPhone.

Be Accurate

I suppose I worded this one pretty bluntly, but if you are going to write about facts, get them right. I once hosted a giveaway for Jason’s Deli on my blog and stated that there had been a “parade of short-lived establishments since Banjo’s Barbecue had vacated.” There had not been a “parade,” there had been one (not sure where my memory pulled the “parade” from) and a commenter called me on it. Unfortunately, that was when I was still on blogger and the commenter was anonymous (although I am pretty sure I know who it was). The frustration is I would like to have followed up with them personally but could not due to the anonymous comment. (I did make a correction to the post, however.)

Say Yes to Yoast

If you want your posts to be found, one component that is important is your SEO (Search Engine Optimization). A fabulous tool for making your post more “findable” by search engines and the like is the WordPress SEO Plug-in from Yoast.  Among several useful features, Yoast helps the blogger create a “meta description” that is most attractive to potential readers. Let’s take my World Book Night 2014 post, for example. When I first published the post, the meta description was a mess (it appears in the “snippet preview”): WBN Yoast I went into Yoast and made some adjustments (the text in the “meta description” box): WBN Yoast Two

Get Permission

There are protocols that you should follow as a blogger. Certainly if you are going to use an image, give credit to the creator and obey all copyright laws. But “permission” extends to other areas of blogging too. If you are going to excerpt someone else’s writing, link to their original work or credit them prominently and (if it is an extensive excerpt) let them know in advance (or at a minimum send them the link afterwards).

Get The Word Out

I have read various estimates of how many blog posts are published in the world daily. Suffice it to say the number is high. There’s no way you could read them all. For that reason, it is important to make sure your blog gets in front of people.  This is an area where I could certainly make improvements, but for now here is what I do.

  • Make sure there is a place on my blog where people can subscribe by email
  • Participate in Triberr, which amplifies my reach by tweeting out my posts via other bloggers (and vice versa)
  • Participate in Linkups, where bloggers share their posts and agree to comment on others’ posts (a favorite linkup of mine is the SITS Girls Saturday Sharefest)

Talk Amongst Yourselves

Although I blog to flex my “writing muscle,” I would be lying if I didn’t say that comments rock my world. I love to know that people are reading, and I have had some great dialogues via my comments section (as well as heaps of support at various times in my life). “Comment to others” goes in the category of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” Share generously on others’ blogs and hopefully many of them will do the same for you. Likewise, respond back when someone comments to you.  Creating a community around your blog (or at least a sense that you’re having an ongoing conversation) is, to me, an important piece of blogging success.

Use Google Analytics

Google Analytics helps you understand how many people are visiting your blog as well as a host of other metrics related to your readership. While it’s easy to get unnecessarily wrapped up in these metrics, it is also helpful to know if anyone is reading (and how long they’re staying, how frequently they’re returning, etc.). I also need to be able to report my Google Analytics data when I am applying for various sponsored post opportunities.

Top 10 Tips

BONUS!

Enjoy it. There is hardly any mistake you could make that would be a fatal flaw. Writing block happens; typos happen. Life gets in the way of posting. Pam, you’re a year away from retirement and, to quote you, “I want an exciting life and I will try my best to have it.” Something tells me you’re going to succeed, and I for one can’t wait to read all about it on your blog!  Pam’s blog can be found at Pass the Honey (link here). Stop by and say hello!

(Lastly, Pam was Tenley’s (my daughter) English teacher last year. Thank you for making her senior year one in which the joy of words was alive and well!)

Books, Shams, and Beauties

Hello everyone!

My “main” post for this week will run tomorrow. It has to post on April 7 or later.

However, I haven’t missed a Sunday in years so will share a couple of quick updates and ask you to come back and visit my Shot at Life-related post tomorrow.

It was a frenetic week for the Spin Sucks Ambassadors and me as we supported Gini Dietrich in her efforts to get Spin Sucks (the book) onto the New York Times Bestseller list. We won’t know the results for a week (at least) but it’s so much fun to be “with”  (virtually, not in person usually) enthusiastic, energetic, bright people working together for a shared goal. Click here for one of the book’s many reviews (by Adam Toporek) or here for my Amazon review.

