An Interview with S. Chris Edmonds, Multi-Talented Executive Consultant

Chris Edmonds - The Culture EngineI had the pleasure of getting to know this month’s Featured Author through social media these past few years although we still haven’t met in person or even spoken on the phone. (We’ll have to remedy that, Chris!)

We met through mutual contacts and interest in the Lead Change Group, which is the organization that published one of the books I co-authored, The Character-Based Leader.

S. Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group, which he launched after a 15-year career leading and managing teams. Since 1995, he has also served as a senior consultant with the Ken Blanchard Companies.

Like myself, Chris is a speaker, author and musician (although he gets to indulge his music passion a bit more than I do!). It’s been fun getting to know him through social media over the past couple of years, and to drool over his mandolin, banjo and guitar collection thanks to his Facebook posts.

Chris is the author or co-author of six books, including Leading At A Higher Level with Ken Blanchard, and I had the pleasure of reviewing his most recent book, The Culture Engine, when it came out earlier this fall.

Here’s what Chris has to share about his writing journey.

Tara: What motivated you to write a book?

Chris: The primary motivator was the success I’ve had in helping senior leaders create workplace inspiration – safe, inspiring cultures that demonstrate trust, respect and dignity for everyone involved. Most workplaces are not fun to work in. There is more frustration and anxiety than there is inspiration and engagement!

My culture process has helped clients enjoy significant benefits, including increases in employee engagement (40%), customer service (40%), and results and profits (35%), all within 18-24 months of culture refinement.

I wanted to bring these proven practices to anyone and everyone that leads teams; big teams, small teams, global businesses, local shops. These practices work in for-profit, non-profit and government work environments, even in volunteer teams like PTAs and such!

Everyone deserves to engage in a high performing, values-aligned team. That’s what I hoped my book would create.

Tara: What publishing options did you consider?

Chris: There are many avenues available to aspiring authors today. I didn’t want to go the self-published route. I think every author would love to see their work, and their name, on a hardcover book on the shelves of bookstores.

That was the dream I had.

I went into this process with “eyes wide open.” I’ve authored four softcover books through @ThinkAha so my understanding of the publishing world has grown thanks to them.

Mitchell Levy, founder of ThinkAha, was one of my early Featured Authors. Find out more about Mitchell and ThinkAha in “An interview with Mitchell Levy, Thought Leader Architect.”

I’m a co-author with Ken Blanchard of one of his best-selling books (Leading at a Higher Level), so that experience helped me understand the need for a very strong book proposal. I also relied on the expertise of my brand strategist, Mark Levy (@LevyInnovation).

My ultimate goal was to find a big publishing house that was excited to partner with me on this book. Mark and I decided to start there with a very strong proposal. If a big publisher didn’t show enthusiasm, I’d go to a smaller publisher and hope someone responded to this opportunity.

Tara: Why did you settle on the option you chose?

Chris: I presented the proposal to a publisher that was familiar with me and my thought leadership (from my blogs and podcasts on drivingresultsthroughculture.com). Their senior editor loved the proposal and my “big idea:” creating workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution. Key decision-makers weren’t as excited about the idea. After about six months of discussions and proposal rewrites, we parted ways.

The experience helped me do some refinements to the proposal, including adding two chapters that really enhanced my “big idea” and its application.

Two months later I presented the proposal to Wiley & Sons. Within 24 hours, their senior editor called me back and said they wanted to do this book with me. Board approval came within days.

We had a deal, and I began writing the full manuscript within a week.

Tara: How easy was it to get your book done?

Chris: My proposal was accepted by Wiley in January 2014. I set aside four weeks in April 2014 to complete the 60,000-word manuscript. I submitted the completed manuscript on April 25, 2014.

Writing the book was really easy for me. Mark Levy helped me craft chapter outlines that flowed beautifully and logically to help leaders create and embed their team’s organizational constitution. Those chapter outlines totaled over 7,000 words, so I had a terrific foundation to work from.