The proud author with her creation!

The proud author with her creation!

I also reviewed another fantastic book, The Idea Driven Organization, by Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder. Click here for my Amazon review of it.

idea driven org

The saga of the sham ended!!! Thanks to Linda MacLeod and several dedicated SteinMart employees, Tenley now has a completely matched bedroom linen set. Thank you, SteinMart!

sham

Tenley went to her Leon High School Senior Prom. It took everything I had not to come home from the send-off and post sappy, sentimental quotes all over social media, but I (mostly) refrained. She and her friends seem to have moved warp speed from elementary and middle school little girls to self-assured, beautiful young women. They all make me proud (and wistful).

TK Prom Solo

Senior Prom
April 5, 2014

 

Tutus, BS, and Crisis Management (A Book Review)

monika tutu

Monika Allen (right) and her friend run as superheroes.

My social media stream was flooded Thursday (3/27/14) with the story of how Self Magazine offended a runner (Monika Allen) by putting a picture of her, running in a tutu, in its “BS” section which ridiculed the growing number of tutu wearers in races. Self had secured her permission to use the picture, but had not explained that the picture was being used in a piece that derided her choice. The final straw on the back of this ill-fated situation was the fact that the runner (who creates tutus as her business, Glam Runner) was wearing it as part of a Wonder Woman costume to demonstrate an intent to vanquish her brain cancer.

Having recently reviewed Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation in the Digital Age as a “Spin Sucks Ambassador,” (my review available here) I thought I would see what principles I learned in the book that could have made a difference in this Self Magazine situation.

To skip ahead to the “punch line,” Self wouldn’t be in this position had there not been a lack of understanding of the magazine’s mission among the staff who prepared the “BS” piece or perhaps Self simply didn’t have a clear mission at all. As Gini Dietrich writes when discussing the ways in which communication has changed:

“In the good ol’ days … every person inside your organization was trained to say the exact same thing when talking to anyone about what you do. Your customers believed what you had to say about your product or service because you were the only one telling your story. Now all it takes is for one person to have a bad experience doing business with you, and you’re finished. No amount of PR messaging can counteract that one person’s negative experience.”

It’s good that a staff member contacted Monika for permission to use her picture but what about the internal climate, mission, and vision at Self led anyone to believe that a runner would willingly let her picture be taken to make fun of runners who love running (in tutus, in fishnets, in military fatigues, in whatever the heck they want to run in?).

In the case of the Self/Tutu issue, it wasn’t just one person having a bad experience. It was one person with a legion of fellow runners racing rapidly and vocally to her defense. What could Self do?

In the chapter on Crisis Communications, Spin Sucks details tips for managing a crisis. Gini Dietrich writes, “When the media finds out about your issue and they tell your story, you almost always end up with a crisis.”

Act Swiftly I saw the story early in the morning of March 27. I did see an apology the afternoon of March 27 (maybe six hours later?). Although six hours is better than six days, the preponderance of coverage I was still seeing 24 hours later was the accusation, not the apology.

Address The Problem The first “clarification” I saw regarding the tutu crisis stated, “we didn’t know Monika was doing this for her health” (the original text ridiculed runners who “think tutus will make them run faster”). Ultimately, the editor’s apology was longer, clearer, and announced that Self Magazine was making a donation to Monika’s charity. The editor’s announcement itself was, I thought, well crafted.

Back Down When You’re Wrong Self was wrong with the choice to publish this picture, in this way, in this magazine. They did eventually concur that they were wrong. Time will tell whether or not their readership embraces that.

In Spin Sucks, Gini Dietrich writes, “Customers are now in control. They control how they interact with your brand, what they tell their friends and families about your brand, and even how they give you information about their experience with your brand. Sometimes it’s annoying , and other times it’s pretty enlightening.”