And I’m passionate about my “big idea!” I’ve been blogging on these proven practices for five years. I’ve been speaking about them for over fifteen years. I was operating from crystal clear ideas, which made the writing a joy.

Editing was a breeze. No significant changes were made to the content or flow (!). I’d set aside two weeks in June 2014 for the edits, but they took less than a day to refine.

The Culture Engine launched on September 29, 2014, just nine months after the proposal was accepted.

Tara: How did you distribute the book after publication?

Chris: Wiley is one of the oldest publishers out there. They handled hardcover and eBook distribution through all the major online outlets, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, etc.

Wiley also handles distribution to brick-and-mortar stores. Bookstore shelf space is hard to come by! I’ve not seen the book on shelves yet but know that’ll happen before too long.

Audible.com just released the audiobook version of The Culture Engine.

I partnered with 800-CEOREAD to handle bulk hardcover sales of the book. They’re terrific to work with, easy, talented and passionate about books.

Tara: How are you marketing and promoting your book?

Chris: Book marketing is entirely the author’s responsibility. I knew I needed experts to help make the book launch successful. I chose a team approach. To complement my talented, committed marketing manager at Wiley, I hired Becky Robinson’s Weaving Influence team.

Main activities include:

  • Creating a website for the book (http://thecultureengine.com), which houses a free sample chapter, sharable graphics, “click to tweet” quotes, bulk offers, and more.
  • Interviews (video, podcast and written) with journalists (Investors.com, Huffington Post, Forbes, About.com, Business News Daily, The Network Journal, etc.) and thought leaders (@scotteblin, @4epicomm, @davidburkus, @tshnall, @theshawnmurphy, etc.).
  • Securing regular contributor avenues on Entrepreneur, Careers in Government, LeadChange Group, etc. I am also a contributor at Smartblog and LinkedIn.
  • Book launch team members have promoted tweets, posts, interviews, etc. as well as writing their own posts on the book.
  • My own daily tweets and weekly blog posts and podcasts that feature insights from the book, client success stories, and more.

Asking for Amazon reviews of the book has generated 34 five-star recommendations so far.

Activities continue today, and they will for months to come!

Tara: Which social network do you use the most and why?

Chris: Twitter and Facebook are my two most utilized networks. I see greater engagement and interactivity on these two platforms with Twitter being slightly in the lead.

Hootsuite is my platform manager, which allows posting to multiple sites easily.

Tara: If you had one piece of advice for someone thinking about writing a book, what would it be?

Chris: Before the book proposal, before the marketing and PR, you must have a well-written manuscript. The most important thing for an aspiring author to do is hone their writing chops.

Write blogs regularly (at least once a week). Ask people to review your posts, white papers, etc. If your ideas are not clearly presented, you have little hope of gaining readership.

 

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Interested in learning more about The Culture Engine? Check out the book trailer below.

 

Book Review: The Apple in the Orchard by Sonia DiMaulo

The Apple in the Orchard by Sonia DiMauloThe Apple in the Orchard  by Sonia DiMaulo is an illustrated storybook about finding the courage to emerge as a leader. I hesitate to call this a children’s book, even though many who pick it up might think of it that way. The lessons in this book are suitable for children and adults alike, though.

The story itself is about Brave Apple, who learns the importance of living with purpose. She learns to question the status quo and look beyond what’s familiar to find her place in the world.

Brave Apple grows on Pale Green, a tree on the outskirts of the Orchard that is pale and produces sickly fruit because of his disconnect from Red Harvest, the largest, strongest and healthiest tree in the Orchard.

Red Harvest nurtures the relationships among the trees in the Orchard and cultivates collaboration as they grow and produce fruit. Since Pale Green is so far from the center of the Orchard, he misses the messages of Red Harvest. As a result, Pale Green believes that he is separate and apart from the rest of the Orchard. Believing that he is completely independent, Pale Green struggles without the support and connection of the rest of the Orchard.