In the case of Self, a legion of worked-up runners rose up almost immediately to control the message: Ridicule a runner for her choice of costume, especially when she is doing it in support of the disease she is fighting (and when she is donating her profits to a good cause) and lose subscribers. Were there annoyed Self Magazine staff when the pushback started occurring (and the “tutu” issue was uniformly plastered all over their Facebook page)? Probably. That annoyance was a warning flag. Is Self now enlightened enough to avoid a similar situation in the future?

Time will tell. Self hasn’t cleared all the hurdles in this race yet.

Have you ever been responsible for responding to a communications crisis? What would you have advised the Self management?

4.1.1

Spin Sucks is available at Amazon (via this link) among other book retailers. If you buy the book by April 5, send Gini Dietrich your receipt (gdietrich (at) armentdietrich (dot) com) and you’ll receive free content such as eBooks and webinars)!

There’s also a great giveaway going on until April 5!! Click this link for the opportunity to win fab prizes including a 1 hour consultation with Gini Dietrich, a free webinar, and other Spin Sucks swag!

The proud author with her creation!

The proud author with her creation!

Note: I received advance galleys of this book for review purposes. The opinion here is all my own!

 

Lean In (A Book Review)

I finally read Lean In.

Lean In

After refraining from commenting on the book until I had read it, I’m ready.

After reading the book, I jotted down the first four things that had stood out to me. They were:

  • Lice
  • The concept of “bringing our whole selves to work”
  • How I’d rather stand straight up than lean in or out
  • The necessity of having a global perspective

Lice

Let’s just get the lice issue out of the way. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg discusses the time she was traveling to a conference with other corporate executives, and the chairman of eBay offered for her and her young children to fly with him on the corporate jet. After enduring a 2 hour wait while some mechanical issue was handled (and keeping the kids shushed during the wait), they boarded the plane. Within minutes of boarding the plane, Ms. Sandberg’s daughter pronounced, “mom, my head really itches” while furiously scratching her head. Ms. Sandberg was mortified, somehow managed to conceal the issue of her daughter’s newly diagnosed lice infestation, and made a hasty detour to a pharmacy for the proper lice treatment rather than joining the others on the way to the hotel after the plane landed. I have been there and done that (the lice issue, not the private jet). Years after dealing with a lice outbreak at our house, I still remember crying in my car when for the third day in a row the school nurse thought she “still saw something.” Our county has a “no nit” policy and calling my boss to advise that I wouldn’t be coming in (again) was a call I hated making. (Wayne was in the middle of legislative session and couldn’t help at the time.) This little scenario made me feel like Ms. Sandberg may be able to relate to some of my working parent stresses.

The concept of bringing our whole selves to work

Ms. Sandberg says in Lean In:

It has been an evolution, but I am now a true believer in bringing our whole selves to work. I no longer think people have a professional self for Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time. That type of separation probably never existed, and in today’s era of individual expression … it makes even less sense.

I wholeheartedly believe that our workplaces will be more humane and more productive when we recognize that the men and women who walk through the workplace doors (or log in to the workplace remote system) bring the joys and stresses of their personal lives to their desks. And while some people may manage to leave the work joys and stresses behind, speaking only for myself I can say my work is with me (emotionally) on Saturday afternoon and in the amalgam of things that parade through my mind as I fall asleep. I am concerned about the messages my children have gotten about “what work is” through the things I have said, the “vibes” I have given, the “frame” I have put around “what work is.” Perhaps more universal acknowledgement of “the whole self” will change the image we portray of work to our children (for those of us who have kids).

I’d rather stand straight up than lean in or out

I understood how the admonition to “lean in” made sense in the context of Ms. Sandberg’s book. Female executives should take advantage of an empty seat at the main table instead of settling for a seat against the outer wall. If an opportunity comes their way, they should assume themselves worthy and chase it. I really, really loved her description of the decision to go to work for Google. She talked about how it was a small, disorganized organization with unimaginable potential. Although the position she was offered wasn’t a perfect match for her skills, “When you get a chance to ride on a rocket you don’t ask your seat assignment, you get on the rocket.”

The thing that kept reverberating through my head listening to the audiobook of Lean In was “why does there have to be ‘leaning’?” For me, it’s often more a matter of standing up straight, for myself at times; for coworkers at times; for ideas that matter that do not have champions yet.