As Brave Apple surveys the Orchard from the branches of Pale Green, she can see Red Harvest’s glow, but not feel it. A desire to connect with Red Harvest overwhelms her. She battles fear and uncertainty as she does what no one else has ever done. She leaves the safety of her branch, and begins her pilgrimage to the center of the Orchard. Her desire to learn is overwhelming.

Brave Apple’s story is an allegory of every leader’s journey. There comes a time when we question the things we’ve always been told. Our desire to learn forces us to seek out mentors and other leaders who can help us discover the secrets to achieving our passions and realizing our goals.

It’s a wonderful story to share with children, to show them that conformity is not always the best way. It encourages the reader, showing that curiosity and a desire to learn are noble qualities.

For adults, the story is equally appealing, and will resonate with many readers as they work to become emerging leaders themselves.

But don’t just take my word for it! This story has also been endorsed by the likes of Ken Blanchard, Mike Henry Sr, Roy Saunderson, and S. Max Brown; some pretty heavy hitters in the leadership arena.

Ken Blanchard has this to say about The Apple in the Orchard:

The Apple in the Orchard by Sonia Di Maulo is a lovely little book with a profound message: To pursue greatness, aspiring leaders sometimes must dare to leave the familiar. Opportunities for growth and learning are all around you—so take the leap, and grow!

To get your copy of The Apple in the Orchard, click here.

Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the author. No further compensation was made or promised. Additionally, no affiliate links were used in this post.

I’m Grateful for You

The Character-Based Leader - Tara Alemany http://alewebsocial.com

The Character-Based Leader is available on Amazon and on our website. For a copy autographed by me, purchase the book here.

This may seem a bit unusual for my typical posts, but indulge me for a bit if you will. It’s been an unusual past few days for me, and the things I was reminded of through them may resonate with you as well. If you can learn anything from my experiences, even better!

Last week, I was pleased to participate in a book launch that was huge and very personal for me. I had co-authored a book with 20 other authors called The Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Leadership Revolution… One Person at a Time. This book is incredible; unusual from any other book I’ve ever read because it is the collective vision of multiple authors all writing in a single voice, sharing the same message, each in their own unique way. Character counts in leadership, we say. And leadership today is sorely lacking in good character, but we each have it within ourselves to make a difference.

That’s not all that makes the book unique though. This collaboration was 100% virtual. Although I have come to know and love many of my co-authors through social networks, e-mail, video chats and phone calls, I have not met a single one of them in real life yet. Tomorrow, I will meet the first when Will Lukang joins me for a book signing event.

I tackled two distinct but related subjects in The Character-Based Leader, intentionality and perseverance. I wrote about how the choices we make reflect who we are in life. If you want to live an impactful life, you have to live purposefully. And I shared about how purpose leads to vision, which is one of the four key elements to perseverance. Without vision, there’s no justification to persevere.

As the book was launching, I told my mother that I had a feeling that when I looked back at the end of my days, this book was going to be one of the accomplishments I was most proud of. Little did I think at that time that my days might be numbered on one hand. [Read more…]

We Wrote a Book — And the Miles It Took to Get There!

The Character-Based Leader - Tara Alemany http://alewebsocial.comWhen the idea was first brought up early in 2011 for the Lead Change Group to write a book, we had no idea what we were getting into. There was some thought that with a large group of contributors, we could go from concept through writing, editing and publishing in three or four months.

Ultimately, twenty-one of us got on the bandwagon and committed to the project. As time drew on, some of the original participants had to drop out due to other constraints on their time. But the vision persisted and the project moved forward.

No one in their wildest imaginings could have anticipated that this project would ultimately take over 16 months to complete.

Can you imagine the consequences of a project at work that took 4 or 5 times longer than the planner had anticipated?!

Of course, none of us had the luxury of working on the project full-time. We all had other responsibilities, and progress was made much like that of a fire brigade. Each of us took as much or as little responsibility as we were able at any given time, and pitched in to the best of our abilities. When we needed to drop out of the line for a time, that was completely understood and respected by the rest of the team.

That’s the thing I love the most about my fellow Lead Change Authors. We made every effort to share one vision and use one voice, supporting a core belief that character-based leadership matters.

Individually, when we expound on what that means, you will get different responses, because each one is filtered through the lens of our own beliefs and experience. But in the end, we all believe that character-based leadership matters, and it matters significantly enough to spend countless hours dedicated to nothing more than birthing a book.

Today, this book has seen the light of day. And like the proud parents we are, we’re busy celebrating its launch, enjoying thecongratulationsof friends and family, feeling a bit tired, shaken and very relieved.

It’s been a long road to reach this point. It took more effort and heart than any of us ever imagined. Yet, now that we’re here, it all seems so very worth it.

What we’ve created is a book that’s inspiring. We’ve each made each other think in new and different ways about what it means to be a Character-Based Leader, and I hope that what we’ve shared will make you stop and think too.

What would happen in the world around you if you applied more character to your leadership? If you mentored your followers in more meaningful ways? If you reached out to help the people around you find their own way in the world?

What we’ve given you inThe Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Leadership Revolution… One Person at a Time is a sampling of our own experiences. It tells of the strengths and weaknesses we’ve identified in ourselves as we’ve tried to become the changes we want to see in the world. We are flawed at times, but striving to improve.

It is my hope that as you read this book, you will be inspired by what we have shared to make your own difference in the world, in whatever way you are uniquely suited to do.

If you want to learn more about the book, you can purchase it on Amazon. If you’re interested in helping us promote the book, we have a Resources page filled with tweets and status updates we’d love for you to share. And if you’re interested in reading a free sample chapter, that’s available here.

Thanks for joining us on this journey!

A Leader’s Legacy

This was originally posted on the Lead Change Group’s blog on June 25, 2012. Reposted here as part of the Evangelical Seminary’s Leadership Synchroblog campaign.

Legacy - http://alewebsocial.comI have a friend who I think is pretty neat.He’s always got a smile on his face, laughs easily, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Kids love him. He’s a committed husband and Dad, as well as a humble man of faith. He makes learning new things fun, even when they’re challenging. He’s got a servant’s heart, yet is a strong leader, and he volunteers his time to his community and neighbors.

During a recent weekend trip with this friend and some others, I realized that everyone who knows him holds him in high regard. I’ve often wondered what people will say about me when I’m gone. (Strange, I know – but it’s part of being intentional about the legacy I want to leave.) It became apparent that my friend has been building his legacy for years already, and it’s a strong and solid one!

When it comes right down to it, though, haven’t we all?

The path we follow through this world intersects with others’ along the way. We make an imprint upon everyone we meet, no matter how large or small. When we hold a door open for someone else or send a friend a card for no reason, we are touching someone else’s life. It may not be the same impact as when you rescue someone from a burning building or help a child gain confidence, but we can’t go through life without affecting those around us.

And sometimes, it’s the small actions that have the biggest effect. Just plain being there when someone needs a friend, putting yourself in their shoes for a time, sharing simple words of encouragement and understanding – it all adds up to the legacy we leave.

What legacy areyouleaving as a person and a leader? Are you being intentional about it, or just letting it develop over time based on random acts and decisions you make? Better yet, does everyone you know hold you in high regard or are there relationships that need mending?

As leaders, we need to be aware of those around us, but more than that, we need to be aware of the effect we have on them by our actions and our inaction.

To become a leader with a legacy you can be proud of, here are a few action steps to point you in the right direction.

  • Imagine listening in at your own funeral. What do you want to hear people remember most about you? And what did you inspire people to aspire to? That’s going to become your goal.
  • Assess where you stand in relation to that goal now. If you need help with this, ask a trusted friend or mentor.
  • Identify what skills, characteristics and habits you need to start establishing now to more clearly achieve that goal.
  • Begin a program of self-improvement to better incorporate those behaviors into your life.
  • Periodically reassess both the goal and where you stand in relation to it.

We are works in progress until we die.Unfortunately, for most of us, we have no idea whether today’s the last day or if we have another year, 20 years or 50 years. Yet, a legacy waits for no one. We’re making one right now, whether we’re intentional about it or not. Is it something we can be proud of, or does it still need work?