When faced with an executive director who proposed to me, “I just am not sure you aren’t more committed to your family than to your job,” the challenge wasn’t whether to lean in or out, it was to stand up straight, look him in the eye, and say, “my family will always be my primary commitment. Can you show me in a measurable way how that commitment has detracted from my performance? Because if my performance is not an issue, then bringing the topic of my commitment to my family into the discussion wastes valuable time when we could be planning how to make our organization its most effective.”

The necessity of having a global perspective

Of all the people I know who have read Lean In, the demographics are somewhat homogenous: well educated people, working people, Americans and Canadians (for the most part). While I don’t expect Sheryl Sandberg to solve global women’s issues in one book, I can’t forget the woman in Guatemala who met with our group when we visited in July 2011, who had no shoes. The child we sponsor in Guatemala who is trying to learn Spanish to augment her indigenous language, who will be way ahead of the game if she makes it past 3rd grade. The question my teenager asked about the women in Guatemala (“why do they keep having babies if they can’t afford them?”) and my fumbling attempts to explain cultural pressure to procreate. The men in Guatemala who struggle to feed their growing families in a “work a day eat a day” society that is getting more and more complicated as large corporate interests make the environment harder for the lesser educated. These people have an issue different than “will my employer create close parking spaces for pregnant women?”. Until girls around the world can literally survive and be educated, our “first world problems” remain exactly that.

My daughter Tenley meets our sponsored child Estela and her mother in Guatemala.

My daughter Tenley meets our sponsored child Estela and her mother in Guatemala.

I am glad I read “Lean In.” I believe that, like people who commented about Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother without reading it, we owe each other the effort to read before ascending any pulpits. Except for the “get on the rocket and then figure out your seat assignment” line, nothing in the book made a light bulb go off over my head. I did feel a little bit of “I can relate to that” (with the lice, with some of the work/life balance scenarios) and a lot of “wow we have a long way to go still.” Kudos to Sheryl Sandberg for her professional achievements, for being a wife and mom to a family she treasures, and for championing the idea that we all bring a “whole self” to work.

In closing, I’ll leave you with one of Sandberg’s concepts that proves itself to be truer and truer as our world hurtles toward its next configuration:

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.”

I’ve already written almost 1300 words without really getting into how I wanted to be a stay at home mom OR the “fun” of responding to emails one-handed while keeping a breast pump suction cup firmly affixed to the correct body part. For a great discussion of the jungle gym analogy, I encourage you to visit Gini Dietrich’s post about Lean In.

jungle gym

 *Note: I read the book on audio, so it’s challenging to go back and obtain direct quotes. If I have paraphrased anything incorrectly, I apologize!

What Rhymes With Big Green Pen?

There’s only one thing that I am more reluctant to share on YouTube than my running form, and that is my “singing.” But a challenge was issued so I am attempting to rise to it.

It started back when I read and commented on this post by Gini Dietrich about her Follow Friday philosophy. (Follow Friday or #FF is a Twitter tradition that indicates the person you #FF is worth following. Surely created by someone who loves alliteration.)

I found her post interesting because my approach is pretty different — I have a list of roughly 50 people who I #FF on Fridays. They are a combination of individuals, products, and causes I care about. I still do my 50, but Gini’s post did make me think about the ones I tweet out there without context. I have redoubled my efforts to explain why they get an #FF from me.

When Gini was away from her blog for a few weeks, she had fill-ins for various editions of her regular blogs.

Fill-ins such as Chuck Kent of Creative on Call, who created this little masterpiece:

And I complimented Chuck on this masterpiece (which I really do think rocks!) although I couldn’t help pointing out that it would have been sheer perfection had it included a certain writing instrument with which I share my twitter handle. He responded back that it was a challenge to find something that rhymes with Big Green Pen. No fear, Chuck, I’ve got you covered. It was easier to send Gini the bribe I sent her than to come up with 47 seconds of Twinkle Twinkle “What Rhymes With Pen.” Honestly……