The time to begin is today. What’s your legacy going to be?

What Does It Take to be a True Hero?

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They can be young or old, black or white, rich or poor. If you look up the word at dictionary.com, you’ll see this is the first definition:

a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

9/11 afforded many people the opportunity to look within themselves and find the hero within. We all have that quality within us. It’s that drive that enables us to put the needs of others before our own in times of trouble or sadness. That selflessness becomes a mark of maturity, demonstrating that we’ve learned a vital lesson. The world does not revolve around us.

Take a few minutes this day to watch this video, reflect upon it’s message and look within your own heart and mind.

The world needs more heroes. Where can you step up and make a difference in someone’s time of need? Whether it’s volunteering on your kid’s soccer team, mentoring a fatherless child, serving at a local soup kitchen, helping someone out financially, visiting with an elderly neighbor, or something completely different. When average people step up to fill a need, coming together and pulling together, they can accomplish amazing things.

As the narrator, Tom Hanks, shared:

The great boatlift of 9/11 became the largest sea evacuation in history, larger than the evacuation of Dunkirk in World War II, where 339,000 British and French soldiers were rescued over the course of nine days. On 9/11, nearly 500,000 civilians were rescued from Manhattan by boat. It took less than nine hours…

Don’t live your life wondering “Should I have?” And don’t wait for tragedy to strike to call up that inner hero. You have the ability to make the world a better place today.

I’d love for each of my readers to share whatever they’d like in the comments below, whether it’s their memories of how 9/11 affected them, or how they are inspired by this post and video to step up and commit letting their own inner hero loose. For those of us who lived through 9/11/2001, the world was forever changed. But we have it within ourselves to continue that change, embracing the spirit of self-sacrifice that made us proud to be Americans, to make a positive difference in our communities today.

Are you going to step up to the challenge?

On the Art of Becoming “Someone” on Twitter

Twitter engagement http://alewebsocial.comA friend asked recently:

My boss is interested in generating interest via twitter. I’ve “searched” his name and character’s name and “followed” people who are tweeting good stuff about him. How do you get people to follow you? How do you become “someone” on twitter? Thanks for any help you can offer.

Do you have similar questions? You’ve created a Twitter account, tweeted a few times, followed some interesting folks, but still haven’t figured out how to gain a following.

The easy answer is “engage them.” But that probably doesn’t really answer your question. “Engage who? And how?” you might ask.

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a fan of real, authentic engagement. So, you won’t find me “buying” followers, auto-responding, etc. While some of the links I share are pre-scheduled, they are created by me. Responses you get, you’re getting from me.

Now, I could sit in my office and wait for people to pass by (in my Twitter feed), and say “hi” as they march along. But that would become redundant and unfulfilling over time. Instead, I proactively strive to be useful to my followers. I go to where they are, rather than waiting passively for them to find me.

I once had a boss whom I loved. He didn’t just have an open door policy… He took it upon himself to take periodic breaks throughout his very long day and “wander among us.” He’d stick his head in at my door and ask how my day was going, if there was anything I needed to move forward on a project, etc. He wasn’t micro-managing. He was showing a genuine interest in me as a person and the work I was doing. As a result, he created a bond of loyalty that’s almost impossible to create in any other way.

So, how does this apply to building a Twitter following? Effectively using social media means applying the best leadership skills available; those that recognize people as individuals with unique interests, needs and skills. It means not only responding to people when you’re spoken to, but being willing to start conversations yourself and join conversations that are in progress already (if you have anything useful to add).

There are tools and techniques I use to make it easier to find those I want to build stronger bonds with, whether they are following me already or not. Here are just a few of them:

  • Participate in Tweetchats that catch your interest. Wouldn’t it be valuable to connect with others who share that interest? If you’re not familiar with Tweetchats, they are conversations that take place on Twitter, often at a specific time, using a given hashtag. (To learn more about hashtags, check out Hashtags Demystified.) Some of my favorites include #LeadChange, #LeadFromWithin, #BookPro, #SocMed and #SlumberParty.
  • Find the tools that work for you in filtering the information firehose that is Twitter. With over 2,000tps (tweets per second) going out on Twitter any given day, there’s just no way to take it all in. There are many tools out there to help you work your way through the fluff to the gems. A few of my favorites are Hootsuite, Bottlenose and InboxQ.
    • Hootsuite allows me to create Twitter streams filtered by those I follow or specific hashtags and keywords I’m interested in, as well as allowing me to post content to my own profiles immediately or on a schedule.
    • Bottlenose allows me to see which conversations my connections are currently engaged in. (It has a really neat sonar interface!)
    • InboxQ allows me to watch for people who are posting questions that I can answer. Thereby, allowing me to engage in conversations that may not even have gotten started yet!
  • Share relevant content with those that follow you. There are a few ways to find good content. You don’t have to create it all yourself. I use paper.li as a great way to curate relevant content from others, Twylah to share my own great content, and the bufferapp browser extension to share what I’m reading.
  • Use Twitter directories both to share about who you are, and to find people you may be interested in getting to know more. Some of the more popular are Twellow, WeFollow and TweetFind.

As you interact with people online that you like, follow them! If they enjoyed the conversation, they may follow you back. Keep in mind, as you strive to “be someone” on Twitter, that to be someone, you have to be real and authentic. Focus on growing relationships rather than making sales. As you do, you’ll find that sales come naturally as a result.

 

What are your favorite methods of growing your Twitter following? Please share them below!

The Key to Pursuing a Dream

What’s your dream? Do you even know what it is? One of the things that has always amazed me about my daughter, Eliza, is that she has heldunwaveringlyto one dream since she was four-years-old. She wants to be a performing artist.

She knows that to achieve her dream, it takes hard work and lots of time and effort. She’s never anticipated that anyone would simply “make it happen” for her. She’s studied hard, pushed her body, broadened her horizons, studied with high-caliber teachers who are stars in their own rights, and continually strives to improve her skills.

Her talents are many. However, that wasn’t always the case… I enrolled her in a pre-ballet class at the age of four because she was the biggest klutz I’d ever seen. She’d become enamored of Angelina Ballerina, and I thought perhaps a little ballet would help her overcome thatpredilection. Contrary child! She loved it right away.

Over the years, she added tap, jazz, modern, acrobatics, contemporary, vocal performance, musical theatre and acting to her resume. In addition to attending a performing arts school for these classes, where she frequently studies 20 or more hours per week, she has sought performing opportunities outside of her school.

She became a member of the teen ensemble in Bye, Bye Birdie (her first auditioned role), was the youngest singer to join the Candlewood Children’s Choir, and dreams of being on stage on Broadway someday.

My daughter recognizes that to achieve her dreams, she has to be purposeful in what she does. So, at the age of 12, she mapped out the activities and pursuits that she believed would best position herself to accomplish those dreams. Now, at 14, she continues to follow that plan with the same passion and insight with which she created it in the first place.

Let me be clear here… I’m not one of those stage Moms always seeking the next role for her child. If you asked Eliza, she’d probably tell you I’ve been a ball-and-chain in this process, encouraging her to enjoy the journey along the way instead of dashing headlong so focused on the destination that she misses the scenery along the way.

So, I ask you again… What’s your dream? Have you ever thought about what it would take to accomplish it? Do you have a plan? Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as Jiminy Cricket would have us believe. You can’t just wish upon a star and have your dreams come true… It makes no difference who you are. Dreams take work, commitment and perseverance. But when you apply those elements, you too can become a star. As I mentioned a year ago in a post about a lesson my son taught me, when you start with the end in mind, defining your path to get there is so much easier.

On a parting note, just so you don’t think this blog post is the ramblings of a biased mother, enjoy this cover of a John Mayer song, “Daughters,” performed by my daughter, Eliza.

And, while you’re listening, let me know what dream you’re pursuing in the comments below. I’d love to support and encourage you.


8 Leadership Myths Dispelled | SmartBlogs

I had the pleasure of being invited recently to write a guest blog post on leadership for SmartBrief’s SmartBlog on Leadership.

I decided to share a bit about a recent experience I had, and to answer the question “what happens when you get 21 leaders together to work on a project?”

I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing just such a scenario over the past year, and the insights I’ve come away with defy certain myths about leaders.

Want to learn what they are? Check out the rest of the blog at 8 leadership myths dispelled | SmartBlogs.

Who Do You Give Back To?

I started following Dan Rockwell (@leadershipfreak) on April 30, 2010. I saw his Twitter ID listed among friends of mine from the Lead Change Group in a #ff tweet. After taking a look at his content, I knew he was someone I wanted to follow and learn from, and that others needed to hear what he had to share as well. So, I tweeted:

Leadershipfreak_tweet

Within the hour, Dan thanked me and let me know he was following me back. And so our conversation began…

That’s one thing that I love about using Twitter. Friendships develop, conversations ensue, and sometimes, just sometimes, our lives are touched.

When I first entered the Twitterverse, I did so on a whim with no real idea of what I was going to do with it. (This was during Ashton Kutcher’s competition with CNN Breaking News to see who could reach 1 million followers first, back in April 2009.) As a result, after creating my Twitter account, I didn’t do much of anything other than lurk and retweet. Then, as I was traveling to Tanzania as a missionary in June 2009, I thought it would be a great way of sharing my experiences while I was gone. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, that wasn’t possible.

It wasn’t until I returned home, and decided to spend some time figuring out the platform that I began making real connections on Twitter. First, there was Steve Keating (@leadtoday), whom I started following in January 2010. I was impressed with his bio, which said (and still does) that he’s not selling a thing on Twitter, only giving back. Then there were many others who followed. I found myself seeking out people who were positive, inspiring, uplifting, and had an “other” focus. We all need more givers than takers in our lives.

When I came across Dan, I recognized him as one of those people I wanted to surround myself with. But he opened my eyes to other possibilities for Twitter, which has since become my favorite social network, thanks to people like him.

Soon after we started following one another, he DM’d (direct messaged) me to say that he made a point of talking offline with the people he was meeting online, and would I be interested in talking by phone sometime? The online world of social media was still new to me, even though I was an eager student. But this was the first time I’d been part of what seems second nature now; taking an online connection and building an offline relationship.

While I was, at first, a little nervous during our phone call, it quickly became something easy and comfortable. I enjoyed learning about him, and sharing about myself. It was completely non-threatening and engaging, and I became fascinated with the potential of meeting new people who interested me. I live in a rural area of the country. As a single parent, I don’t get out much. So, being able to connect with people who share like beliefs, have similar interests and dreams, and who support and encourage one another is so very compelling to me.

Now, it’s my turn to give back to someone I care about, to support and encourage him where I can. Many of you may know that Dan was in a terrible car accident on November 20th. While it’s incredible that he survived it, what’s even more amazing is the grace, perseverance, gratitude and outward-focus he’s displayed this whole time. How many of us, at a time like this, would be tempted to slip into self-pity? Yet, Dan’s focus isn’t on himself, but on those he loves. He is a source of encouragement and inspiration to me, always.

One of the reasons I’m sharing about Dan today is because a source of anxiety for him is the medical bills that are anticipated to run around $30K in out-of-pocket expenses. This isn’t money he has just lying around. His work in the ministry and raising up leaders has been the treasure he’s stored up. To show our love and support for Dan, the Lead Change Group has been rallying around him to help raise funds to cover his expenses. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation, even if it’s only a few dollars. In 9 days, we’ve raised over $8,000 towards our goal, but there’s still a long way to go!

Take a minute, just one, and think about someone who inspires and encourages you. What lengths would you go to in order to help them? After you’ve done that, click on the image below, and give as generously as you feel led.

Time to Give Back to Dan